When local artist Kaïa’tanó:ron Dumoulin Bush showed up at the blank wall to paint a two-story mural, she couldn’t help but feel excited.
This is Dumoulin Bush’s first mural of this size, which adorns the wall of Chez Doris, a women’s shelter in Montreal.
“I got to see how operating the lift worked and I got to be up high in the sky. That was really cool,” said Dumoulin Bush, who worked on the mural under the mentorship of Diane Roe, art educator at MU, and Melissa Del Pinto, the lead artist on the project.
Through this process, Dumoulin Bush said she gained invaluable insight on the particularities of the painting process – the uses of different brushes, and techniques to lay down the paint quickly.
“That was really amazing as well. It was just a wonderful experience for me,” she said. “It opened a new world to me. And, there’s good brushes with the art stores, but nothing beats a good dollar-store brush,” she said.
Technicalities aside, she found the collective aspect of mural-painting to be an unexpected delight. “The camaraderie of it was really lovely,” she said, adding that with most of her work as an artist, she’s usually confined to her office by herself. Having a sense of community while she’s working is something she realized she prefers to have in her work.
“I just wanted to take the time to show her what it’s like to paint such large, grandiose sizes, and on such a surface, too,” said Roe, adding that mural painting is often interlaced with continuous problem-solving.
“It was a lot of learning different perspectives and how to guide yourself when it’s such a large scale. So that was a lot of fun to show her,” Roe added. “I’m really happy that I got to have that experience with her,” she said, adding she hopes Dumoulin Bush feels proud of the work she did.
Designed by Atikamekw artist Meky Ottawa in collaboration with Manon Bédard, the mural depicts a woman guiding a canoe from the back, all painted in tones of blue, orange, and white.
“There’s an empowering feeling, or a feeling of strength that comes from the design,” said Dumoulin Bush. “There’s also wonderment in the design,” she added, pointing out the starry shapes and giant fish.
This mural, titled NEHIROWISIW – ÉQUILIBRE, was created through Tourism Montreal’s project called Murelles, with the goal to beautify different areas in downtown Montreal, in partnership with the Downtown Business Development Corporation (SDC) and the Ville-Marie borough.
Within this framework, MU, a Montreal-based non-profit organization with an artistic and social mission to support and promote public art, was commissioned to complete three murals last year and is working on another three this year, one of which is this one.
“It’s security, public safety, arts, lighting – it’s many things, obviously, but it’s all part of initiatives since post-COVID to just have a lively downtown again,” said Elizabeth-Ann Doyle, co-founder and general and artistic director of MU.
When asked about the biggest takeaway from this project, Doyle’s answer centred on MU’s long-term objective. “I would say, for sure, training young female artists is really my pride. And furthermore, that they are Indigenous artists, which I think is great, too,” she said, adding that creating awareness and opportunities for female artists is at the forefront of MU’s mission.
She’s hoping the women who stay at Chez Doris will also appreciate the work. “It gives a lot of pride and joy to have a piece of original art next to where they live,” she said.
An intimate and community-focused unveiling of the project will be held on August 9, where Ottawa will be present to say a few words, along with others who worked on the project.
The mural is intricate in its design, and to Dumoulin Bush, it’s full of subtle surprise. “The more you look at it, the more you see,” she said.