A Woodland Style Mural called “Relatives” is ripped and left hanging

Thunder Bay News

Roy Thomas Mural at Shelter House
Roy Thomas Mural at Shelter House which has been damaged

THUNDER BAY – An Indigenous woodland style mural by a well-respected Community artist Roy Thomas, called, “Visiting Water Spirits, Relatives”, has had a rip in the middle of the painting for a very very long time. The four-panel mural hanging at the Rotary Shelter House has had the damaged panel removed. The incomplete mural has been left hanging for everyone to see for many many months now.

Damaged Panel of Roy Thomas Mural
Damaged Panel of Roy Thomas Mural

The Mural has been hanging on the Rotary Shelter House Managed Alcohol Kwae Kii Win building, who offers supportive living to people who have experienced long periods of homelessness and chronic alcohol addiction since 2008.

It was provided through a Public Murals Grant Program by The Rotary Shelter House, Anishinabaae Art Gallery, and the City of Thunder Bay,

The spot where It was chosen to hang was intended to face oncoming traffic of a busy Simpson Street that shows an empowering statement about tolerance, diversity, spirituality, community, and the collective purpose that is shared by all mankind but this message of disappointment has been shown to survivors of Residential Schools, ongoing Child Welfare traumas, opiate/alcohol addictions, MMIWG, human trafficking, and family survivors of youth suicides.

We belong to a city with a Respect campaign message that its everyone’s responsibility.  We take pride in our City with the many legends, stories, and beautiful landscapes in the heart of Ontario but we hold the lead with #1 Hate Crimes, #1 Murder Capitol 2018, something we are not proud of.

Louise Thomas, the Owner, of Anishinaabe Art Gallery located in Court Street in the downtown Port Arthur – North Ward, told Netnewsledger, she has left numerous messages to both City Hall and Shelter House regarding the painting and nobody has ever returned her telephone calls. It’s sad.

“If someone can take down the painting while its being repaired, if that is what the intention is, or cover up the painting until it can be taken down, would show respect,” Louise Thomas

City of Thunder Bay Councillor Brian Hamilton, McKellar Ward sits on the Shelter House Board, and is a member of the Community Communications Committee for the City of Thunder Bay was reached for comment.

Councillor Hamilton stated over the telephone that he would drive down to the Shelter House to look at the mural as he was unaware of the issue.

Councillor Brian Hamilton respectfully called back shortly after speaking with him and has told NetNewsLedger, “Its a priority now”.

The McKellar Ward Councillor stated, “The message that white and yellow people do not ride in the same canoe as red and black people is wrong and he will be contacting the family to fix this. He also stated, he would “Get it replaced, but taking it down until it gets fixed is not as easy as it sounds, replacing it with another reprint of the mural would be the intention because it is damaged.  It will cost approximately $500 or more to replace the piece.  Meanwhile, it will take approximately 8 days to hire a professional crew to take it down because its not an easy job.”

Mr. Hamilton assures NetNewsLedger that the beautiful painting will receive some love and attention.

In a later message to NetNewsLedger, Councillor Hamilton states that after he had gone to Shelter House and seen the mural, that he contacted the family, and then contacted a sign contractor.

Hamilton says that it appears the fix isn’t as simple as first thought. As the image has been up for a decade, if a new panel is printed, it will not match the three panels remaining on the wall. There has been some fading of the mural panels from sunlight.

The belated Roy Thomas, a well known and respected painter/entrepreneur/elder of this community who was diagnosed with cancer explains on the mural that:

The Four colours of “people figures” in the canoe represent our diverse ethnic origins, and or connection to one another through the spirit of life.  The butterflies represent the shared spirituality that is all around us. The birds, animals, and fish signify the life givers “air, land and water.”  The canoe symbolizes equality amongst all people and that in order to reach our collective goals and aspirations we must work together as one. The message is simply that we are very diverse, but related and we must all live together with mutual respect and acceptance as we must work together as one.

Netnewsledger will keep you posted on this story.