By David F. Rooney
Revelstoke could lose a piece of its artistic heritage familiar to an entire generation — Dave Williams’ paddlewheel steamer mural just off First Street West between Selkirk Graphics and the Royal Bank.
The mural is endangered by two developments:
- Kids have tagged much of the blank space around the mural with graffiti and in fact at least one bold little vandal has scrawled a tag on the mural itself; and
- Moisture within the building’s wall is causing portions of the painting itself, particularly near the top corner, to bubble giving it an unsightly and scabrous appearance.
City Hall has taken note of this and recently sent a letter to the Netzel family, which owns the building, telling them that wall is unsightly and the graffiti has to be painted over.
Murray Netzel told The Revelstoke Current last week that he was disturbed by the letter’s import and does not want to see the mural destroyed as it is the last remaining Dave Williams mural in the downtown core. He said he is willing to help any organized community effort to repair and preserve the painting.
Dave Williams died last February but is fondly remembered by many local people for his contributions to Revelstoke. Born in Saskatchewan in 1940, Dave moved to Revelstoke in the late 1960s and lived a life of adventure and creative expression. According to his obituary:
“He was an avid historian and a man engaged in our community. He was an accomplished mural artist and sign painter, commercial scuba diver and surveyor, a life-long writer, storyteller, model-maker and cartoonist. He was a compassionate man, who also had a superb sense of humour. Dave was involved with the Cadets and Scouts in Meadow Lake and Revelstoke, assisting with their activities and training. He loved to fly, having earned his small aircraft pilot license in his late teens. He also enjoyed riding his motorbikes and teaching others to ride. Dave’s imagination developed his many talents to the fullest and put them to use as an engineer-technician at CP Rail Revelstoke Division and especially during his decades of employment at Three-Valley Gap, where he felt as though he was with family.”
Williams suffered a debilitating stroke several years ago leaving him in need of long-term care, which he received at Mount Cartier Court. Although he completed and published a book while in care he never again created a work of art like those he was locally famous for.
One of his railroad-themed murals is at the Community Centre, while another is at the Railway Museum. The mural in the alley off First Street West is the only one of his open-air murals remaining in the city core.
“Dave always did all his paintings and models completely to scale, and always did the fastidious calculations involved in
ensuring his accuracy,” said his step-daughter, Elizabeth Hollingsworth. “I know it is not a work of art of the caliber of Rembrandt or DaVinci, but Dave’s work is an important part of Revelstoke’s history, and I believe every effort should be made to honour that history. Dave’s meticulousness is what made him a highly sought-after sign painter, and every time I visit Revelstoke, I love going to the Community Centre to see his paintings, and re-read the history.
“I remember when he re-created the murals, which are in the Community Centre; the originals were painted around the base of City Hall (if I remember correctly, it was City Hall; they were painted around the base of one of the city’s buildings…) and I remember watching him do his precise calculations so that he could ensure the duplicates were exactly accurate. I believe I was around twelve, at the time. It was probably the first example, to me, of seeing how math is used in real life, and it is a rather fond memory, as I watched him do much of the painting.”
Dave’s widow, Miriam, said she, too, would like to see the painting restored and conserved and will be happy to contribute financially to its repair and conservation. Nor does she know an artist who could do it. Painter Vincent Wright once worked with Dave and may have previously restored portion of the mural. However he no longer lives here and The Current has not been able to contact him.
If anyone in Revelstoke would like to preserve this fragment of our community’s artistic heritage I invite them to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.