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'Honour his memory': Mural a tribute to late Sudbury artist and architect Oryst Sawchuk

Artist Monique Legault using Sawchuk's work in new mural going up in downtown pedestrian underpass

A mural that honours late Sudbury artist and architect Oryst Sawchuk is in progress on the pedestrian underpass linking Elgin Street and Riverside Drive.

The designer of the piece is artist Monique Legault, owner of Monique Legault Studio at 172 Elgin St., an art shop located literally a stone's throw away from the underpass.

It partially replaces a previous mural by Myths and Mirrors that was mostly removed as a result of rehabilitation work in the pedestrian underpass completed in early 2018. 

While the mural is going up on the heels of Up Here Urban Art and Music Festival, which is responsible for many murals in the downtown and surrounding areas, this piece has nothing to do with the festival.

Legault won the City of Greater Sudbury contract to paint a mural on one wall of the ramp area heading from the Elgin Street sidewalk into the pedestrian underpass.

She's working on the piece with the help of fellow artist Dineen Worth and her young assistant, Lauren Carlson, and hopes to have it finished sometime next week.

The mural features a recreation of 11 of Sawchuk's paintings of downtown Sudbury as it looked in the past interspersed with Legault's own designs.

Legault first met Sawchuk, who passed away May 2 at the age of 91, when he was among a select few who attended an art show she held in the at-the-time vacant space that now holds her shop.

It was a visit that meant a lot.

“Oryst was the first person who walked through the door,” Legault said. “I realized from that he was one of the the biggest supporters for local businesses, local artists.

“He suggested I do more and I stay (in the Elgin Street storefront), and I fit down here well. I appreciated his knowledge.”

Sawchuk's partner, Vicki Gilhula, serves with Legault on the Sudbury Arts Council board, and Legault was inspired to do a tribute to Sawchuk when she saw his paintings on the wall of Gilhula's office.

“As an artist, you want parts of yourself to be left behind,” Legault said. “And for Oryst, I hope I get to be the one to do that for him. It's to honour his memory, to honour his work.”

Gilhula said she thinks it's an appropriate tribute to her late partner, and believes he'd be pleased, especially since the mural depicts downtown Sudbury as it looked in the past.

“I think it's a really lovely idea that I absolutely had nothing to do with,” she said. “It wasn't something that I was pushing. I know that Oryst would think that was great.”

Sawchuk, the designer of several Sudbury landmarks, including the downtown transit centre, Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School and the original Grace Hartman Amphitheatre, had a lot of pride in his city, she added.

Gilhula, the managing editor of sister publication Sudbury Living Magazine, works out of the Northern Life building, also literally within a stone's throw of the mural's location.

She's promised not to look at the piece until it's done, but she's sure it's going to turn out great.

“I'll probably start crying or something,” said Gilhula. 

“When I go into places that he has artwork hanging — some pieces that he gave away over the years or sold — I'm always touched. I'm sure I'll be very, very well impressed and happy with what I see.”

Heidi Ulrichsen

About the Author: Heidi Ulrichsen

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