The town’s newest map is hard to miss.
It’s a 12-by-30-foot mural representing the area from Eldred Rock to the Canadian border, with select landmarks in between, including a feral bunny at Deishu Drive and a moose head in a shed near Brouillette’s place at 3 Mile.
Commissioned by businessman Mike Ward, the mural went up on the west wall of the Outfitter building near Fort Seward about two weeks ago. Visitors who’ve been using it to get their bearings say it works.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, Diane Bergoine of Whitehorse, Y.T., stood under it during a quickie geography lesson for visiting college roommate Marj Childerhouse and husband Randy of London, Ontario, who were making their first trip to Haines.
“It’s great. It gives you a good feel for the whole area. It would be good to print it,” said Randy Childerhouse. “I love the north wind blowing down from Skagway.”
Bergoine described the work as fabulous. “If it was on a map, I’d buy one.”
Haines artist Merrick Bochart designed and painted the mural, beginning in April. Her other solo works include a fishing mural on the Gateway Building on Main Street painted last year and a girl on a swing at a Soapsuds Alley art gallery created earlier this summer.
She also designed the Haines Community Mural Project on the west side of the Haisler Building along Third Avenue.
“It’s fun to paint something that represents the whole valley but it’s daunting, too, because it’s my personal view,” Bochart said in an interview this week. “Public art is always kind of scary. Mike gave me enough freedom to use some artistic expression.”
Ward’s idea was to create a map, blowing up sections of interest, Bochart said. “My idea was to do a view over the mountains. It seemed to work.” She started by taking photos around town and by thinking what would be interesting to include.
She and Ward talked about elements and Ward put a poster-sized drawing up in his convenience store during winter, seeking customer suggestions on what to depict. Someone wanted Taiyasanka Harbor. Another person wanted whales.
Bochart said it was important to her that the picture not appear too busy. That was made more difficult by the piece’s creation on 12, separate sheets of signboard plywood, using a model drawing and a grid. The murals on Soapsuds Alley and Main Street, in contrast, were painted directly on existing walls.
“It’s nice to be able to stand back from it, but it’s been such a rainy year, I wasn’t able to do that. I didn’t see it all (at once) until the whole thing was screwed together (and mounted),” Bochart said.
She worked on the project at a Dalton City studio and at the Chilkat Center theater’s scene shop, which she rented. She used mural paint, which doesn’t run on vertical surfaces. “I’m getting better at knowing how to paint on a scale. It’s a huge, learning process.”
Painting panels makes the project portable and available to be worked on anytime, Bochart said. But she prefers whole surfaces. “It’s fun to be outside and to watch people drive by.”
Bochart said she might eventually like to paint murals in other towns, possibly under the “1 percent for art” program for construction of publicly funded structures. But she may not be done in Haines, she said.
Bochart wants to add a fisherman, as a human element, to her fishing mural on Main Street and she’s eyeing some other locations. “There’s a lot of flat surfaces in town,” she said.