By Mark Squibb | July 22, 2021
It may seem like a tall order to fit the entire history of Paradise into a single art exhibit, but Heather Coughlan has managed just that.
The Evolution of the Town of Paradise, a mural comprised of three eight-foot wide by four-foot high panels, depicts the rise of the town from humble origins to the vibrant, colorful and modern community of today.
“It’s essentially an evolution of the town of Paradise,” said Coughlan. “So, you have the older gentleman on the left who is cutting the original path through Horse Cove into the main part of the town, and he’s stopped to have his boil up and his cup of tea, and he’s looking into the future through the steam, and seeing what wonderful things are coming for his town.”
There are some very familiar sights depicted, including the old Octagon Castle (destroyed by a fire in February of 1915), Dragon Boats, the Double Ice Complex (where the mural is to be housed) and Paradise Park (where the mural was unveiled on Saturday afternoon, during the town’s 50th anniversary of incorporation concert,) but there are also some sights that may not be so familiar. The first panel, for example, depicts two women carrying a load of laundry between them.
“There was this really beautiful story of the women in Paradise who, when all the men went to war, had no income, and they needed income, so they would walk to St. John’s, get laundry, walk it home to Paradise, wash it, dry it, fold it, and walk it back into St. John’s,” explained Coughlan. “So, I had to get them in there.”
The three panels are meant to be looked at as a whole, and eagle eyed observes may notice areas where aspects of the panels intermingle. For example, a hockey puck shot by a young player on the second panel is caught by a player adorned in a Paradise Warriors Minor Hockey jersey on the third panel.
Council, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Town’s incorporation on July 13, 1971, had put out a call for expressions of interest from artists to create a mobile mural that they could put on display throughout the town during the celebration festivities.
“So, I put in a bid, and crossed my fingers and toes, and they called me up and said we’d like to award it to you, and I was thrilled,” said Coughlan.
Over the next months, Coughlan met with the anniversary committee and researched the town’s rich history, while compiling rough drafts of what the piece might look like.
“And about six weeks ago, I pulled my canvases into my studio and went crazy,” laughed Coughlan.
The day of the unveiling was something akin to Christmas morning.
“All morning long I’ve been telling people that my tails’ been wagging really hard,” she joked. “You pour your heart and soul into something for a long time and to see it come together is an incredible feeling.”
For other artists pursing their passions, Coughlan has some advice.
“Go for it. Keep at it. Put the paintbrush in your hand and go. Put the pencil in your hand and go. Sit in front of the computer and type away. Get your name out there and talk to as many people as you can. But for the love of Pete, just do it, because it’s absolutely worth it. Follow your passion, because life is too short to be unhappy, so just do it.”