Spectators visiting Ross Wells Park next year will have an updated mural to enjoy.
Local artist Carly Jaye Smith recently finished restoring the cartoon-themed baseball mural located on north wall of the utility shed along the first base line. Characters include Spider-Man, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Garfield, Odie, Yosemite Sam, Donald Duck, Yogi Bear, Popeye, Scooby-Doo, Charlie Brown, Barney Rubble, Dino, and a pair of MTV characters.
"It was originally painted in 1990, so it had seen a lot of sun and snow and damage," she said. "I came in to try to bring it back to its original state. This was done through the ongoing support from the River Street Promotion concerts that have been happening here to help maintain and beautify our unique ballpark."
Smith started work on the 16' x 8' mural about a month ago, but was delayed at various points due to weather and ongoing events.
Before she could call the project complete and slap on a coat of sealer, Smith needed to track down the original artist to make sure that the proper credit was given. After searching for about a month, Smith says they were able to track down Bryan Runge through social media.
"We found out that he actually initially painted this mural inside of a former business here called the Great Canadian Bagel Exchange and then he was pitched to replicate it here at Ross Wells Park and he was only 17 years old when he did that," she explained. "That's really cool to me that he was so young and driven and talented already. He had no idea. He basically left Moose Jaw shortly after he would have painted this and he had no idea that it was still existing, let alone that we restored it now to give it a few more years of life."
In addition to the mural, Runge had also painted several garbage cans around the park.
Smith says there were some challenges when it came to restoring the mural.
"The damage alone is obviously tricky and challenging," she commented. "There is a lot of chunks missing of detail and there was no archival photos to work off of from what it looked like in its original state. It was tricky that way."
The biggest challenge for Jaye was trying to mimic somebody else's work.
"It's hard to kind of turn off your own artistic intuition on how you would have tackled it and I don't think any two artists in the world would execute a mural the same. There's just little things that I would have done differently but you have to kind of put that mindset aside and just remember that you are trying to replicate what the original artist had done."
After sitting in the sun for 30 years, the paint had faded and as a result trying to match colours was difficult as well. Unlike what was available in 1990, Jaye had the advantage of referencing online photos of the various vintage cartoon characters.
Funding for the project came from River Street Promotions, which has donated $30,000 over the past two years to help with improvements to Ross Wells Park. River Street has been hosting its Homestand fundraising concerts at ballpark for the past three years.
"We are very blessed and fortunate that we have the support of the city, with them allowing us to essentially use and take over Ross Wells Park the week of for the Homestand setup," said James Murdock, one of the founding members of River Street Promotions. "As part of that, we feel that it's important to see that some dollars are allocated for Ross Wells for improvements and beautification...It's an iconic ballpark, we're fortunate to have it."
The funding from River Street has also helped pay for new fencing and a new roof on the garage.
Final dollar amounts raised from Homestand '23 are still being calculated.
Smith was very appreciative of the support received from River Street Promotions.
"I just think it's amazing to see community groups like River Street Promotions and the people here at Ross Wells Park utilizing some of the funding that they've raised in the past few years to keep murals and art within a ballpark. It's not really a normal collaboration but our ballpark here, itself to me is like an art gallery itself. You've got Gus Froese's front facade mural that was recently restored by Grant McLaughlin. You've got this mural here and just surrounding the ballpark, there's several other murals that I think it's important to maintain and keep these things going."
In addition to the mural at Ross Wells Park, Smith has been busy painting a floral mural at Just A Girl In Her Garden, in addition to a mural at the business's greenhouse south of the city.
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