Local artists go behind the scenes of main street mural

By Ben Holbrook | Aug 16, 2012
Photo by: Ben Holbrook Russell Kahn, left, and Dave Hurley, right, sit in front of the mural they painted on the side of the Family Dollar building.

Belfast — As the nautical mural decorating the side of the Family Dollar Building on Main Street is set to receive its official dedication Friday, Aug. 17, at 6:30 p.m. the two artists behind the "S.S. Belfast" discussed what it took to turn the concept into a reality.

Belfast resident David Hurley, who has multiple works of art around the city, envisioned the mural about 20 years ago, but didn’t see that concept come together until this summer, when he and fellow artist Russell Kahn finished the last few brushstrokes. The goal, when the project began, was to start on a Monday and finish on a Friday, which the artists were able to adhere to, as they got a week of good weather.

“When I looked at the original proposal for the mural, it was the entire hull of a ship. I wanted a more economical concept that wouldn’t require painting the whole building,” Hurley said.

That more economical approach led to the finished product that now graces the side of a building: a porthole and anchor near the top corner of the building and a bow wave that stretches across two walls.

“I remember when I first had the idea, it was just an idea, and the way it all happened, it was meant to be,” he said.

Because Hurley had set a strict timetable for completion of the mural, he called in help from fellow local artist Kahn, who was more than happy to lend his talent to the project. Kahn, who works as a fine arts teacher at Camden Hills Regional High School, said he wanted to help with the project not only because he is friends with Hurley, but he also wants to help keep art alive in the community.

“I’ve been doing art most of my life, and this is my 25th year teaching art,” Kahn said. “I used to do murals while living in Tucson, Ariz., and I love the melding of the arts.”

Although the final product stands as a testament to their skill, Hurley readily acknowledged there were a few challenges that presented themselves as work commenced on the mural.

He recalled how early in the process he had laid down a piece of cardboard and placed two gallons of paint on it. While he was up on a ladder “all nervous,” a gust of wind caught the cardboard and flipped it, dumping the two gallons of paint.

Despite that minor incident, both Hurley and Kahn agreed the process went more smoothly than they could have hoped for, especially when it came time to paint the bow wave that adorns the bottom of the building.

Hurley said he initially thought he would be counting bricks as he worked on the wave, but he said after getting a section done, he and Kahn were able to refer to the finished parts as they continued.

“Getting that initial wave done and seeing it from a distance and seeing it working was the most memorable for me,” Kahn said.

Hurley was equally satisfied with the final product and even happier with all of the community support he received through the process. With the dedication approaching, he added a few final touches to the names of businesses and locals who played a role in the mural's creation.

“You have an idea and then when you do it, it’s different than what you thought. It felt really good to have it done in five days,” Hurley said.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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