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For Gander artist Melissa Francis, this is essential work

Gander Bay artist Melissa Francis hopes to have her mural tribute to essential workers done by the end of the month. Nicholas Mercer/Saltwire Network
Gander Bay artist Melissa Francis hopes to have her mural tribute to essential workers done by the end of the month. — Nicholas Mercer/Saltwire Network

She is working with town on mural that salutes the 'real heroes' of the pandemic

Underneath a fading sun, Melissa Francis is perched atop a ladder and holding a paint roller.

In front of the Gander Bay artist is a white canvas slowly becoming blue with each stroke.

Over the next couple of weeks, Francis — driven by a playlist made up of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and other favourites — will piece together what will be a mural tribute to the essential workers who have kept society going during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When time from her two regular jobs allows her, she will sit on that ladder and work on the mural.

The mural is located on an empty wall of the town council building on Elizabeth Street in Gander An aviation mural was previously located on the wall.



Gander artist Melissa Francis has previously painted historical scenes on town traffic boxes. — Saltwire Network file photo
Gander artist Melissa Francis has previously painted historical scenes on town traffic boxes. — Saltwire Network file photo


It will feature the words, "Real heroes" in large letters, with a number of caped crusaders standing beneath them against a blue background.

Each of those crusaders will represent the essential workers who have been key to helping everyone through the pandemic and subsequent lockdown.

There are doctors, nurses and truckers, among others.

“Since the pandemic started, I’ve seen pictures of murals around the world and it's a nice way to say thank you to essential workers,” said Francis. “I thought it’d be a great idea.”

From sketch to finish, she figures the mural process, which she expects to finish at the end of July, will have taken her about three months.


“These things add a lot of value and texture to your community. It is beautiful.” — Gander Mayor Percy Farewell


Gander and Francis have an art history together. Francis painted several traffic boxes in the community with scenes that depict pieces of the town’s history.

The finished product was well-received and adds swatches of colour to various parts of the community.

Francis said residents are supportive of her work. When she was completing the traffic boxes, she left her paints at the sites overnight and was confident they wouldn't be messed with.

So, when Francis approached the town a couple of months ago at the outset of the pandemic about painting a mural as a tribute to the town’s essential workers, it was well-received by the council.

All it would cost them was paint for the project, a place to mount it and the material for it.



The mural process started three months ago for Melissa Francis. — Nicholas Mercer/Saltwire Network
The mural process started three months ago for Melissa Francis. — Nicholas Mercer/Saltwire Network


“We are appreciative of her generosity and her talent,” said Gander Mayor Percy Farwell. “We are delighted.”

The mayor looks at Botwood, its central Newfoundland neighbours, as an example of what urban art does to beautify a town, and he is excited to see what Francis’s work brings to the community.

Botwood has more than a dozen murals on various walls throughout the town, which work as visual historical guides. Another mural was planned in the town for this summer, but the pandemic forced a postponement.

“These things add a lot of value and texture to your community,” said Farwell. “It is beautiful.”



Nicholas Mercer is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering Central Newfoundland for SaltWire Network.


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