One Haligonian is fighting to preserve a mural at an unusual community gathering spot that will soon be torn down for redevelopment — McDonald’s on Quinpool Road.
This McDonald’s is unlike many others as it hasn’t been renovated since the ’90s. An original painting of the Halifax Public Gardens by artist R.W. LeFresne adorns the west wall, right above the turquoise, diner-style booths.
As the city approved to view redevelopment proposals for that area of Quinpool Road in 2019, one community member is calling to preserve the mural.
Andrew Neville, a student at NSCAD who has lived in the area for quite some time, started a petition to preserve the mural in the fall of 2019.
“I thought it was such a unique location. It’s so silly to talk about McDonald’s this way,” Neville said with a laugh. “It’s sort of the last McDonald’s we have that felt unique or this sort of artifact from a time when things just didn’t look the same.”
The 32-year-old says he remembers the mural from his childhood days.
“Ever since I was a young kid, I thought that mural was so cool and was like, ‘Oh, it’s just a shame that this is going to be gone,'” he said.
Neville says it’s not just about the mural itself, but about a long-standing gathering space for the community.
“Even just walking by, you notice the same people in and around it for years,” he said.
“It always seemed to me like it was sort of strange, but also important that there was this place that was somewhere people could just go, where they could just be that was outside of their home, or maybe they didn’t necessarily have a steady home.”
Since Halifax councillors endorsed a redevelopment project at the site in 2019, rumours have been circulating about what will become of these golden arches.
In an email statement, city spokesperson Maggie-Jane Spray said all questions on the artwork should be directed to the applicant of this development.
The most recent update from council came in July 2020, with Dexel Developments proposing to build an eight-storey building facing Quinpool Road, where the McDonald’s currently sits.
Neville’s petition was reignited this year after being shared on Twitter and now has nearly 300 signatures.
“It seems like it sort of struck a nerve with people; a lot of people had something special to say about that spot,” he said.
The mural artist tells Global News he is loving the appreciation for the mural that’s been there for nearly 30 years.
“It’s kind of touching to see that people want to preserve it,” R. W. LeFresne said. “I’m surprised, but I’m touched by it as well.”
He was commissioned to paint a historical adaption of the gardens when the site was last renovated, and it took him two weeks to complete it.
“It became a bit of a community project, too, with all the people coming into the restaurant, young kids and students, asked a lot of questions,” he said. “It was really fun to do.”
LeFresne said he first heard about the petition several weeks ago, and he admitted that preserving the artwork would be a costly job.
Neville, however, is motivated to find a way.
“It does involve literally removing a wall in one piece from a building, so it’s a little daunting,” Neville said.
Neville said he’ll be reaching out to the developers to see if removing the wall would be possible, as he figures out where he could even store it.
In the long-term, Neville said he hopes to use the wall in his final graduating show at NSCAD.
“I think in the event that it does get removed, wherever it ends up next has to be important,” he said.
“(It’s) a memorial to a place where people could go.”
Neville is gathering stories of people’s fond memories of the McDonald’s and is calling for more submissions.
“It’s kind of this silly thing that I’ve been trying to take very seriously, but I’m happy that people are talking about it again,” he said.
Without giving too much away, Neville is hoping his art project would honour the iconic community gathering spot.
As for LeFresne, he said if preserving the mural doesn’t work out, he’s happy to paint a new one.
— With files from Ashley Field.