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Welland's Murals:
11. Education

About the Mural
Education by Risto Turunen, Lambeth, Ontario. Painted in 1989, at 285 East Main Street (YMCA), 59' by 20'. Risto Turunen's second Festival of Arts mural features the history of education in Welland. He painted faces taken from local historical photographs. The school teacher dates back to the late 1890s. The school is Welland Central Public School, which first opened in 1900. The first principal, Mr. Dowkes, is portrayed in 1903. The students attended Aqueduct and Maple Leaf Schools about 1925. Cheerleaders and a football player from 1959 Welland High School yearbook are shown at either end of the mural. This was the largest of the murals painted in 1989 and took Risto about 360 hours to complete.

The Artist's Interpretation
"The historical figures in this painting are based on photos I obtained from the Welland Museum. I tried to achieve a sort of surrealistic feel to the schoolground of the past, placing the figures from different eras all in the same hazy pictorial space. I wanted to emphasize the time aspect by juxtaposing this with the contemporary students and bus in the foreground, done in a different style and colour. After spending extended periods of time cooped up in my studio, it's a nice change to paint something in such a public context."

Your Virtual Guide's Comments
Turunen uses the neo-classical arch, a favourite of nineteenth century school architects, as a portal through which we view this mural. On our side of the arch is a school bus with happy children in vivid colour. However, passing through the arch, we enter the shadowy sepia world of those who have gone before. the austere schoolmistress with her ghostly pallor and her unsmiling charges are a disconcerting contrast to the modern scholars and the bus. 

The series of vignettes behind the arch chronicles the steady progress of education from the "bad old days" of turn of the century authoritarianism to the more enlightened system of today. Juxtaposition of colours in the mural is a unique way to make the present more appealing than the past. 

About the Artist: Risto Turunen, Lambeth, Ontario
Risto is originally from Scarborough, Ontario and is a self-taught artist with a gallery in Toronto representing himself and his work. He is a graduate of the four-year art program at Cedarbrae College in Scarborough. Following his graduation, he worked as a designer and illustrator until, in 1979, he decided to pursue a full-time career as a 'fine' artist. He became represented by Nancy Poole's studio in Toronto in 1986.

He has received many awards and obtained commissions from private and corporate buyers across North America. Since 1989, he has mainly been involved in freelance illustration and mural work. Risto has had many solo and group exhibitions in recent years.

In addition to his two Welland Murals, Risto has completed an indoor mural in London, Ontario.

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