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‘Share and learn’

Street wall mural a response to climate emergency, colonization

Campus and Community

By Mandy Cook

On the largest section of Memorial’s street art wall are a number of grey, shadowy forms.

A mural, titled Shadows of an Epoch: They Were Wolves, is the first of a number of artworks commissioned for the wall by the university’s Beautification Committee.

The artist behind the evocative work is Marie-Soleil Provençal, who is from Eastern Townships, Que.

Her inspiration came from time spent sketching a stuffed specimen of the extinct Newfoundland wolf in The Rooms’ holdings.

“It is … in a back room, as if is meant to be forgotten,” Ms. Provençal wrote in her mural submission package. “This experience broke something in me. From it emerged the following question: ‘How can we keep the memory of the extinct Newfoundland wolf alive to prevent the extinction of other species?'”

A group of grey wolves painted like shadows are painted along a long white block wall. Spruce trees are in front.
You can see Shadows of an Epoch: They Were Wolves on the street art wall between Macpherson College and the Memorial Childcare Centre on the St. John’s campus.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

She also sketched a mounted specimen of the endangered Labrador wolf at the Corner Brook Museum and Archives.

“Both wolves are in the vicinity of Memorial’s Grenfell Campus and the St. John’s campus,” Ms. Provençal wrote. “Reading a map from left to right (west to east), a parallel can be drawn to the rapid shift of status of a species from endangered to extinct. They Were Wolves reflects on the past and current mass extinction of species’ due to humans’ activities aligned with Memorial’s vision, mission and values to impact the future by engaging and empowering its community.”

A group of grey wolves painted like shadows are painted along a long white block wall. The first wolf is on one wall, while the others are on an adjacent wall.
The artist asks: ‘How can we keep the memory of the extinct Newfoundland wolf alive to prevent the extinction of other species?’
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

She envisions the project potentially extending to Grenfell Campus, public talks in collaboration with museums and nature conservation organizations, workshops on scientific drawing by artists and naturalists and events where space is ceded to Indigenous community members and elders interested in sharing knowledge and tales of wolves.

“Similar to an oral tradition, the shadows are an invitation to gather and speak in a hushed voice, remember that wolves roamed the hilly and rugged inland of the island for thousands of years — do not forget, share and learn from it.”

Be sure to have a look at Shadows of an Epoch before Josh Whalen, the next commissioned artist, is set to begin his mural on Sept. 26, when Shadows of an Epoch will be painted over.

The Beautification Committee thanks The Paint Shop in St. John’s for its ongoing and generous support for this initiative.


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