Barn Board Mural

By Willa Wick in Arts & Music, People, Places, Events, & History

She’s self-taught, and she’s progressed from finger painting in grade school to her most recent project – a 14 board exterior mural.


Alisha Forbes was born in Palmerston, and although now married, she hasn’t drifted too far from home.  She loved Art the best of all her school classes and has always been a ‘crafts person’ of one sort or another.  Alisha wasn’t sure how to pursue art as a career so it more or less sat on the back burner.


Before starting her family Forbes was employed at Harry Stone’s Restaurant in Harriston.  They were well aware of her artistic ability and she was always cajoled into designing the daily menu boards, painting the windows with seasonal pictures, and doing anything creative to add sparkle to the atmosphere.  Alisha left when her first son was born, and although she keeps in touch with the staff, she found she preferred to be a stay-at-home mom so has not returned to the work force.


During a low point in her life a couple of years ago, Forbes, who normally has an enticing bubbly nature, realized the only way to kick her depression was to actually do something positive to take her mind away from her anguish.   A friend recommended that she talk to Alexandra Cooke in Palmerston.  At the time Cooke was giving lessons in air brush painting.  Alisha met with Cooke, enrolled in the classes, became friends, and gained a whole new perspective for her art passion.


Through her grandmother’s (Ethel Forbes) involvement with the Grey-Wellington Theatre Guild, Alisha was sourced to paint the backdrops and murals for “The Wizard of Oz”.  That was great exposure for her ability.  Staff of her former restaurant saw these murals, and for them she was soon painting signage on the parking lot wall of the brick building.  She also does little paintings as gifts for friends and relatives.  Alisha has found peace and happiness in this new adventure of her life.

Alisha Forbes' first exterior wall mural

Alisha Forbes’ first exterior wall mural

Fast forward a year and restaurant manager, Chad Tailor, wants to keep his building in line with the downtown revitalization projects.  The licensed restaurant is located on the bottom floor of a three storey white brick building formerly the Collison House or later (1953) the Coronation Hotel.  This century plus building has plenty of history.


Tailor wanted to fill Harry Stone’s walls with artistic displays to give the restaurant customers something to talk about.  Owner Tony Tsotros was more than happy to have Chad arrange some original pieces and therein began the Harry Stone’s Artist Corner.  Chad started by showcasing works of local artists and rotating them with historical elements of the hotel printed on canvas.  Past works include pieces by Dana Jaunzemis and Andy Pridham.  Interested artists or photographers may submit their work to to be considered for future displays.


Attention was then turned to more refurbishing of the exterior.  A complete building facelift was needed which would include painting window sills and the third storey window boards.  Tailor also wanted a mural on the bare south wall to accompany a planned new garden bed.


It had to be historical in nature to enhance the antiquity of the building.  Chad searched for hours to find a picture that would satisfy the idea in his mind.  At last he had his “aha” moment – the old Harriston Race Course


Alisha Forbes was contacted, and yes, she agreed to paint the mural.  At first it was to be an 8 x 10 foot mural painted directly on the brick; however as the months progressed and the project was ready to begin, Alisha’s midwife strongly advised against painting from a ladder during the last few months of her pregnancy.  The mural background then became a series of 2 x 12 x 8 foot pressure treated boards.  Fortunately they had already been acclimatized for over six months.  Each was primed before the actual painting began with exterior latex paint.  Because the boards were so big Forbes had to move them around a lot.  She primed them while they were down on the ground and then sketched out the images.  When it came to the character painting she moved them inside.  Four boards were taken in at a time and leaned against her living room wall.  When she finished one board she would bring in another to add to the assembly line.  As it neared time for the finishing touches all the boards were back outside and placed against the house so she could see how the whole thing looked fitted together.

Alisha Forbes and Chad Tailor start the boards for the mural

Alisha Forbes and Chad Tailor start the boards for the mural

During the wait time Tailor contacted the Historical Society to see if they would be interested in some sponsorship of the mural project.   It’s a policy of the society not to make direct monetary donations to private enterprises; however, in order to provide some funding a silent auction is being held.   The object is a uniquely matted, 16 x 24” framed reproduction of the same picture as the mural.  The picture was scanned by Archivist Karen Wagner of the Wellington County Museum and Archives where the original post card is located.  Research was done by Mark MacKenzie, Chairman of the Historical Society, and picture enlargement, matting and frame from Jazz Image.


By a twist of fate the picture actually has a connection to the hotel.   A panel accompanying the silent auction states:  “Pioneers in rural Ontario were no strangers to horse racing with Harriston and Minto being no exception.  It was part of our culture then, and still carried on today at established tracks throughout the province.


One advocate of the sport was Mr. James Moore, born 1811 in England and died 1886 in Harriston.  James Moore and family relocated to Minto from North Dumfries Township in 1865 and purchased lot 84 and 85 Conc C.  Along with farming nearly 300 acres he was proprietor of the Harriston Hotel until 1872 when John Collison purchased the business.


On Moore’s farm he built the Harriston Race Course (which is now occupied by the Minto Clifford Public School).   Local residents would gather on a Sunday afternoon at “The Course” to enjoy the races and socialize (and of course a quiet wager on a personal favorite may also have been part of their day!)


The original Moore home was replaced in 1895 by son George.  The house is in front of the school on Hwy 89.


In 1892 Labour Day was officially declared a public holiday and races were then held as a special holiday event on the first Monday of every September.  This continued until 1914 and then sporadically after WWI until the 1940s”.


The easel with the Silent Auction picture will be on display to accept bids until late October.  It will rotate among various businesses within the town (coming back to home base for restaurant exposure between placements).  Proceeds from the auction will be donated to the mural project.

Tailor also has artistic talents but of a different genre.  In late September, at the newly re-opened Crown theatre next door several of his short films were shown to the public for a donation admission which will go towards the theatre reopening project, plus Chad’s own future filming endeavours.  Three of his films in the line up (A Done Deal, The White Samurai, and Arkham’s Journal) were partly filmed in and around the Town of Minto.  The movies featured local actors (including Chad) and were supported by community residents and businesses


When talking to artist Alisha Forbes, she said towards the end of the summer she had two goals in mind – have this baby, and get the painting done.

Baby Conall was born August 29th.  The 14 panel mural was installed September 13th.

Alisha Forbes and Chad Tailor dissapear among the crowd after the installation of the 14-ft mural on the wall of Harry Stones Restaurant

Alisha Forbes and Chad Tailor dissapear among the crowd after the installation of the 14-ft mural on the wall of Harry Stones Restaurant