By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large
WELLAND – Facebook sites over the weekend commented about the passing of the distinguished local artist, Ross Beard.
According to one of them, Welland Bridge 18, Mr. Beard passed Friday, February 8.
The post is dated Saturday, February 9. It was made by Steve Falusi, chair of the Dain City Bridge 18 Committee. The post, provided here in its entirety, reads:
“Dear Friends, Neighbours, and Dain City Family residents, it is with deep sadness that we send you this evening’s notice. Friday February 8, 2019 we lost a friend, a brother, and family member of our community with Ross Beard.
In his early years, Ross Beard began his legacy as an artist in the community of Dain City. He moved to city of Welland and with his wife Diane they raised their family but he never forgot his roots as was well illustrated in his paintings. Ross was one of the most gifted artists of our time and was a consummate professional and talented passionate artist whose paintings and prints graced Welland business walls and homes locally and internationally around the world. His love for our community and its history is well documented and celebrated with a lifetime legacy of work.
On this day we are indebted to you and pay respect to you Master Ross Beard. Your friendship and love of community will forever be in our hearts. With our deepest heartfelt condolences we send our love and prayers to your wife Diane, daughter Tesla, and immediate and extended family here and above.
Godspeed and paint the heavens with colour and light…”
Several comments were posted on the Bridge 18 site, including those by the city council member, Claudette Richard, and the former MPP, Cindy Forster.
Mr. Beard was a participant in Welland’s Festival of Arts murals project that had its start in 1986.
He contributed three high-profile works to the outdoor art gallery initiative.
One of them is on the wall of the former Tribune building at 228 East Main St. With the title Upbound at Midnight, the mural is a night scene of a ship travelling south towards Port Colborne along the Welland Canal, according to a description provided for a publicity brochure.
As Mr. Beard worked on it back in the day, people gathered ‘round and on the sidewalk across the street to watch the talented artist. Some of them stayed for minutes but others lingered for extended periods.
The other of Mr. Beard’s downtown murals was The Pond – New Year’s Day, on the wall of the former LCBO outlet. Now removed, it was painted in 1988 and depicted the Welland Junction (Dain City) area about 1970 with upturned earth suggesting construction of the Welland Canal bypass project. A photo on the Facebook site shows Mr. Beard touching up a portion of the mural, the towers of the two Dain City bridges standing in the background .
Towpaths, the third mural, is at 1030 Niagara Street North. Still in place, it features a sailing ship, the J. G. Worth, being pulled through the canal by a horse on the towpath in the mid- 1800s.
Wayne Creighton, who lived in Dain City for many years and has fond memories of Mr. Beard, commented: “He will definitely be missed.”
Contacted Sunday afternoon, Creighton said: “His murals of Dain City really resonated with those of us who grew up there.”
Creighton was a sportswriter at the daily newspaper at the time Mr. Beard was working on Upbound at Midnight.
“I really liked the one on the old Tribune building and always enjoyed seeing Ross every day as he painted it,” Creighton recalled.
In their growing up years, Mr. Beard was well known in the tight-knit Dain City community for organizing “kite wars” and ball hockey games at Bridgeview public school, said Creighton.
A weekend post on a second Facebook site, artist James Takeo’s The Art Space – Welland, provides this comment:
“We are just hearing word that one of the greatest and most prolific artists of the area, painter of three of Welland’s Festival of Arts murals, Ross Beard, has suddenly passed away.
We are deeply saddened to hear this, and offer our most sincere and deepest condolences to his family and loved ones.
Our community is a little less colourful today.”
Takeo said through email the passing was confirmed by a nephew of Mr. Beard. He also said a Celebration of Life for Mr. Beard is being planned for Sunday, February 17 at the Legion hall, Morningstar Avenue, at 1 p.m.