Video: Niagara Falls selects Toronto artist for Wilma Morrison mural


Published August 2, 2022 at 1:13 pm

The Niagara Falls Exchange Studio Building where the mural of Wilma Morrison will be painted by a Toronto artist.

With 15 mural submissions all honouring the life and times of Niagara black pioneer Wilma Morrison, a jury from the cultural community has selected the artist who paint likeness her on the side of the soon-to-be-built Niagara Falls Exchange Studio Building.

Toronto artist Jacob Headley’s submission was chosen as the winner and will paint a mural four metres by 3.4 metres on the building, collecting $5,000 for his efforts.

The jury said the selection was based on the response to the competition’s goal and themes, appropriateness, and artistic excellence.

Headley, a visual artist who has worked professionally in the fields of Illustration, character design, backgrounds, storyboarding, mural painting, graphic design, and comic art, was thrilled about his selection, noting that he had to study up on Morrison before creating his mural submission.

“I have chosen to portray Wilma’s portrait as the main focal point of the rendering as this is ultimately a tribute to her and her amazing life and family. When learning about Wilma, she was clearly someone who was deeply loved and respected by those around her,” said the artist.

The late Wilma Morrison, left, and an early look at Jocob Headley’s mural of her.

“Wilma was, among many things: a mentor, a teacher, a historian. It became very apparent she had a deep passion for the preservation of black history within the Niagara region. This piece is a portrayal of not only Wilma herself but also the history, of which, she was so passionate to help preserve.”

Indeed, Morrison was legendary in Niagara and her passing on April 23, 2020 was mourned by a huge portion of Niagara’s history buffs and preservationists.

In Niagara Falls, where she lived with her husband, Lorne, Morrison was well-known for her successful efforts to preserve the Nathaniel Dett Chapel British Methodist Episcopal Church when the threat loomed of its demolition.

It is the one of the very few structures verifying that blacks have been in the Niagara region for over 200 years and contributed to the building of this community. The Chapel, now 184 years old, was declared a National Historic Site in July 2000. Since then, it has undergone major refurbishing in keeping with the local heritage code.

The chapel also became a place of worship for black citizens who made their way to Canada from northeast America on the Underground Railroad.

Morrison also worked with the Norval Johnson Heritage Collection since 1991 whose goal was assisting students and educators in their search for information on Canadian black history. The library, a section of the St. Catharines downtown branch, now houses more than 1,200 books, which are now available via the internet.

Noted Headley of the freedom fighter, “Wilma was of the opinion that if we do not know where we come from, it will be hard to know where we are going.”

Headley’s work will be installed at the Niagara Falls Exchange after completion of the construction on the property, now on target for completion in Winter 2023.

Here, Headley describes his passion for the project.

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