Debra Rushfeldt unveiled her mural Western Toad on the Forest Floor on Saturday, July 17.
The mural, located at 206 Broadway St. is a culmination of seven months of work but a lifelong desire to dream up and create large scale artwork.
Rushfeldt created the work in a small studio, unable to step back and take in the full piece until it was installed.
“In the future when we all remember what happened to us during COVID-19 lockdown, I will be able to say that I gave birth to a huge toad, and I don’t think many people will be able to say that,” she said, in her speech to the crowd at the unveiling.
Rushfeldt moved to Nakusp from Calgary in 2002. There, she went to school to study art at the Alberta College of Art and Design.
Though she has worked as an artist for her whole life, she also runs an import store called Prima Materia Gallery and a guest house called Casa Mandala.
“We love and value our country lifestyle and close association with nature in Crescent Bay, and I have found the peace and quiet to be very conducive to an artistic practice,” she said.
Rushfeldt hopes that the mural, which is installed on her studio, will draw visitors further down Broadway East to explore the businesses.
“There are plans in the works to create a garden setting under the mural that will enhance the natural feeling of a toad in its lush habitat,” she said.
Rushfeldt first started painting the Western Toad in 2018, while searching for a new subject to draw that had a connection to the West Kootenays.
With photographs from Gail McMartin as her guide, Rushfeldt started doing watercolour paintings of the toads.
“I loved the detail I saw in their skin and eyes,” she said.
She took the tiny and somewhat overlooked creature and scaled it up to mural size.
“As I continued in 2020 to do more artistic explorations of the toad, I realized I was moved to paint the toad as I believe they see themselves, as wise and dignified creatures, full of beauty and magic,” she said. “I also discovered there is a rich native and European history of toad and frog symbology, which added another level of interest for me, in particular the association with the power of transformation, cleansing, harmony and new life.”
In the fall of 2020, Rushfeldt created three prototypes for the mural and asked the Nakusp residents to vote on their favourite.
“By slowing this process down, I learned a lot about my subject matter and concepts, and these works can be viewed in my studio if you are interested,” she said.
Rushfeldt hopes that the mural stimulates the imagination and connects people with nature.
“The toad is so large people look like fairies or elves next to it.”