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Camillus: Artist paints Sims Store mural

Depictions of historic scenes along the Erie Canal continue to appear across New York State. Earlier this year, such a mural was created and dedicated in a new community park in the village of Lyons. Mark DeCracker of Lyons, who was largely responsible for the Lyons project, conceived "Mural Mania." Lori Skoog of Brockport originated the "Art Walks on the Water" program.

The latest addition to this collection is a mural depicting a boat being towed across the Nine Mile Creek Aqueduct in Camillus. It is nine feet high, 19-feet wide and was painted on the upstairs back wall of the Sims Store at Camillus Erie Canal Park. Talented artist Dawn Jordan of Weedsport created it. Last summer she painted a large canal mural on the side of a cinder block wall of the Old Brutus Historical Society in Weedsport. That mural, along Route 31, is 40-feet wide and 14-feet high, and took three months to create. Like the latest one in Camillus, Jean Carrington of Syracuse also sponsored that project.

A former Weedsport resident, Jordan comes from a family of artists, including her father, Walter Schoonmaker, and her grandmother, Ella Schoonmaker. She said she bases her murals primarily on old photographs dating back to the 19th century. She has also painted murals for the Finger Lakes Mall in Auburn and the VFW post in Moravia.

She also plans to do several murals in the village of Jordan. Liz and Dave Beebe, the directors of Camillus Erie Canal Park, said they were so impressed with Jordan's work they thought a large mural depicting a mule-drawn boat coming across the aqueduct would enliven the exhibits. The park is moving closer to having the aqueduct restored to working order in the near future.

Although the old Erie Canal has been abandoned since 1917, interest in it has actually intensified in recent years. The Sims Store museum has a collection of Erie Canal artifacts, paintings and photographs on display.

Carrington said her family is proud of their Erie Canal heritage, and the mural is a way of preserving it.

[Dick Palmer is the editor of the New York Canal Times and former editor of the Advocate.]

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