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Work proceeds on buffalo jump

 

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The carvings are done for a mural depicting the local bison kill site, and the Canadian artist said he expects to finish firing the bricks and start bringing them down to Havre in April. "The mural has been carved and colored and is in the drying stage right now," Jim Marshall of Medicine Hat, Alberta, said Tuesday. The mural depicts two Native Americans driving bison over the Wahkpa Chu'gn Buffalo Jump north of the Holiday Village Mall in Havre. The 16-foot wide, 10-foot high mural is planned to be incorporated into the landscaping for a new hotel planned for construction this summer at Boothill Plaza next to Murphy's Pub on the west end of Havre. Anna Brumley, manager of the Wahkpa Chu'gn archaeological site, said the H. Earl and Margaret Turner Clack Memorial Museum Foundation is continuing to sell bricks which will have the name of the purchaser engraved on them and be incorporated into the wall containing the mural. "We have lots left," she said. The bricks cost $50, $100, $250 and $500 depending on their size, and a limited number of bricks that will be disPlayed on the front of the mural are available at $1,000. The sale of the bricks is a fundraiser for the foundation, which provides money for the museum and the bison kill site. A major upgrade of that site is planned this year, with a grant from the Montana Tourism Infrastructure Improvement Plan awarded to fund work including improving the path through the site and replacing four structures housing exhibits. Brumley said her husband, archaeologist John Brumley, also will be doing work cleaning and fixing the exhibits. The state awarded the project about $67,000, with about $33,000 coming in local matches. Anna Brumley said Hill County is providing about $10,000 of the match with funds budgeted for work on the path, and the Clack Foundation is providing the rest. Marshall said he is very familiar with the bison kill site, and has been a fan of Havre for years. That made a special connection in creating the mural, the first he has erected in the United States. The mural, with a high-profile view on U.S. Highway 2, could help increase tourism in the area, Marshall added. He said there are many things that should attract tourists to the area, from the Havre sites to Fort Benton and the sites in Blaine County including the Bear Paw Battlefield south of Chinook, where Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce surrendered to the U.S. Cavalry in 1877. "Havre has some great tourism potential," Marshall said. "There's some great stuff to bring people who like to bring some adventure into their tourism." While this is the first U.S. mural for Marshall, he has world-wide experience in the art form going back to the 1970s. He made his first while working for a brick company, he said. By 1978, Marshall began making his living as an artist. He said he began making murals in earnest in 1983, with numerous pieces in his native Medicine Hat. "I've done a lot of them in Canada and overseas, including Japan," he said. The process is intricate. Marshall takes blocks of wet clay, the size of two standard bricks stacked together plus the thickness of a layer of mortar in between them. The blocks are stacked in the shape of the mural, then numbered to ensure they are put back together in the right order. He then sketches the image, scratching it on the blocks. Once that is done he covers the blocks with plastic so the areas where he is not working don't dry. Then the carving begins. Marshall said he worked about six or seven weeks on the Wahkpa Chu'gn carving, detailing the cliffs, the buffalo and the hunters. He worked 12- to 14-hours-a-day, most days, he said. "This is a pretty unique art technique," Marshall said. "It gives a fairly large, detailed image … without spending a fortune." He added that he woÄ2 rked about three days to add the colored detailing to the mural, which will not be clearly seen until the drying and firing process is complete. Then the disassembly begins. Marshall said it took about two days to take the wall apart and stack the blocks on drying racks. Once the blocks are dry, they will be put in a special kiln, one by one, to be fired. Once the burner is completely fired up — the kiln runs at about 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit — the bricks will be finished in about a 12- to 13-hour cycle. Four days after the firing is complete, the kiln is cool enough to open and remove the bricks, he said. Once all of the bricks are in Havre and the designs for the new hotel are complete and the landscaping begins, the work building the mural will start. "It's a very tricky bricklaying process to put it all together," Marshall said, adding that he has worked with the same bricklayer for some 25 years in erecting the murals. Br uml ey s a i d b r i c k s engraved with names of purchasers to go in the surrounding walls, including special bricks that will be on the front surrounding the mural as well as bricks for the back wall, are still available. People wanting more information about purchasing the engraved bricks can contact Brumley at 265-6417, Lynda Taplin at 265-7670, the Clack Memorial Museum at 265-4000, or any member of the Clack Foundation board.

 
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