By Tina Comeau
Can Tootsie Emin keep a secret? She can when she’s got it covered behind a black curtain in her art studio for over a year.
To those who saw the curtain in her studio, she explained its presence by saying she didn’t want to get paint on the wall.
But that was just a cover story for what was hidden behind it.
The few people who did get a sneak peak were told to keep things under wraps – just like the four foot-by-eight foot mural behind that black curtain.
Now, because of her efforts, visitors coming to and from the ferry terminal in Yarmouth for sailings on Nova Star have been getting a sneak peak of their own. Their sneak peak comes in the form of 144 Nova Scotia lighthouses that grace the mural that Emin painted.
The painting, entitled ‘Nova Scotia Lighthouses’ took the Yarmouth native nearly a year and a half to complete. She researched lighthouses and visited lighthouses to get photos of them. Knowing she wouldn’t be able to get to all of the lighthouses – after all, some are located on islands – she sought permission from the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society to use some of their lighthouse images for the mural.
In the end she doesn’t have all of the lighthouses in the province on the mural, she says. But there are more than enough to make a visual impact.
When Nova Star Cruises found about the mural – okay, so Emin and her friends can’t totally keep a secret – they asked if Emin would consider loaning it to the ferry company so they could put it on display in the Yarmouth ferry terminal this season.
Emin was happy to do so.
And Nova Star Cruises was happy too.
“Tootsie is not only very talented, she is extremely passionate about her craft and where she was born and lives,” says Lisa Arnold, vice-president of brand marketing and product development with Nova Star Cruises. “Her mural is an informative introduction for visitors – welcoming our guests to Yarmouth. The painting is a worthy tribute to what is so special about Nova Scotia.”
For her part, Emin says there is just something about lighthouses. Their rich heritage and beauty are part of their appeal.
Sadly, though, over the years many lighthouses have been at risk due to their condition or due to becoming automated and/or de-staffed. Fortunately communities, groups and municipalities have stepped in cases like to this save the lighthouses.
Two of the lighthouses experienced a tragic turn after Emin painted them onto the mural. One, in Church Point, was destroyed by strong winds during a later winter blizzard in March. And another caught fire, says Emin.
Through her mural, Emin says she wanted to shine a spotlight on lighthouses.
“I wanted to educate people about the many lighthouses throughout Nova Scotia, which are a great part of our history and are important in keeping our heritage alive,” she says. “To maintain and save these lighthouses, communities offer them to visitors in the form of museums, gift shops, tea rooms and other on-site activities. Tourists can also enjoy the landscapes, culture and history, marine life, beautiful sunsets, picnic grounds and walking trails that accompany them.”
Such has been the case with the Cape Forchu Lighthouse in Emin’s own community.
Referring to painting as her hobby, it has kept Emin busy for decades. She’s created works of art for the Yarmouth Hospital Foundation, the Yarmouth County Museum and a number of local restaurants. Her paintings have been featured in many group and solo exhibits. Her next exhibit will be in the lobby of Th’YARC for the month of October.
She was also busy while she was painting the lighthouse mural. At the same time she was painting the mural, she was also creating her Maudified house for a project that would benefit programs offered through the western branch of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Emin’s Maudified house fetched the highest price at auction, with Jim MacLeod purchasing it for $3,400.
As for her lighthouse mural, she says all of the work, and secrecy, was worth it.
“I had to keep that under cover until I had it done. I wanted to keep it a secret,” she says. “It was a lot of work but it was fun.”
Yarmouth artist Tootsie Emin displays the mural she painted called “Nova Scotia Lighthouses” at the Yarmouth International Ferry Terminal. NOVA STAR CRUISES PHOTO