As Andrew Sees It

Posted on April 15, 2015 under Storytelling with 2 comments


Andrew’s tribute to the veterans



What do most of us see when we walk the streets of our home town?  We observe the obvious: storefronts made of bricks and mortar, with displays in the window beckoning us to enter.  We pass trees, telephone poles and fire hydrants.  We see playgrounds and train tracks.  And lights telling us to stop, go or slow down.  Pretty mundane stuff.

Andrew Murray sees a whole other landscape and Antigonish is all the better for it.  The most ordinary object suggests limitless possibilities.  As someone described it: “He has magic eyes.  He sees in design.”

His talents emerged at a very young age.  To the Highland Drive gang he was “Wonder Boy”.  He regularly amazed his peers.  At a time when kids can be cruel, he was always kind to his friends.  Even then he saw the world differently than most.  And he wasn’t beyond mischief.  One day an outdoor water fight turned into a full-fledged war.  Before good judgement could prevail, the garden hose had found its way into the Murray home, still gushing full throttle.

Andrew attended Mount Allison University and, according to a classmate in the Fine Arts program, he was a superstar.  His projects were “eye popping” as he demonstrated an exuberance and flair that left his colleagues and audience breathless.

He took his considerable talents afar and dazzled people at the Stratford Festival and the CBC.  He designed the sets for “The Nutcracker” at Neptune in Halifax. But Antigonish has a way of drawing you home and, after many years, he returned and began to transform the town; store by store, window box by window box, mural by mural.

His talents were instrumental when the good people of St. James United Church undertook a major renovation a few years ago.  This stately structure has been standing sentinel at the corner of Church and Main since 1861.  Andrew made sure that his vision for renewal would not be done at the expense of the church’s rich history.

He was involved in theatre at an early age and, in addition to his skill as a designer, he was also a prodigious talent on stage.  He performed in a number of productions at Theatre Antigonish.  According to one of his directors, his dedication and hard work set an example for university students who were cutting their teeth.   Sometimes, to the chagrin of those in charge, he would ignore standard practices and procedures and create his own rules; because he saw things that nobody else saw.  And he would usually succeed, leaving the entire cast and crew in awe.

People in Antigonish have embraced Andrew.  They have come to trust his taste and judgment.  He has been an integral part of a team that has transformed our Main Street.  As one person said, “He has a feel for the town.  He has sensitivity to its sensitivities”.   He has transformed many businesses by designing unique surroundings and exteriors that are eye-catching and classy.  His window displays are what one might see on 5th Avenue.

Despite his immense talents and his incredible, exhausting work ethic, there is one demon that Andrew has yet to conquer: raccoons.  It seems that raccoons follow Andrew wherever he goes.  Apparently, a number of years ago when was in Toronto he was at the wheel of a convertible with the roof down.  He pulled up for a brief stop.  He parked at the rear of the building near some dumpsters.  Having completed his errand, he jumped into the car and made his way onto the 401.  As he reached cruising speed, he heard a rustling coming from the rear.  He adjusted the mirror and spotted a raccoon in the back seat, chewing on a piece of watermelon.  I can imagine that the critter had one paw draped carelessly over the seat and its head flung back, enjoying the sun and breeze.  One wonders what the conversation would have been between Andrew and an OPP officer, had he been pulled over.

The cornerstone of every community is its cultural base.  We have to nurture our artists and musicians and crafts people because they are the product of our rich history and the conduit to its preservation.  “It takes a village …” as the saying goes.   I like to think that we have joined hands with Bob and Mavis to become Andrew’s extended family.  And we enjoy the give and take that goes along with that.

Andrew is a rare gem.    He is a visionary with a brilliant mind and a quick wit.  In the words of one long-time resident; “Andrew’s contribution to the town and business community is incalculable.”  We are so very fortunate to call him one of our own.

Even the raccoons think he’s special.

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