DURRELL, NL - As of April 26th, the Durrell Museum is home to a new great auk exhibit. The display combines a mural by artist Sarah Stockley with 11 great auk statues that were made by artist Paul Summerskill, a long-time summer resident of Hart’s Cove, who passed away in 2017.
The concrete statues, which are 30 inches tall and approximately 100 pounds each, were created by Summerskill in 2003 as part of a Hart’s Cove reunion celebration. Summerskill did extensive research in order to create a realistic representation of the giant bird, which has been extinct since the 1800s.
Tina Summerskill, Paul’s wife, donated the birds to the Durrell Museum both to honour her husband’s wishes, his artistry, and his interest in conservation. Illness prevented her from travelling from Ontario to attend the launch, but she donated a luncheon for the attendees and sent a statement to be read by family friend Robert Stockley.
The following is an excerpt from that message.
“Paul would have been so pleased to see his great auks placed in and against this realistic mural,” Summerskill said. “Furthermore, I know he would have been grateful to the Durrell Museum, as I am, for telling the sad story of the extinction of these majestic birds with the purpose of making visitors aware that we can all do our part to preserve endangered species.”
Summerskill hopes to come see the exhibit in the fall.
The mural artist, Sarah Stockley, was honoured to be part of the project.
“As soon as I looked at the birds, I was committed,” she said. “They are so moving, especially since there is a colony of them.”
After committing to the project, Stockley consulted with Tina Summerskill to ensure her mural fit into Paul Summerskill’s vision.
“When they asked me to do the mural, I didn’t know what his vision had been so I talked to his wife, Tina,” Stockley said. “I felt like I was moving in the right direction as I was doing it. I sent pictures to Tina, she would come back with the ‘thumbs up’ and I would continue the process.”
Stockley said this project is one of the highlights of her career as an artist.
“Being part of this and seeing how Paul’s work moved everyone, it is one of the biggest steps I have taken as an artist,” she said.
The organizers were thrilled with the attendance at the launch, and are expecting a great response from the general public in June.
“It’s a big addition to our museum,” said Robert Stockley, former Museum President and close friend of the Summerskills. “It’s going to be a crowd-drawer, and draw more tourists to our museum.”