Community Contributes Talent, Energy to Public Art Project

Mural Transforms Urban Blight Into Art
NEW BEDFORD — From Clark’s Point to Butler’s Flat to other landmarks along the Acushnet River, New Bedford’s landscape started coming to life in a 105-foot panoramic mural over the weekend.
Area artists and volunteers began transforming an old railroad containment wall into a panorama reminiscent of paintings in the Whaling Museum.
The wall is on Quansett Street across from Taber Mill. Two elderly residents watched appreciatively as volunteers spread out, each taking a section on Saturday. The volunteers worked from snapshots of the scenes they were painting.
Artist Tracy Tarvers said, “I’m from Truro and my Dad used to fish. I do a lot of nautical paintings. When Gallery X said this is what they were doing, I said I definitely wanted in on it.”
Zachary Meunier, a member of ArtWorks!, said, “I’m a muralist. I love contributing to public art. If the city looks a little better, people might take pride in it.”
“It’s an interesting challenge,” said Nik Ukleja of New Bedford. “I generally work on a small scale. My oil paintings are usually four by six inches.”
Organizer Ken Resendes, who is president of the Bullard Street Neighborhood Association, said, “For years, we’ve been going by this wall and it’s always full of obscenities and graffiti. I just got sick of seeing it. It’s really neat to watch it come alive.”
Originally, the neighborhood group wanted to transform an empty lot behind the wall into a park. When the City of New Bedford told them they couldn’t because the land is contaminated, they turned their attention to creating a mural.
The United Way of Greater New Bedford contributed $1,000 for paint, brushes and other project materials. Claudia Kirk, program director of the community building mini-grants program, said the mural was an ideal choice for a mini-grant.
“Ken said ‘We have this dream, and I’m not sure how to make it a reality’,” Ms. Kirk recalled. She called the effort “people working together to make things happen in this city.”
Charles Hauck, a sculptor and one of the founders of Gallery X, put out the call for artists and rallied the volunteers. Mr. Hauck said the water scene beneath the city’s landmarks would eventually be filled with boats, including the Schooner Ernestina.
“It’s a collaborative, so whatever people want to add to the water is fine. We want to show that it’s an active, working waterfront,” Mr. Hauck said.
His wife, Susan, a self-taught artist, said the mural “is beautifying a not-so-lovely part of the city.”
As two older men stared at the work in progress from outside Taber Mill, Mrs. Hauck said, “It’s wonderful to look over there and see them smiling.”
“I think it might even become a tourist attraction,” said artist Joy Trudeau.
Work on the mural is expected to continue next Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with a rain date of Sunday from 10 a.m. to noon. Non-artists are welcome; in fact, not everyone on Saturday was an artist. The organizers said some of the work, like painting clouds, is easy for anyone to do.
For more information, contact Mr. Resendes at 774-201-9357 or Mr. Hauck at 508-996-9768.
September 21, 2008
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