By Dawn M. Chiossi
Every picture tells a story, atleast it does in Chatham Borough, where telling the story through murals is nothing new.
Ever since it’s installment in 2014, the mural painted on the Fairmount Avenue Underpass has been enthusiastically embraced by so many.
Now the Chatham Public Arts Council is beginning to work on a design for a second “sister mural” to celebrate Chatham through wall art. This new mural, slated to be located on the Washington Avenue Underpass, was given preliminary approval on June 25.
Still in its planning stages, the new mural is slated to complement the one painted on both sides of the Fairmont Avenue Underpass, adding another rich layer of beauty to the area.
Murals are amazing things: They transform blank or ugly walls into something beautiful, decorative and creative; murals make people forget what’s underneath, bringing joy to those who take notice.
With muted, almost historical colors and styles, the first mural on Fairmount Avenue underpass tells a visual story of Chatham’s history and culture: past and present.
“It is a visual history lesson, including a legend to read,” says Jennifer Voigt Kaplan, founder of Chatham’s Public Arts Council.
Through the images that bring the story to life, all who gaze at the mural enjoy this eye-catching visual journey through Chatham’s history and culture. The Chatham Arts Council are hoping that the second mural will follow suit.
Everyone from the council, to New Jersey Transit, in which the Fairmount underpass and the Washington underpass are both owned by them, and the public, are looking forward to what’s in store.
Since beauty is symmetry, viewers will see it in both murals.
As Kaplan explains, “The theme of Celebrate Chatham, the painting style, and the color palate of both murals would coordinate and complement each other.”
The layout would be similar as well, “with two facing sides, one on the east wall and one on the west wall of the underpass.”
This symmetry even extends to the same artist who will create and paint both murals, Kenji Hasegawa.
“The PAC recruited Mr. Hasegawa to paint the Washington Mural because he is a professional artist, understands Chatham from years of teaching in our schools, and has specific experience in working with murals,” says Kaplan. “Hiring him ensures consistency between murals.”
The mural will be constructed in a unique way as well. Instead of being painted directly on the cement wall, the mural will be painted in pieces of plywood, and then secured to the underpass.
Excited by this practical method, Kaplan says, “This can make future maintenance so much easier (plywood can be removed and then remounted) and also give Chatham the option to relocate the mural if ever needed,” Kaplan tells.
Many are looking forward to the next steps in the process to get this mural off the ground such as preliminary sketches, meetings, fundraising, purchasing supplies and hiring assistants, especially the painting and installing of the mural.
Kaplan discloses that when the first Fairmount Avenue Mural was unveiled, it was a fantastic gathering with large celebrating crowds, something she hopes to see again for the Washington Avenue Mural.
Founded in 2008, the Chatham Public Arts Council enhances community experiences though art. Everyone who has ever enjoyed their events such as the Fishawack Festival, various art exhibits, the outdoor park, or the lovely various sculptures around town knows firsthand how the PAC marries art and community together.
Kaplan shares that she founded the PAC in order to bring public art and artistry to the town of Chatham at a time when there simply wasn’t any. She sought to bring that sensibility to Chatham, to give that joy and inspiration to others- particularly the young- in the community.
“The PAC is thrilled to further the visual celebration of Chatham’s heritage and culture,” she says. “It is wonderful seeing children in particular enjoy public art…it inspires, enriches, and enhances residents’ lives and with it, a stronger, more unified community.”
Both Chatham’s murals are an ideal example of that artistic inspiration and enrichment. They are something that still inspires Kaplan herself: “Every time I drive by and see someone, particularly a young person, look at the Fairmount Avenue mural and reading the legend, my heart just flutters.”
By Dawn M. Chiossi