By Henry M. Holden
According to Joseph Fagan, West Orange historian and author, West Orange recently welcomed a spray-painting robot. This robot is a unique wall-climbing, graffiti-painting artist and the first use of a robotic artist in West Orange.
The robot, known as “Albert,” was invented by Mikhel Joala, co-founder of the company SprayPrinter. The new technology is focused on redesigning traditional methods of spray painting.
According to Fagan, two public murals were created with this color printer programmed to spray-paint a digital picture as it glides along the side of a building using guide cables.
“The printhead allows five cans of spray paint to work simultaneously to produce a full-color image by following instructions from a computer on where to paint, and what color to spray,” he explained.
“The first mural is located at 269 Main Street, in the heart of the downtown area,” said Fagan. It features the iconic image of Thomas Edison in his laboratory on the side of the building. Edison is considered the father of electricity, lived in West Orange, and had a factory there.
This 36 foot high larger than life design was developed by West Orange resident and graphic artist Ryan Zorad. It shows Edison holding a light bulb with a filament that is a glowing interlocked “W” that bears a resemblance to the logo of the Downtown West Orange Alliance.
The West Orange Main Street corridor is rich in history, dating back to 1862 and Zorad captured a small piece of that history. The second mural, inspired by a 1920s postcard, is located directly across the street in the parking lot for Schneider’s Hardware.
Zorad artistically blended the vintage with the present showing the evolution of Main Street from the horse and buggy and trolley car days, to the NJ Transit buses, now ubiquitous on Main Street.
Other historical details long forgotten are recreated; such as an ad for Musler’s Blacksmith Shop which was the last blacksmith on Main Street, and a horse drawn delivery wagon from Becker’s Farm Dairy which was a common site on Main Street back in the late 19th century.
According to Fagan, the first use of this unique computer was in Estonia where it painted a portrait of Albert Einstein. Since there are two parts to this wall-climbing artist they received the names Al and Bert.
The computer uses ordinary spray paint.
“One can of paint will produce 20,000 pixels,” said Fagan. “The murals are about 600 square feet each, and the completed mural consists of 500,000 pixels, which took 26 cans to complete.”
According to Megan Brill, executive director of the Downtown West Orange Alliance, “We’re really excited to be part of this effort and we already see more people coming downtown to explore them. It is our goal that more people will come and see the murals and spend time and money at the stores and restaurants in the area.
“It is our goal to provide these two beautiful walls to share with the public and the businesses and property owners will see a financial benefit from folks coming to see them,” said Brill. “In addition, we have created a placemaking space for our township and Main Street area.”