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SoNo murals celebrate ‘renewal’ of Washington Street businesses

Mayor Harry Rilling cuts a ribbon, Thursday in SoNo. (Harold F. Cobin)

Updated at 2 a.m. Saturday to include additional information, headline changed.

NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk celebrated its new Washington Street artwork Thursday with a ribbon cutting.

The Arts Commission-sponsored mural project stems from Mayor Harry Rilling’s decision to close Washington Street parking spaces to create outdoor seating for diners, as restaurants struggle with COVID-19 concerns after being closed for weeks due to an executive order from Gov. Ned Lamont. Grey concrete barriers were installed in late May to block the parking spaces; now, the concrete barriers have been covered with colorful murals.

From left, Makeda West, 12, Empress West, 10, and Jahmane West, behind Jahmane’s mural. He’s a lifelong Norwalk resident and fulltime artist.(Harold F. Cobin)

The Arts Commission had expected to have artists paint the murals onto the concrete but the Department of Public Works said that wasn’t possible, Norwalk Director of Management and Budgets Angela Fogel told the Board of Estimate and Taxation recently. The work was done under the Commission’s public art funding and cost $5,000.

The theme of the murals is “renewal,” Commission member Robert Abriola said Thursday.

Diners enjoy SoNo on June 22. “Installing the barriers doubled the space restaurants had to safely conduct outdoor dining within the State of Connecticut reopening guidelines. Businesses have been able to use the entire sidewalk for outdoor dining or retail. A walkway was created between the sidewalk and concrete barriers, allowing pedestrians to safely navigate Washington Street while enjoying the artwork,” a City press release said. (Nancy Chapman)

Rilling said he would like to partially close Washington Street in the same way every summer in the future, calling the closure “vibrant and exciting.” He said he had not heard one complaint about the closure since its implementation.

Abriola said a terrific group of fine artists, illustrators and painters contributed to the murals project. He noted that a green vine runs horizontally along the bottom of all the murals, connecting them together. The theme “Renewal” is about the reopening of the city.

“Norwalk is full of talent and inspiration, and I am so pleased to see that come to life in SoNo,” Rilling said in a statement released Friday.

“The barriers run the length of the south side of Washington Street, and in total, 22 murals were installed,” a press release said. “The tarps are painted in a way that allows the artwork to be visible on both sides of the barriers. The city purchased the tarps, and Jerry’s Artarama offered highly discounted supplies to the artists. Abriola reached out to his local contacts and connections in the art world to curate the outdoor gallery.”

These artists contributed to the project (social media handles in parenthesis):

  • 5iveFingaz
  • Robert Abriola
  • Leslie Cober
  • Kevin Costa
  • Gayle Glecker
  • Amir Hines (@Kindomamir)
  • Bruce Horan
  • Jackon (@werpeps)
  • Jahmane (@artofjhamane)
  • Danielle Julius
  • Brian Kaspr (@bkaspr)
  • Steve Magee
  • Tony Mobilia
  • Weverson Ponte
  • Frank Post
  • Creative Raven
  • Dorothy Robertshaw
  • Kris Schnitzler
  • Stephanie / Brian
  • Jim Velgot
  • Wing Wong
  • Yedifresh (@yedifresh)

 

(Harold F. Cobin)

“The effort and talent of these artists brought a vibrant and positive message to Washington Street in support of the reopening of businesses through these challenging times. ‘Renewal’ is our message to show we are here in strength to contribute and support this great city,” Abriola said in the release.

“As a Norwalker born and raised, I am proud of our city for its outstanding efforts on Washington Street, as well as throughout Norwalk that is helping keep our local businesses running through these trying times, and keeping everyone safe at the same time. I’m sure I speak for many who are proud to say we are Norwalk strong,” said Mike Monroe, owner of Saltwater Restaurant & Bar, located at 128 Washington St., in the release.

Adam Greenbaum, Principal, AGW Partners, added: “It was amazing to see the City of Norwalk accommodate extra seating and safe activity on Washington Street. The collaboration with local artists on Washington added an aesthetic to the streetscape consistent with SoNo’s urban culture.”

“The gallery will remain up through the fall while the barriers remain in place,” the release said. “Artists will be monitoring their murals and touch-up their artwork as needed to ensure it remains fresh and vibrant throughout the coming months.”

(Harold F. Cobin)

Mayor Harry Rilling speaks Thursday at the Washington Street mural ribbon cutting. (Harold F. Cobin)

From left, Makeda West, 12, Empress West, 10, and Jahmane West, behind Jahmane’s mural. (Harold F. Cobin)

Washington Street on June 22. (Nancy Chapman)

3 comments

John Levin July 25, 2020 at 3:17 pm

“The Arts Commission had expected to have artists paint the murals onto the concrete but the Department of Public Works said that wasn’t possible . . . ” Not possible? Of course it’s possible.

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