Art Notes: Newport mural, rotted through in some places, is set for rebirth

  • Lempster, N.H., builder Nick Scalera was involved in creating the structure and hanging the original Main Street Heritage Mural on the side of the Johnson Block in Newport, N.H., in the late 1990s. The Library Arts Center is leading an effort to replace mural, seen on Wednesday, April 27, 2022, which has been damaged by more than two decades of exposure to the weather. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — James M. Patterson

  • A house sparrow brings nesting material into a hole worn into the surface of the Main Street Heritage Mural on the Johnson Block in Newport, N.H., on Wednesday, April 27, 2022. This summer, three dozen artists will contribute to painting a new version of the mural, which commemorates the historic buildings and the role of the railroad in town. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • A mural commemorating the cultural diversity of Sunapee Street in Newport, N.H., hangs on the side of Coronis Market where Larry Richardson, of Newport, stopped for a bite to eat on Wednesday, April 27, 2022. The mural recently underwent a restoration similar to the project planned by the Library Arts Center for another mural on Main Street. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/28/2022 1:50:53 AM
Modified: 4/28/2022 1:49:25 AM

When Newport put up a huge mural in 1997, everything about the project was new to its participants.

Meant to commemorate both the town and its hosting of the New England Artist Trust Congress, the 48-by-12-foot mural depicts Newport as it existed when the railroad first rolled through in 1871.

In recent years, though, the mural has fallen into disrepair.

“We had very little money to work with,” Nick Scalera, a Lempster, N.H., carpenter who helped install the murals, said Wednesday morning. “We didn’t know about the proper primers to use, and we didn’t know how long it was going to be up for.”

The mural consists of 36 panels, each 4 feet square, mounted inside a frame of pressure-treated lumber. Water has gotten in under the frame, and some of the plywood panels are rotted through. Elsewhere, the paint is worn off by weather.

An effort is underway to reproduce the murals. In a storefront around the corner, Scalera and two helpers have been painting new panels designed to be more resistant to the elements than the originals.

And on June 18, the Library Arts Center will hold a mural festival on the town common at which the public can watch a team of more than 30 artists recreate the original mural’s panels under the guidance of Heidi Lorenz, an artist who also leads the LAC’s outreach efforts. Installation of the new mural is planned for late summer or early fall.

“I’d say this is the largest public art program we’ve done,” Kate Luppold, the LAC’s longtime executive director, said Wednesday.

The scope of the project fits with the LAC’s growing emphasis on community engagement, Luppold said. Lorenz and Scalera also oversaw the restoration of the Coronis mural, on the side of Coronis Market on Sunapee Street.

The cost of reproducing the larger heritage mural is around $40,000. So far, Luppold said, the LAC has raised $9,000, and Geraldine and Harold LaValley have made a $15,000 matching grant. With the match, most of the funding will be secured.

“It’s been very exciting to open the mail every day. We’ve had a nice constant stream of donations coming in,” Luppold said.

The cost of the project is at least partly attributable to the desire to install a mural that will last as long as possible. To that end, Scalera is using squares of medium-density overlay plywood framed with pressure-treated lumber. He’s painting them with two coats of oil-based primer and a coat of latex primer, for greater durability. LaValley Building Supply has donated some of the materials, he said.

The redone Coronis mural was given a coating of automotive clearcoat, which seems to be holding up well, Scalera said.

These projects are just a start, Luppold said, as the LAC works to put up more art — and engage with more residents — around town.

“We’re hoping that this ushers in more murals and more community art in the coming years,” she said.

For more information about the mural project, go to libraryartscenter.org/mural.

Art as reverie

AVA Gallery and Art Center opens an exhibition of new work by three Vermont women who reflect on family, memory and the passage of time. A reception is planned for 4 to 6 Friday evening for Samantha Eckert, Cecelia Kang and Tara Wray, and their exhibitions will be on view through June 4.

For more information, including the times and dates of gallery talks by the artists, go to avagallery.org.

The festivals of May

Early-bird tickets are on sale now for a couple of festivals planned for next month.

First on the calendar is JAGFEST 6.0. The yearly festival features staged readings of three new plays in the Briggs Opera House from May 13-15.

This year marks the first in which the shows were chosen by a review panel, and the criteria were strict. Eligible playwrights had to be “creating or developing a Black and queer, devised, ensemble piece that contributes to the cultural and aesthetic diversities of the modern theater with the potential to deepen engagement,” JAG Productions, the White River Junction-based theater company, said in a news release.

The three shows include Chasing Grace, by Elizabeth Addison, the first full-length musical that JAG has taken on for a weeklong workshop. The other two shows are dramas: Your Maximum Potential, a dark satire of social media by travis tate, and Padiddle, a play about two close friends and their relationship from their mid-teens through their 20s, by Kevin Renn.

Tickets are $25 for individual shows and $50 for a weekend pass. For more information, go to jagproductionsvt.com.

The following week, White River Indie Films holds its 17th festival, with screenings and other programs from May 20 to 29.

Tickets to the 10 features films and other programs are 10% off if you buy them before Sunday and use the discount code WRIFEARLYBIRD. For tickets and to see the lineup, go to wrif.org.

Theater infrastructure expands

JAG Productions and New London Barn Playhouse have added new staff, continuing the growth of professional theater in the Upper Valley.

In the wake of hiring a development director, Tamara Waraschinski, last month, JAG announced last week the hiring of its first managing director, Jason Schumacher.

The two management hires are designed to make the company a stable part of the theater landscape.

The New London Barn, one of the oldest theater companies in the region, has hired an education director, Sage Tokach. The company built a new education space next to the theater in New London and Tokach, a native Kansan, will manage a year-round education program.

Gruhler exhibition rescheduled

At the end of last summer, the delta wave of the coronavirus pandemic scuttled three exhibitions of paintings by Craftsbury, Vt., artist Paul Gruhler.

One of those shows, at the Vermont Supreme Court in Montpelier, has been rescheduled and will open May 2. A reception for Gruhler is planned for 4 to 6 p.m. May 6. The show is up through June and the gallery is open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The show is titled “Harmonics,” a reference to Gruhler’s technique of placing colors in buzzy geometric patterns. The exhibition also marks the reopening of the Supreme Court’s gallery, which has been closed for the duration of the pandemic.

Alex Hanson can be reached at ahanson@vnews.com or 603-727-3207.




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