At Concord building, this mural is on like Donkey Kong


Concord Monitor

Published: 09-21-2022 1:05 PM

CONCORD — Chris Schleyer knew the new elevator shaft installed behind his apartment building on South State Street was the perfect canvas for something special.

“After it went up, we saw the steel beams crisscrossing up and down and it looked like the Donkey Kong game,” Schleyer said. “It’s different than everything I’ve seen going up lately, and it’s a nice little Easter egg in Concord.”

The beams have since been painted bright pink in a pixelated style capturing the design of the original 1981 arcade game. Atop the five-story building is Princess Pauline, with Donkey Kong and his barrels below. Mario (who in the original Donkey Kong was known as Jumpman) is equipped with his hammer and ready to climb up.

Because the mural is sheltered in an alley behind the building at 5 S. State St., Schleyer said he expects residents and visitors will have fun trying to find it, and he wants to have more painted in the future, starting with the building across the street, he said.

“I want to put a retro kid playing the game from there,” he continued. “On one side, you’ll have the kid playing a video game, and then when you turn around, you’ll see the game he’s playing.”

But Schleyer will need permission from the other building’s owner first.

With the help of artists and co-founders Cecilia Ulibarri and Manuel Ramirez of Positive Street Art, a nonprofit dedicated to inspiring a passion for urban arts and building stronger communities through street art, the mural was finished Tuesday after nearly 100 hours of work in a two-week time frame.

The first of its kind in Concord, Ulibarri and Ramirez have painted hundreds of murals throughout New Hampshire, predominantly in Nashua. They said the Concord project excited them more than some past projects.

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“Not everyone is appreciative of this type of art, and we understand that, but we are really excited about this project because we have never been asked to do something like this that was inspired by actual architecture as a baseboard,” Ulibarri said.

Since the completion of the project, the nonprofit has received several emails of interest to both collaborate with Positive Street Art and commission their artists for murals of their own throughout Concord.

“We are excited for what this might bring for the future of Concord,” Ulibarri said. “We’ve heard nothing but great comments. A few people that have walked by thought it’d be more traditional, but still appreciate the nostalgia behind it.”

Since the nonprofit was first founded in 2012, Ulibarri and Ramirez have worked with children and adults through educational workshops, artistic services and community events to both change the stigma around graffiti and create an environment where all artists are welcome.

“When you have a passion for urban arts, you traditionally don’t need an art education background, and I wanted to showcase that because there was nothing like that in New Hampshire,” Ulibarri said. “I was trying to create spaces for artists that didn’t have a place before in the traditional art scene.”

Positive Street Art was founded specifically to create spaces for all creative minds and over the last 10 years, hundreds of artists have filtered through the organization, she continued.

Speaking to the value of self-taught artists, Ulibarri said there is something pure about art that comes from the heart rather than what’s learned from a textbook.

“In the scope of our nonprofit, we chose the name to challenge the negative connotation that comes along with negative street art like tagging and vandalism,” Ulibarri said. “We are trying to unify some of that work, beautify communities, share our education with emerging artists and teach the youth how they can produce art in a productive way instead of getting in trouble with the system.”

To further amplify this belief, Ulibarri and Ramirez are working to organize and host a mural festival in the Nashua area that will invite artists from around the world to create art together.

“I think it’s very valuable to bring in that type of event and creative placemaking to reveal communities through art and have the community involved and be able to watch the process,” Ulibarri said. “It’s very inspiring.”