By Rob Glidden
Walkers on the Rails to Trails corridor may have noticed a colorful image of a train depot on one of the nearby buildings, the first of three murals planned for the trail and painted by members of Southington Community Cultural Arts (SCCA).
The artists will continue to work on these murals in the weeks leading up to Harvest the Arts, the community art celebration that occurs during the second weekend of the Apple Harvest Festival. The effort is funded by a “neighborhood heritage” grant from the Greater Hartford Arts Council.
The SCCA has been in the news frequently for the last several months, less because of their talents and more because of the ongoing effort to establish a community arts center at the George Gura Building.
“The SCCA is not defined by the Gura Building,” said Mary DeCroce, the group’s chairperson. “We are an active arts organization. We’ve made these murals a tradition for this time of year when Harvest the Arts is coming.”
Other murals painted by the group can be found on North Main Street, inside the Pepper Pot restaurant, on the back of the Smokin’ With Chris restaurant, and at the drive-in theater.
DeCroce worked with artists Ryan Christensen and Reo Russo on the train depot mural, which is located on the trail after Smokin’ With Chris and on the side of the building that houses Total Maintenance and some other businesses on Bristol Street. One of the other murals will incorporate the work of many other artists.
Seven plywood panels, each assigned to a different artist, will be the canvas for life-size images of people walking on the trail. These panels will be added to a painted image of a blue sky, green grass, and the paved trail.
Christensen, a professional graffiti artist, hopes that the work can inspire kids to use the style for more than just petty vandalism.
“Graffiti art is stereotyped but it can be done in a positive way,” he said. “It can be bright and loud and have a lot of flair. We had been hearing that people weren’t enjoying the trail as much because of the other graffiti, but we’re using it to make something artistic for them to see.”
Christensen has led art classes designed to teach kids the basics and potential of the graffiti style. The drive-in mural adopted many characteristics of the graffiti used by vandals but the overall project was designed to be a positive experience for the artists and for the community members who see their work.
Town Councilor Dawn Miceli, who referenced the new murals during the council’s last meeting, said the group had taken the initiative in beautifying the trail.
“The aesthetics of Rails to Trials was something the council had been discussing for a while,” she said. “We wanted to make it more attractive and now the artists and the business community are getting that done without any taxpayer dollars.”