Koi fish come to life on Center Street

By Lisa Capobianco

Staff Writer

When Jo Rapisarda, the owner of

, wanted to incorporate the arts into the side of her business wall outdoors on Center Street, she did not know how she would approach the project at first.

“The wall was vacant, and I wanted to incorporate the arts into the community,” said Rapisarda, who opened her business in 2010.

When she heard of local artist Mary DeCroce, who is in charge of the “Harvest the Arts” festivities during the Apple Harvest Festival, Rapisarda contacted her. With a grant from the Greater Hartford Council of Arts, DeCroce, along with four local artists, brought the wall to life with a mural.

This past summer DeCroce and her artists met with Rapisarda during a brainstorming session to decide on a theme for the mural. After contemplating with her boyfriend, who has koi fish tattooed on his arm, Rapisarda decided on a theme that DeCroce and her artists soared with: the Japanese legend of the koi fish.

“So many people are into Asian art, Rapisarda said.” “It is a classic. It never goes away.”

According to DeCroce, the legend goes as follows: hundreds of koi fish swim up the Yellow River, and as a waterfall emerges, many of them turn away in doubt, feeling discouraged by its large size. But 360 fish stay on their journey, leaping and splashing. As they continue to leap towards the fall, demons from the sky increase the height of the water. After 100 years pass by, one fish jumps high enough and becomes a golden dragon, representing the symbols of dedication and strength.

“Their work ethic and capability was amazing,” DeCroce said. “It is such an inspiring story. It shows the perseverance of a human being.”

Each artist worked on a separate parcel that represents each major part of the story.

For local artist Katie Mackenzie, who worked on the final panel, the message of the mural served as a transformative segment.

“I really enjoyed the part I spent the most time on, the river and the hand,” Mackenzie said. “Personally I took the story of the koi fish’s journey to become a dragon as a metaphor for enlightenment.”

When she saw the finished masterpiece, Rapisarda said she felt captivated by the artwork.

“It was beautiful,” said Rapisarda, who saw the progress of the project from beginning to end. “I am so proud of it from start to finish.”

For Rapisarda, displaying the mural outside her business serves as a form of appreciation for body art, especially tattoos. She said people who walk by her business have expressed interest in the mural, admiring its beauty.

“It is nice to see that people appreciate it,” said Rapisarda, who works with three other staff members, including a nurse who does piercings.

Besides the mural, DeCroce also designed and decorated a recycled bike that represents the golden dragon, which the 45th annual Apple Harvest Festival featured in its bike parade.

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