MERIDEN — The process of transforming a dreary highway underpass into a canvas of colorful art began on Sunday thanks to a team of volunteers both local and statewide.
The mural project is a partnership between the nonprofit RiseUP for the Arts, local schools and arts organizations like Gallery 53.
RiseUP was founded in 2012 as a youth development and mentoring program aimed at helping youth develop the skills needed to be the catalysts that inspire and uplift their community, according to its website. Its project CT Murals aims to create socially conscious public art around the state.
Rose Devlin, digital communications chair at Meriden’s Gallery 53, described the underpass at Bunker Avenue in Meriden as “dark and dreary,” but with the addition of a new inclusive color palette, “it’s going to come alive with color,” she said.
The I-691 underpass has been unofficially named the “Rainbow Underpass,” organizers said Sunday.
RiseUP, along with Gallery 53, a 114-year-old visual arts organization dedicated to making art part of the community, and students from Maloney and Platt high schools, provided the volunteers on hand for painting Sunday. Sustainable Meriden, a student-led program that engages the community to achieve Meriden’s sustainability goals, is another partner.
Julie Bergeron, an artist with RiseUp, was happy to be part of the project.
“I am part of RiseUp, which works on various murals throughout Connecticut,” she said.
A total of 100 volunteers had signed up to help with the painting of the mural, but not all of them made it on Sunday. The event was initially scheduled for Saturday, but postponed due to rain in the forecast.
“With it being postponed from Saturday to today, there was probably a lot going between Palm Sunday and sports games, since they are starting back up again,” Bergeron said.
Chris Gann, of CT Murals and RiseUp, thought this was a beautiful project and believes it’s one of the largest murals in the state being worked on.
“We are all about spreading some color as it’s always sunny in Meriden,” Gann said.
The design for the mural was based on Sustainable Meriden’s concept of colored blocks. It was designed to be a bright, colorful, kind of geometric pattern that Devlin along with other artists from Gallery 53 came up with in the end. It will continue to be painted through a series of community events.
“Matt Conway founded who the nonprofit was tremendous. It was a pleasure to work with everyone,” Devlin said. “I am amazed at the amount of community volunteers and just with the people in the community who registered and came out to support the project.”
Before the project started, people from CT Murals came by sweeping the area, and painted the top part of the mural. The process started with a conversation with CT Murals back in January. It came together over Zoom meetings between the organizations to make the project happen.
Since January, the project had been in the planning stages and Sunday the planning finally came to life with the help of many volunteers who put in hours of their own to come together as a community. Members from as far as Storrs came out to participate in the painting.
“It is nice to have people of the community come out and help us with this project, to make this area bright, instead of it being dark and dingy,” said artist Jaii Marc Renee of Manchester.
The Bunker Avenue underpass is something of a gateway to the City and Brookside park neighborhoods. The mural will be unveiled in conjunction with the Daffodil Festival on April 30.
Reporter Nicole Zappone can be reached at [email protected]