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Students Create Temporary Murals in Keene

From Rosemarie Bernardi, Art:

The outside walls of several buildings in downtown Keene will become a temporary outdoor art gallery for three months this summer.

On Sunday May 1, Keene State College advanced printmaking students will be pasting up their very large, 6’ x 24,’ temporary paper mural off Main Street, on the side of the Urban Exchange, across from Citizens Bank. Art majors Jamie Boyastis, Amanda Coakley, Sara Ferguson, Liz Gallacher, Aeden Lake, Seiichiro Okuma, Jessica Boushie, Jenny Dairymple, Tyler Ward and Madeleine Nossif are winding up their semester-long project with this installation.

Other paper murals created by John Roberts, professor of printmaking at Keene State, and Joe Boruchow, a mural artist from Philadelphia, will also be displayed. In conjunction, regional artist Meg Rogers is completing a more permanent painted mural on the back side of the Good Fortune building on Main Street. Building owners Mitch Greenwald, Paul Cooper, and Roger Weinreich have been supportive of the project, donating the use of their walls.

The idea of the temporary art mural project grew out of conversations between Georgia Cassimatis, the Chair of the Friends of Public Art (alumna of Keene State College and Antioch University), local mural artists, and Rosemarie Bernardi, (Professor of Printmaking at Keene State). Bernardi has wanted to see public art in Keene for a long time and conceived of the temporary murals as an inventive first step. The Friends of Public Art, and Cassimatis in particular, see these murals as an exploratory initiative towards a larger event in the future involving more walls and more regional artists of all ages.

The temporary murals will be in place for three months before being washed off the brick walls with warm water and elbow grease. This method of creating wall murals has a long history: from being how advertisements were displayed 100 years ago, to being one of the favorite methods used by contemporary street artists across the world.

The largest, a collaboratively drawn and cut linoleum print mural by the Keene students, celebrates the generosity of the greater community of Keene by drawing attention to the 30-plus years of the Keene Community Kitchen. The students photographed people and objects at the Kitchen to create their imagery. As part of the learning process, they also had the opportunity to meet with the Keene Historic Commission and apply for a sign variance from the Keene Zoning Board. How public art is developed and reviewed by cities became a part of learning opportunities for the semester. The use of text on their mural was meant to echo other wall images in Keene like the Parrish shoe sign from the film Jumanji and the multilayered Coca Cola signage on the side of Kristin’s Bistro and Bakery.

The project began for students the very first day of the spring semester. Their research included meeting with The Friends of Public Art, visiting the Cheshire County Historical Society to learn about the history of Keene, a mural viewing trip to Portsmouth New Hampshire, and visiting the Keene Community Kitchen to photograph and learn about its history. The class studied contemporary mural/street artists from across the world and skyped with Philadelphia artist Joe Boruchow.

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