Mural highlights past and sparks progress


Photo Viggo Jabon

Mural displays the town’s gems, including the Presbyterian Church

With the help of several donors and local artist Ricardo Roig (a former Westfield Public Schools art teacher with his own gallery), the town of Westfield has found a creative and visually stunning way to revamp an underpass below the bridge connecting the North and South sides of town by installing a Westfield-themed mural on either side of the walkway.

“Roig is a rising star in the art world. People will come to see his work,” said Ward Four Councilwoman and orchestrator of the mural project Dawn Mackey. “We had Charles Addams and we have AddamsFest now, so we need to show our kids how art can be a way to sustain a living. Ricardo is the fresh, new, iconic artist this town is going to highlight.”

With funds provided from a $20,000 state grant and over $10,000 in private donations raised through a local crowdfunding campaign, the town commissioned the painting of two murals on either side of the underpass. “The Presbyterian Church made a substantial donation to the mural as a gift to the town,” said Mackey. “You’ll see the church and overpass in Mindowaskin in the mural and it is a wonderful gift from the church to the town.”

“[The mural] really is to help promote pedestrian traffic,” said Roig in an interview with The Patch. “It’s to help promote the arts and highlight our community as an arts community, and to connect the North and the South side as it literally is the bridge.”

The mural itself depicts a visual history of Westfield through the lens of some of its most iconic buildings and landmarks, such as the James Ward Mansion.

Mackey said, “I think that this mural completely encapsulates what we stand for as a fairly new administration, which is that we were going to honor and respect our past while focusing on making progress toward the future. [Roig] is highlighting our history, yet he’s doing it in a way that’s fresh and innovative.”

One building featured in the mural that immediately catches the viewer’s eye is the Rialto. While the building is currently facing an uncertain future, it is undoubtedly an iconic Westfield landmark. It was a conscious effort to have the Rialto be front and center in the painting.

“In light of where we are as a community right now, the Rialto is the first image that went up on that wall,” said Mackey. “It’s a reminder that we need to protect the things that we sometimes take for granted, and I just think that it’s both bittersweet and wonderful to have the Rialto be the first building on the mural.”

What’s next for the future of down- town art? Mackey hopes to start a public arts commission before the end of this year. “The public art is not just going to be murals,” said Mackey. “We hope to have some installments, such as pop-ups like those in New York City.”

While there are no ideas or dates in motion yet, there will be more art installments coming to Westfield in the new decade. Mackey said that everyone involved in the process is optimistic for the future of public art displays around Westfield.

“I think there is no limit to what could be if there is the support of the community,” said Mackey. “From what I’ve seen during my time in office, we have a generous and talented residential base of people who are willing to donate their time and their expertise so that we can move big and meaningful initiatives forward without spending a lot of money, and I think the impact of that is priceless.”