Public Art: Mural May Grace Concrete Wall on East Putnam Ave across from GHS

On Wednesday, Myra Klockenbrink of the Town’s Sustainability Committee proposed a professionally painted mural on a wall along East Putnam Ave, next to Overlook Drive, to the the Greenscape subcommittee of P&Z.

Klockenbrink said an RFP was issued and artist Nelson Rivas of Newburgh, NY had proposed a design for the 100 ft long wall, which at its tallest is 9 ft high. It is located on East Putnam Ave behind the bus stop across from Greenwich High School.

Proposed location of a “Pollinator Pathway” mural on East Putnam Ave behind a bus stop. Photo: Leslie Yager

Klockenbrink said through an RFP process Mr. Rivas, who lives in Newburgh, NY, was engaged to paint the wall. She shared both a black and white sketch and an electronic coloring of the sketch from Mr. Rivas.

“He had a different perspective of looking at a pollinator garden from the top down,” she said.

Klockenbrink said Rivas was ready to start painting on May 3, but that she was still awaiting a sign-off on the project from the State of CT Dept of Transportation.

“Once I have that we can start fundraising. If DOT drags its feet we might push that forward a week or so,” she added.

“From there, he orders paints,” she said. “It will all be hand painted.”

Sketch by Nelson Rivas of mural for the wall behind the bus stop on East Putnam Ave across from GHS.
Electronic coloring of proposed Nelson Rivas’s mural for the wall behind the bus stop on East Putnam Ave across from GHS.
Example of mural created by Chilean artist Nelson Rivas.

“Very cool,” said John Conte of the Greenscape committee.

Klockenbrink said the colors in the actual mural would be more subdued than the electronic coloring of the mural she shared. “It won’t be quite so saturated because that’s a Photoshopped document you’re seeing. But the colors you see there are accurate to nature.”

“Thirty-five thousand dollars does seem a little high for something that can be graffiti’d in five minutes,” said Greenscape committee member Mary Hull, who is also the director of Greenwich Green & Clean. “Having dealt with graffiti for many years, I know it can happen.”

“It’s not $35,000. It’s $25,000, which is still a number,” Klockenbrink said. “We’re asking for $17,500 because we’re receiving a matching grant from Sustainable CT for $7,500. The two together it’s $25,000, $5,500 of which is required to move the bus shelter so we can wash the wall and paint behind it. Then an anti-grafitti coating will be painted on top of the mural so that it can be washed in the unfortunate event of it getting tagged.”

Hull said the mural would set a precedent in the middle of the town that would be repeated.

“The question is who makes the choice on the design?” she asked.

“I would argue that it is the POCD mission to include public art. I think this qualifies as a piece of public art. I think it’s a pretty unimpeachable subject – flowers and butterflies,” Klockenbrink said. “I hope indeed it does set a precedent.”

P&Z chair Margarita Alban brought up the topic of ongoing maintenance, asking whether that was funded.

“It is not at the moment,” Klockenbrink said. “It’s a fair question. Maybe this mural shows some wear and tear and lasts three years – for argument’s sake. Then maybe it’s time to place a different mural, and another mural happens.”

She described the wall as “bleak.”

“I for one think it’s a wonderful way to improve a concrete wall,” said John Conte from the Greenscapes subcommittee.

Klockenbrink said since the bus shelter was going to be moved, that presented an additional opportunity to educate people about the wall.

“I was hoping to put up some tasteful, waterproof posters that speak to our pollinators, native plants, our organization and maybe some of the sponsors,” she said. “I’d ask we could put up the signage up inside the bus shelter for a temporary time – maybe a month or two.”

“We’re trying to give back by improving the site. Maybe later on we could plant some pollinator shrubbery along there. There is an expanse that could tolerate some shade tolerant species.”

Ms Alban suggested Klockenbrink work with DPW on any relevant regulations about the bus stop.

“Our main interest is the look of the Post Road,” Alban said. “I always worry because everything comes down to the town doesn’t have any money when something is caving in.”

“It’ll start out so cool and gorgeous,” she said. “We know how this happens.”

Alban said fundraising should include money for maintenance.

“Pick a portion and set it aside for maintenance,” she said.

Asked whether the mural would be impacted by State DOT bridge construction at Hillside and East Putnam Ave, Klockenbrink said, “Once that construction starts, people will have lots of time to look at the mural.”

See also:

DOT 2-Year Bridge Project Lane Closures on Rte 1 at Hillside Raise Concerns of Traffic & Life-Safety

April 7, 2021