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Group prepares to unveil large mural

March 25, 2019

BARRE, Vt. (AP) — A Morgan horse-meets-mausoleum mural is coming soon to Summer Street, and the colorful collage that screams both “Barre” and “Vermont” is already getting rave reviews even though it hasn’t been fully assembled.

It’s too darn big.

Destined for the run-down retaining wall on Summer Street, the mural measures 130 feet from the corner with a cow and a covered bridge to the end with an apple tree, granite column and fresh fall foliage.

Size aside, the whimsical but historically relevant mural was declared a huge success by those who previewed the coming attraction in two separately assembled segments at the Vermont Granite Museum on Wednesday.

Hopes to assemble the giant jigsaw puzzle of 47 freshly painted four-foot-by-eight-foot wooden panels in one room faded fast on Tuesday, and some of the muscle behind what blossomed into a collaborative community project was forced to split the mural in half for Wednesday’s big reveal.

Barre Rotarian Caroline Earle wasn’t complaining. Earle loves both halves and liked the idea the first time the mural will be fully assembled is when it is placed on the eyesore of a wall she drives by every day.

It was Earle who first proposed the mural as the latest legacy project for the local Rotary Club. Nearly two years later, the ambitious project is nearly finished, and Earle is pretty pleased.

“I would dare say this is the most beautiful mural in the state of Vermont,” she said.

Earle credited Kristine Chartrand for her eye-catching, interactive design and a small army of volunteers spearheaded by a core group of local artists who are members of The Paletteers of Vermont for exceeding her expectations in more ways than one.

“At a time when our world is so full of division, to be a part of a project that brought so many people together was really refreshing,” said Earle, who was president of the Rotary Club when she pitched the mural to a receptive City Council last year.

Earle’s assessment was echoed by the club’s new president, Liane Martinelli, who grew up in Barre and was touched by the outpouring of support for the mural.

“This entire project gives me chills,” Martinelli said amid Wednesday’s building buzz about the mural, which is already a source of community pride.

“It isn’t just, ‘Hey, they painted a mural,’” she said. “It’s so much more than that.”

Tell it to Linda Kiniry, president of the Paletteers, and her second in command, John Landy.

Both were brimming with enthusiasm Wednesday about a project that sneaked up on them and turned into an enjoyable winter’s worth of work for six club members who don’t typically dabble in house paint.

It was a change of pace for Kiniry, who got her start with watercolors and has since shifted to pastels and oil-based paints.

“You use what you have,” she said nodding at the 10 gallons of house paint Nelson’s Ace Hardware contributed for the project.

Though the Paletteers were initially recruited to trace Chartrand’s mural on freshly primed panels, Kiniry said they stuck around and recruited others to join them.

“Anyone who came in and painted with us came back because they got hooked on it,” she said, suggesting there was something about painting huge daffodils and tulips in the middle of February that was particularly appealing.

“It certainly made the winter go by fast,” she said.

Seven Paletteers — Kiniry, Landy, Clara Geist, Jan Avery, John Weaver, Emily Rappold and Pam Murphy — handled most of the painting, though Landy said more than 50 people participated.

According to Kiniry, they ranged in age from her 12-year-old granddaughter, Lia, to long-time Rotarian Dick Shadroui who is now in his 90s.

“When we started, we didn’t realize how big this would be, but it just grew,” she said.

Landy, who did most of the heavy lifting when it came to the panels, said he was heartened by a project spearheaded by Rotarians, adopted by the Paletteers and housed over the winter by the granite museum.

“It’s a really good example of collaborating,” he said.

Chartrand, who teaches art at U-32 Middle and High School, attended Wednesday’s viewing of the mural she created with a simple set of instructions: Celebrate all four seasons and incorporate objects that are historically relevant to Barre and Vermont, including Morgan horses and granite work like mausoleums seen at Hope Cemetery.

Like Earle, Chartrand was impressed with what she saw. That included two additions: The historic diesel-electric locomotive that now sits outside the museum and “Pierre,” the Paletteers’ yellow-smocked mascot.

What started as a colorful 13-foot-long painting was turned into slides that were projected onto wooden panels and traced by Paletteers.

“The idea was to make kind of a paint-by-numbers kind of thing,” said Chartrand, who didn’t expect local artists would shepherd the project through to completion.

Those who attended Wednesday’s event were already pointing out components of local or statewide significance on the mural. Some are more hidden than others. Barre’s “Youth Triumphant” memorial is tucked in a grove of maple trees, but the golden dome of the State House is in an open field. Vermont wildlife — from bears to butterflies — are well represented, as is the local granite industry. A creemee balancing on the arm of an Adirondack chair painted by Geist prompted one woman to playfully ask, “Morse Farm, or Bragg Farm?”

Watching people interact with the mural, which is scheduled to be installed in mid-May, was a welcome sight for Earle.

“We really hope it becomes an educational focal point for the community and for the state as well,” she said, noting most of the “surprises” incorporated in the mural were suggested after consulting with the state and local historical societies.

Earle will meet with City Manager Steve Mackenzie and Public Works Director Bill Ahearn on Friday to discuss upgrades to the retaining wall that need to be completed in coming weeks and plans to apply an expensive coating that will make it easier to remove spray paint if vandals treat the mural as a target.

The National Life Group offered $500 to the cause on Tuesday, and Earle said a donor is prepared to match up to $500. The cost of the coating is $1,400.

Janet Van Fleet said she’s looking forward to a colorful new view from her third-floor studio at Studio Place Arts.

“This is going to be so amazing,” she said, predicting “the grungy wall” on Summer Street won’t be missed.

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Online: https://bit.ly/2Ynh1HR

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Information from: The Times Argus, http://www.timesargus.com/