Monday, October 9, 2017
Mural Hunting in Pawcatuck & Westerly
But the murals keep going up, and I keep crossing the street to take pictures of them, so I have to admit I'm slowly being won over by the lure of paint skillfully applied to brick. I posted here last year about the New London Mural Walk (still the largest collection of murals in New England, as far as I know) but my recent trip to Detroit's Eastern Market neighborhood may have been the tipping point: there, for the first time, I got the sense that large-scale public art might really have the power (along with a slew of other efforts, of course) to change a neighborhood for the better.
So I was feeling uncharacteristically optimistic last week when I went in search of a brand new collection of murals in Pawcatuck and neighboring Westerly, RI. These were done all at once, over the course of the four-day Bricks and Murals Festival, held in September. The murals were painted on Connecticut and Rhode Island buildings by a traveling band of artists called the Walldogs, who do this kind of thing all over the world. The Westerly-Pawcatuck event was the first time the group has come to decorate a community in the northeast.
There are fifteen murals, I think; I didn't find all of them, and I didn't photograph all that I found. But I spotted most of them, and it was a fun, nerdy little scavenger hunt. The paintings aren't necessarily in the most obvious locations, which also helps to remove any hint of a promotional stunt. (Which it pretty much is; the Bricks and Murals website says the aim of the project is to "[create] an exciting destination for locals and visitors alike" and "[open] the area to opportunities for future events and activities.") The paintings look as if they could have sprung up organically over a period of decades, and they share a 1930s style that fits in perfectly in the historic, walkable centers of Pawcatuck, in the eastern part of Stonington, and Westerly, just over the state line.
Of course, you don't need murals as an excuse to visit these connected border towns. Tiny Pawcatuck is an attractive and underappreciated corner of Connecticut, and Westerly, with its old-fashioned main street and serene Wilcox Park, is always worth a stop. But in a surprisingly subtle way, these new additions enhance the appeal that was already there.