MERIDEN — Sprawling murals depicting a pink octopus and friendly green monsters have transformed the alley behind the Castle Craig Players theater on West Main Street. And that’s just the beginning, says local artist Eddie Rivera, who hopes to coat more vacant city walls with colorful murals.
“When I go to New Haven, Bridgeport, they have a lot of art on the walls,” Rivera said. “It’s better than having a lot of orange bricks.”
Rivera has gathered a team of local artists to paint the backside of 57 W. Main St., owned by local real estate developer Ross Gulino.
Rivera said Gulino has also given him permission to paint an “Alice in Wonderland” themed mural on the side of Cafe Dolce down the street at 33 W. Main St.
Rivera says art helped to turn his life around. He lives in an apartment above the Feel Fresh Hair Studio at 65 W. Main St., where he works as a barber. He also operates a studio at 5 Colony St., where his paintings are visible through the windows.
Rivera said the alley behind the barbershop and the theater will be used to showcase his work. He plans to pitch his downtown mural project to city leaders in hopes of raising money for the beautification effort. Creating attractive spaces, he said, is a crucial step in the revitalization of downtown.
“Art is inspiring and it can inspire people to chase their dreams,” Rivera said.
On Thursday morning, Rivera was at work detailing tentacles on the octopus mural, his largest piece yet. The bright pink sea creature is dedicated to his daughter, Madison, and holds special meaning for Rivera, as he imagines the animal’s many tentacles juggle many identities, like he does.
“An octopus has a lot of arms,” Rivera said. “I’m a hip-hop artist. I’m a barber. I’m a painter.”
As Rivera climbed up a ladder to highlight the top of the creature’s head, local resident Suzanne Ganem approached curiously. She rents an apartment above Cafe Dolce.
“I think it’s very good,” Ganem said. “People get to express themselves and brighten up the city.”
Gulino said he was happy to allow the murals on his buildings, “as long as it sends a good message.”
“It’s uplifting,” Gulino said. “It helps promote the arts downtown ... I’d like to see more of it all over.”
Rivera hopes, with city funds, he can continue to beautify the downtown with art.
“This is just practice,” Rivera said. “We’re going to do the whole city.”
To check out more of Rivera’s art, visit his Instagram page at www.instagram.com/mr.eddie_rivera.
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