SOUTHINGTON — The mural honoring Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy underway on a High Street wall prompted questions and discussion among town leaders earlier this year.
It’s part of an effort by a Hartford-based arts group, RiseUP, to put 39 murals in 39 towns and cities throughout the state. Each mural honors a year of King’s life and are part of RiseUP’s racial equity tour.
“It’s a project that can give people voice in these communities that may not have felt that they have a platform to get projects done, especially this type of scale of public projects,” said Matt Conway, RiseUP director. The mural effort started in Manchester and spread to other towns.
Southington Community Cultural Arts (SOCCA) and local volunteers have been organizing the mural. It’s being done on a wall of B & V Jewelers at 76 N. Main St.Looking for council support
Mary DeCroce, executive director of SOCCA, introduced the idea of a mural to the Town Council in February. Conway said she’d heard about the mural project and asked RiseUP if Southington could be a part of it.
“This project has the potential to pull us together like nothing ever has. We can pull the schools in, we can bring in speakers, just take another step forward to unify Southington,” DeCroce told council members in February. She couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.
Victoria Triano, council chairwoman and a Republican, talked with DeCroce after the meeting to get more information on the project. Since the idea was still conceptual, there weren’t many details about the town’s role.
“What are the ramifications of this decision, what does that mean for the town?” Triano said. “Are we supposed to give money?”
Triano and members of the council’s Republican majority wanted more information on the project before going further or taking a vote. Triano said they were also reluctant to partner with an organization on a racial effort given heightened tensions at the time.
“We didn’t have the whole story,” Triano said.Funding the mural
At a meeting in March, DeCroce said there were avenues for funding other than the town. SOCCA ended up helping a group of local volunteers write a grant that provided much of the $15,000 needed for the art installation, Conway said.
He was surprised at Southington’s lack of support, saying every other town they’d approached joined with RiseUP. Help from town governments has ranged from financial to moral.
“Sometimes it’s just support in general, maybe not funding,” Conway said.
RiseUP hired artist Emida Roller to paint the mural.
After DeCroce met with the council, Conway said he also approach public school officials.
“Ultimately, (the way) to get the project done with the least amount of bureaucratic hoops was go with the private wall,” he said.
Valerie DePaolo, a Democratic council member, said she and other council Democrats supported the mural project and thought it was a good thing for the town. She was glad that Ron and Nancy Serafino, who own the jewelry store building along with their downtown pharmacy, were willing to help.
The goal was to honor not only King but his philosophy.
“It’s also ideals he promoted; love and unity and acceptance and inclusion,” DePaolo said.Unveiling
Bridgett Edwards, a local volunteer working on the mural project, said the final design will be a surprise but said it’ll reflect the youth of Southington. The group has an unveiling planned for Sept. 25.
“The hope for this project is to bring the community together, to show there is diversity in this community, to really reflect that we all are diverse in our own different ways, but we are all are citizens of Southington,” Edwards said.