DURHAM — Without a stroll through Allyn Brook Park, one may never notice the park’s newest addition, found in the rear of the storage unit.
Four large panels of bright paint on the back wall of the building catch the eye right away. They depict scenes of oxen being guided during a sunrise, workers pulling a bell into place, the Durham Fair under a purple sunset and a black bear crossing a field with windmills under a starry night.
Local artist Mike Golschneider, 33, completed the mural last September. He’s a Durham native who now lives in Middlefield with his wife Caroline and 2-year-old son Sam.
“I grew up around here and played in this parking lot when I was a kid,” Golschneider said. “... When I had (my son) about two years ago, I wanted to do something nice for the town and give back.”
He contacted the Park Committee with the idea and started painting in July.
“When Mike came to us, we all, like, had our big eyes popping out like 'wow, what a great idea,’” Recreation Director Sherry Hill said. The group had never thought to put a mural on the back wall — last painted by Golschneider’s own father, a house painter, in the 1990s — but loved the idea right away.
The mural is a timeline of the town.
“There's a progression throughout time, like past to future, as well as through seasons and time of day,” Golschneider said.
Golschneider did hours of research into the history of the town before he started painting.
“I was looking at a lot of library books ... and there were these people that drove oxen to George Washington at Valley Forge and I kind of wanted to depict that,” Golschneider said of the first panel.
The second one depicts a short excerpt he read about a meetinghouse bell that was wrecked in a fire and reforged to be added to the town’s new meetinghouse.
“I thought (the story) showed a lot about resilience and community in this town,” he said.
Hill said the history in the panels is a good reminder of where the town came from.
“When you look at this picture and you actually think about that ... we were like this over a 100 years ago and so fast — we've moved and we forget,” she said.
The three men pulling the rope to erect the bell are friends of Golschneider. In fact, all the people in the mural are people close to him, most of whom grew up in the district, too.
His wife and son are featured in the Durham Fair panel, pointing toward something in the distance, with a Ferris wheel in the background, which Golschneider said was actually the hardest thing to paint due to the need for precise lines and angles.
The final panel isn’t supposed to be a plea for a wind farm in Durham, Golschneider said.
“It's saying I would like to continue in the future being more thoughtful about energy and energy usage,” he said.
As for the black bear, he said the animal has been making a comeback in the state and is an example of something we need to protect.