The Examiner

Artist Puts Finishing Touches on Chappaqua Book Festival Mural

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Chappaqua artist Sophie Mendelson worked on the new mural this summer on the wall of the building that houses Hall of Scoops.
Chappaqua artist Sophie Mendelson worked on the new mural this summer on the wall of the building that houses Hall of Scoops.

Sophie Mendelson had never come close to working on a surface like the one she painted most of the summer.

Mendelson, a Chappaqua native who graduated in the spring from Skidmore College with an art degree, was putting the finishing touches Saturday on a 20-foot-high, 65-foot-wide mural on the alleyway wall of the building that houses Hall of Scoops ice cream shop on South Greeley Avenue.

She was selected by the organizers of the Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival who had searched for an artist to paint a mural that would promote the hamlet and the event, which returns for a second year on Sept. 27 at Robert E. Bell Middle School. On Saturday afternoon Mendelson’s work was officially unveiled.

Since the second week of July, Mendelson could be seen hard at work, using paint donated by Chappaqua Paint and Hardware. There are all sorts of characters and figures from children’s literature and sites from downtown Chappaqua, from renown children’s author Maurice Sendak signing books for children at the festival to Peter Pan sitting on the downtown gazebo.

“From the beginning I knew I wanted to include characters in children’s books so that really took off,” said Mendelson, a Horace Greeley High School graduate. “So now there are like 70 references between downtown and book titles and the authors. My favorite part was thinking of all the things to add and incorporate in a way that kind of made sense.”

Festival Creative Director Janine Marino said that in June, after organizers came up with the idea for a mural, they put out a call via Facebook for someone who could create the artwork.  From the moment they saw Mendelson’s work, Marino said she knew they had found their artist.

“She exceeded our expectations,” Marino said. “I had to say stop adding characters and every day it gets bigger and better and more beautiful and it certainly is a wonderful tribute to children’s literature.”

Mendelson said she was provided photos of the inaugural festival from last fall to give her an idea of what it was like. From there she provided event representatives with a sketch of what she was going to do. Aside from never having done a full-sized mural before, Mendelson didn’t realize she was being asked to fill the entire space.

“I got to the wall I kind of went a little crazy,” she said. “They didn’t tell me I had to use the whole thing. But there were so many different  elements from the festival. There were all these I wanted to include so I did a little sketch and then I kind of imagined where things were going to go.”

Hall of Scoops owner Lori Ceisler said as soon as she and her landlord heard about the mural they enthusiastically supported the idea. Instead of looking at a graffiti-covered wall, pedestrians downtown can have a much more pleasant experience.

“Now people can walk through and look back and have memories of the book festival,” said Ceisler, whose store threw a party for the occasion by introducing two special flavors–Pinkalicious and Rocky Read. Pinkalicious is the name of a book written by children’s author Victoria Kann, who was one of the featured authors last year.

Dawn Greenberg, the festival’s executive director, said the volunteers have been working hard to insure that this year’s event surpasses last year’s initial success. There will be a variety of activities in addition to book signings from about 85 authors to keep the youngsters interested, she said. Last year the festival drew an estimated 4,000 visitors.

“So we’re hoping for 5,000 and we’re advertising into the city a bit and on Metro-North,” Greenberg said.”We just need a really gorgeous day and then everything will come together.”

The free event is scheduled for between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. It will be held outside in the Bell Middle School parking lot off of South Greeley Avenue in good weather and would be moved indoors if it rained. For more information, visit


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