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Committee Proposes Mural for Pleasantville’s Jackson Alley

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Jackson Alley, the pedestrian walkway between Wheeler Avenue and Tompkins Avenue in downtown Pleasantville, could be the scene of a mural to beautify the empty walls. Martin Wilbur photo

Artists starting with a blank canvas consider numerous muses and creative ideas – theme, color, mood and gestural style, even before the brush sweeps the surface.

But consider planning a large public art mural requiring a detailed plan, requisite funding and continued public outreach so community members can weigh in on a planned artistic design.

That’s what the Pleasantville Public Art Committee (PPAC) has been doing since last fall when it proposed creating a mural on the Jackson Alley walkway off Wheeler Avenue. Appearing before the Village Board at the Apr. 11 work session was Stuart Vance, a co-chair of PPAC.

“We came up with the theme of togetherness,” Vance said. “During the pandemic when everyone was isolated, nobody was around and the downtown village was like a ghost town. We thought wouldn’t it be wonderful when everything came back to life to commemorate the spirit of activity and togetherness.”

Entitled Walking Murals, the working concept is to have figures of Pleasantville residents painted on the walls on either side of Jackson Alley. The committee’s sample drawings reviewed by the board showed building height figures mid-step with vividly-colored geometric shapes creating a vibrant backdrop.

“These would be heroic figures walking beside you to remind you of the heroic spirit of the community in getting through the pandemic,” Vance said.

Artists would be sought from Westchester and beyond to participate in the project.

Joining Vance at the meeting was PPAC Co-chair Marlene Canapi and Pleasantville High School Art Department Chair Gregory Nemec, also a committee member.

Response to outreach to local business owners was positive, Vance said.

“We got buy-in and enthusiasm from everybody including (the) Jacob Burns (Film Center) who is lending the committee their sound stage at the media lab to photograph local citizens that would be on the mural,” he said. “Also (Wheeler Avenue restaurant), Fatt Root said they are considering putting money into the project.”

Local photographer Chad Kraus has volunteered to snap images of people for the project and local architect Jim Coleman has signed on as project consultant.

The Village Board responded positively last week.

“Jackson Alley is a place that has been wanting for something to happen since it was closed as a through street from Wheeler to Tompkins,” Mayor Peter Scherer said.

The project is still in the planning stages and details must still be ironed out, especially the cost of the project since the committee is requesting some village funding.

“I think the concept is great,” said Schererwho also proposed hiring a company that paints murals to possibly save on the cost of insurance. “However, I assume we’re talking about tens of thousands of dollars.”

Vance said the committee was currently working on a budget that will include materials and equipment, including harnesses and perhaps a lift instead of scaffolding. Other concerns include obtaining the proper insurance covering those working on the mural, especially if artists were to paint from scaffolding reaching heights of up to 30 feet.

The project would also have to navigate phone and electricity wires in Jackson Alley.

“The ideal time frame would be to have the mural finished sometime this summer,” said Vance.

Scherer suggested each wall be painted in different phases.

Concerned about workers painting from a high platform, village Trustee Michael Peppard suggested the murals be shorter and the painted figures appear as if walking next to pedestrians in the alley.

“If the murals are smaller, say eight feet high for instance, the figures would still be larger than life and would enhance the idea of being participatory,” he said.

The committee is expected to present village officials with a budget in the next few weeks for review.

“This will be a great asset to the village,” Vance said. “It’s a big challenge and it’s going to make people who live here feel good. It’s going to be a story told, the media will want to be a part of it and it will bring back the liveliness to the businesses in the community.” 

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