A series of twelve new murals scattered in downtown New Rochelle represent the many facets of this suburban-but-metropolitan city, and highlight the place that arts have always had in the city.
“New Rochelle has always been a magnet for artistic people, at least from the turn of the 20th century,” said New Rochelle Council on the Arts (NRCA) President Theresa Kump Leghorn
The recently unveiled murals celebrate New Rochelle’s distinguished place in American art history. Easy access to Manhattan, without the crowds and stressors of urban life, made the City an attractive location to those modern artists like JC Leyendecker, Frederick Remington and Norman Rockwell.
Spanish artist Ángel Belinchón Bujes, known as Belin, captures this element of New Rochelle history in his Changing Perceptions mural. His Picasso-influenced interpretation of Rockwell’s famous Girl at Mirror painting melds Belin’s postneocubismo aesthetic with 1950s American popular culture.
The striking public paintings extend a 2019 collaboration between NRCA, the City of New Rochelle, and arts nonprofit Street Art for Mankind (SAM). The project began as a way to add pops of color to the city’s efforts to revitalize the downtown area. NRCA and SAM initially planned for this extension of the 2019 project to come in 2020. However, COVID-19 shifted its timeline.
However, coming out of lockdown, the team had even more motivation to finish the project. NRCA and the City wanted to give the community something to feel inspired by. With new partners, the New Rochelle Industrial Development Agency, ArtsWestchester and some private owners, they fine-tuned the project’s goals to focus on revitalizing the spirits of residents.
A ReStart the Arts grant awarded by ArtsWestchester did exactly as its title intended. It helped to support a community-focused MuralFest last month to unveil the new works. The event brought together residents and tourists to embrace the City’s new vibrancy with dance and music performances. The grant also commissioned two interactive murals by Carlos Alberto.
According to Leghorn, Mayor Noam Bramson especially wanted the city’s tagline, “NewRo Strong,” displayed across the city. Not only was that tagline broadly the theme of the second collection of murals, but it was also the subject of Dragon 76’s mural. The Japanese street artist depicts a futuristic representation of four children staring off into the distance. Their cyber-kinetic armor and goggles feature objectives like unity, hope and rebirth. These intentions also make their way into other works, like street artist Adry del Rocio’s Unidad and a series by Alberto that honors the impact and significance of the Mexican community in New Rochelle.
Says Commissioner Adam Salgado, Development Commissioner and Executive Director of the New Rochelle Industrial Development Agency: “Unveiling such inspiring murals painted by acclaimed international artists reinforces the extraordinary efforts the City has undertaken to reflect and build upon the creativity, diversity and inclusiveness of New Rochelle.”
Cristian Blanxer’s People and Places celebrate the intricate bonds that make up the City’s present. Five dreamy portraits feature beloved community members along a pedestrian walkway outside a new Modera development. Blanxer interweaves sitters restaurateur and artist Alvin Clayton, Univision News anchor Paricia Fuenmayor, dancer Monica Deane, Trinity School Principal Michael Hilderbrand and first responder and firefighter Mike Cascio with depictions of their homelands or representations of their profession.
The twenty total public paintings bring vibrancy to the construction-laden downtown area. The diverse and multinational community finds representation on these walls. From concerns of climate change and social justice to celebrations of heritage and culture, the murals imagine how New Rochelle emerges from a strenuous couple of years into a future of prosperity and positive change.