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Latest Urban Canvas

by Russell Swanson, Exec. Dir., VDID, Main Street Vineland

We recently dedicated the mosaic and painted mural project at the First United Methodist Church’s building at the corner of Wood and Seventh streets. This mural is the fourth mural completed under our Urban Canvases On The Ave initiative to bring more public art installations to our downtown district. (See page 3 for photos of the dedication.)

Our public art projects, however, are not just limited to murals. With the recent temporary installation of Sculptures On The Ave project of the six Seward Johnson sculptures displayed along the downtown blocks, we have seen how art can stimulate conversation and pique interest.

Also, our Sounds for Sculpture concert, with the Christian Tamburr quartet, was held at the Landis Theater to bring music, along with visual, physical or tangible art to the forefront of what we mean when we discuss “public art.” The financial support of the Cumberland County Cultural & Heritage Commission and the Neighborhood Preservation Program (NPP) grants allows Main Street Vineland, through its design team, to do these projects with no cost to our organization or our citizens. We have some exciting plans for 2024’s public art initiatives, so stay tuned.

But let’s turn back to the Eco Tree—Tree of Life mosaic and painted mural that was just completed and dedicated at the First United Methodist Church (FUMC). Like all such projects, these just don’t happen overnight. From the planning stages of the design to the implementation, there are a lot of people involved in making this happen. We started with meetings at the Church with then-pastor Yeika Huertas, church members, volunteers, muralists Brian Hawk and David Woods, VDID members and our grantors. Once everyone agreed on the design and construction elements, it was time for the muralists to get to work.

This vision started with my conversations with Brian, who has been in the flooring business for 40 years at various local flooring companies. He has salvaged leftover tiles and glass from jobs he has done and tiles from discontinued sample boards, which he repurposes and uses for mosaic murals. Repurposing of tiles and glass keeps them from ending up in landfills and speaks to the Eco Tree idea that Brian had. He has been working his craft for years and was ready to expand his palette by using the entire two-story wall at the back of the church.

Brian solicited help from his friend David who, like Brian and I, have a personal connection with the FUMC. David teaches art in Philadelphia and has been involved in many murals and other art projects in the area. Brian and David spent countless evenings and weekends working on the mosaic portion of the mural. David brought in two artists from Philadelphia to help with the painted portions of the mural—Eurhi Jones and David McShane. Rusty Parrish also graciously loaned our muralists a lift in order to complete their work. The finished mural is really a breathtaking work of art that will grace our downtown for many years to come.

On the Ave