A three-section mural along the Erie Canal in downtown Newark is giving boaters, motorists and T. Spencer Knight Park visitors a glimpse of the village’s heyday, when it was known as the Rose Capital of America.
During the 1930s, ‘40s, ‘50s and early ‘60s, thousands of rose-loving tourists flocked to the village from mid-June to September to see Jackson and Perkins’ rose gardens and other related festivities, including the Rose Parade.
James Zeger — who teaches graphic design, photography, media art and arts in culture at Newark High School — was the lead artist on this year’s mural addition. He and Mark DeCracker, of Lyons, founded Mural Mania in 2007. The Newark mural is among several done by the mural design company in area communities like Clyde, Lyons, Sodus, Sodus Point and Williamson. DeCracker was the lead artist on the Union Street mural scene last summer.
The completed third section of the Newark mural depicts a scene from a Rose Parade. NHS Art Club members Ashley Allegretti, Jasmine Johnson, Claire Ketcham, Grace Ketcham, Catlyn McEmery and Sheridan Verstraete assisted with this year’s mural.
Zeger said the 7-by-26-foot mural took two months to paint in a NHS hallway.
“We worked from a design I came up with after researching several historic photographs and postcards at the Newark Historical Society,” he said. “The design includes the Rose queen, elephants, a classic car and a float made from roses.
“Art Club students helped me paint the mural at the high school on Evolon, a canvas-like material. After completing the mural, it was mounted onto the cement wall under the state Route 88 bridge by the canal, next to the Rose Garden mural that students helped paint last summer.
“The students not only dedicated a lot of their time helping to paint the Rose Parade mural, but I was able to educate all of them about the Rose Parade and how Newark was once the Rose Capital of America. They also learned how to paint on a large scale, basic design principles and color mixing/theory that includes the process of mural painting from an initial sketch to drawing out the design, staining the drawing, blocking in colors and finally painting the details.
“This was a very successful project and I am proud of the students who helped contribute to it. They have given something back to their community while learning about the town’s rich history.”
Newark education board and village board member Rebecca Vermeulen applied for and won a $2,000 grant from the Erie Canalway Heritage Corridor for the project on behalf of the village, with the village also contributing funds to the project.
“This project is something that will leave a lasting impression for all involved and for many to enjoy for years to come,” Vermeulen said. “I am thankful for the partnership between the village and school, Erie Canalway Heritage Corridor for the grant, to my fellow village board members for their support, the many local businesses that supported our artists with food and drink, and those that donated supplies. The outpouring of support from the community has been incredible. Our students and Mural Mania artists who created these scenes should be very proud. I’m so thankful to them for sharing their time and talents. It looks beautiful!”
Matt Cook, superintendent of the Newark Central School District, submitted words of support as part of the grant application.
“Having our students and members of the NHS Art Department working collaboratively with an initiative sponsored by the village to promote the positive influence of the Erie Canal is just the kind of partnership we are looking for,” he wrote. “Having students and adults working together to beautify our community builds a shared sense of accomplishment, and helps the children being raised in Newark to appreciate our history in hands-on ways that is more meaningful than reading from a textbook.”
Mayor Jonathan Taylor said, “These murals have been a community project in every sense of the word. The dedication and commitment of the students, school and so many others made these pieces of beautiful artwork a reality. They are a welcome addition to our canal trail.”