Volunteer art shines at farmers’ market

Published 10:25 pm Saturday, May 5, 2018

The Suffolk Visitor Center was packed with people on Saturday for the Suffolk Farmers’ Market kickoff.

Families bought cookies, honey and banana pudding from vendors, plus assorted arts and crafts. Children got their faces painted and played in the petting zoo as Jack Waddell strummed Johnny Cash on his guitar.

More than 40 of them even picked up a paint brush and helped bring a stunning new mural to two-dimensional life. Suffolk resident Virginia Fisher, 71, was right there at the 9 a.m. start and ended up putting the final touches on an oversized, prothonotary warbler bird.

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“It’s a beautiful day, and it’s wonderful to be outside,” Fisher said as she dabbed silver paint on the design. “We’ve had such a cold winter, and this has been very therapeutic.”

The public art project was orchestrated by Keep Suffolk Beautiful, the Suffolk Art League and the downtown art studio One Past 7 to bring more art into public spaces in the city.

Keep Suffolk Beautiful purchased the wood and OnePast7 owner Ed Beardsley provided more than a dozen cans of paint and plenty of brushes. Suffolk Art League board member Miriam Birdsong did the design.

The 8-by-8-foot mural depicts a vibrant scene in the Great Dismal Swamp with wildlife by the river, including a bear painted by Suffolk Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett. This represents the Cypress Borough and is one of seven murals in the works, one for each borough in the city.

“They create community spaces, and they’re fun for visitors to take their pictures with them and post them wherever,” Suffolk Art League Executive Director Linda Bunch said.

Lakeland High School art teacher Angela White will have her students working hard this week to finish their rendition of the Holy Neck Borough before summer vacation.

“We’re looking at historical parts of the Holy Neck Borough like schools, businesses and the baseball field in the downtown Holland area and incorporating them,” White said.

Volunteer artists worked fast with strokes of bright colors to liven up the riverside scene.

“This is fast work because the paint dries quickly, and a lot of students want to help,” Fisher said. “You’ve got to paint fast and move on to another section so one of these students can step in.”

Suffolk Christian Academy fifth-grader Chloe Nichols, 11, painted greenery on the mural as the sun beamed through the clouds above her head.

“I really enjoy it,” Chloe said. “You can really feel the outdoors instead of just being inside with a brush.”