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Local Artist At Work On ‘Welcome To Newtown’ Mural

Published: July 14, 2017

Those who travel Church Hill Road may have spotted some new art under the railroad overpass next to Newtown Veterinary Specialists and wondered, “Who has been painting that?”

The Newtown Bee was fortunate enough to spot local artist and Newtown resident Virginia Zimmermann hard at work painting, and see her skills in action on Monday, July 10, at 1 pm.

As cars whizzed past on the road just a few feet away — with some people even pulling over to compliment her work — Ms Zimmermann set her paintbrush down and spoke with The Bee about the progress being made on her large piece of public art.

 

Years In The Making

In 2015, Ms Zimmermann applied for Connecticut’s highly competitive Regional Initiative Grant Program with the hopes of creating a mural for Newtown.

“In order to qualify to submit the grant, the artist or art group has to be affiliated with one of the seven Regional Art Alliances,” Ms Zimmermann explained.

As an affiliate with the Cultural Alliance of Western Connecticut in Danbury, her grant for $3,500 was awarded last October. It is supported in part by the Cultural Alliance of Western Connecticut in partnership with the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, Office of the Arts, and the National Endowment of the Arts.

Ms Zimmermann said her art project is also partially funded by Newtown Cultural Arts Commission and that she had received “very generous” donations from local groups and residents looking to support her.

Newtown Color Center, Mark Svanda Painting, Bill Henckel Lawn Services, Newtown Veterinary Specialists, Housatonic Railroad Company, Peter C. McLachlan, JW Swanberg, and the Danbury Rail Road Museum have all contributed to help make her vision become a reality.

Since she began her mural on May 20, she has also been fortunate enough to have many additional volunteers come out to help her accomplish her goal of finishing the mural by September 30.

“People have given me water and food — even [a bouquet of] flowers,” Ms Zimmermann said. She is grateful for all the support, as every donation makes a positive difference.

She frequently has people stopping by to compliment the work she has done and was recently applauded by a group of teenage boys walking by who cheered her on as she painted.

 

One Of A Kind Welcome

Ms Zimmermann appreciates all the kind gestures Newtown residents have given her during her journey transforming her 1,400-square-foot blank, gray slate into a vibrant, colorful mural.

That feeling of community is one of the main reasons she chose to design the piece in the first place.

“I wanted the mural to be a feel-good embrace for the town to say ‘Welcome’ to anyone who has never visited, and welcome home to all who live here,” Ms Zimmermann said.

Her mural below the Housatonic Railroad, titled “Welcome to Newtown,” will depict a mighty freight train, a powerful image she feels symbolizes what drives America and communities.

The locomotive will be painted where one side will have the engine’s front view, with Newtown’s iconic rooster, the date 1705 in honor of when people first settled in Newtown, and under that the date 1711, which is the year Newtown was incorporated.

The wall parallel to the road will show the side perspective of the train with the phrase “Welcome to Newtown” written across it.

Ms Zimmermann said she was inspired to design the words similar to the classic 1950s “Welcome to Florida” postcards that had the bold lettering and drop shadows behind it.

Inside each letter that makes up “Newtown,” Ms Zimmermann will be drawing a different iconic image from town, like Ram Pasture. However, she does not want to give away too much detail about what scenes she plans to paint. People will have to check back in from time to time to see what she creates.

Once those stages are finished, she hopes to have time to create the final portion of the mural showing the train disappearing into the landscape.

When it is fully completed, Ms Zimmermann says she will preserve the entire painting by sealing her design with polyurethane to protect it.

Still, with the project only about halfway done, it has generated a huge response — more than she ever dreamed possible.

Looking back on the contributions of the community, Ms Zimmermann concluded saying, “So I wish to say thank you, Newtown! You are amazing, and I’m glad to call you home.”

To learn more information about Virginia Zimmermann’s art and the Newtown mural, visit virginiazimmermann.com or search “welcometrain5471” on Instagram.

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