Dinosaur murals are designed to attract customers to Cromwell stores

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CROMWELL – A fake Wall Street train station with a ticket office, approaching locomotive and silhouettes of people waiting to board is among the realistic murals created by a local group of artists.

The Cromwell Creative District works with local business owners to create dynamic, photorealistic public installations on their buildings to attract more commerce and traffic to the city center.

The latest project at Rail 99 Tavern on 1 Wall Street is designed to spark people’s interest, said Alderman James Demetriades, chairman of the CDC.

“They see the mural, they walk over, they say, ‘Look, this is a restaurant’ and they spend time and (their) attention,” he said.

The railroad scene has had positive feedback from people watching its progress, said Katie Daigle, who is in charge of the art group’s public relations. “You got a kick out of it,” she said.

Restaurant co-owner Frank Mangene asked artist Joan Foose to personalize the scene with a sign that read “Cranky Franky,” a good-natured way of making fun of yourself, Daigle said. “A lot of restaurant owners in particular can be a bit rough at times to keep people engaged,” she says with a laugh.

The artist even recorded two local dogs and their names, said councilor James Demetriades, chairman of the CCD.

The borough covers the area from the Connecticut Riverfront to Main Street. The aim is to celebrate the city’s living history, “strengthen” its resources and identify opportunities for future growth through creative programs, guided tours and special events, according to the organization.

“When people think of art (and culture), it’s more than just painting a pretty picture,” Demetriades said. “It’s a huge industry in Connecticut.”

The murals also include a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Pterodactyl, Brontosaurus, and Spinosaurus at Cromwell Energy and others painted on the shelters in Pierson Park on West Street.

These projects are funded by both the CCD and private donations. The district picks an artist and provides the design, Demetriades said.

One of the first murals was requested from Lou Spada, owner of Cromwell Energy, and general manager Scott Haddad at their 308 Main St. office, said CCD Vice Chair Ann Grasso.

Daigle read about Connecticut street artist Arcy in the Hearst Connecticut Media Group’s “40 under 40” issue of Connecticut Magazine in February, she said. His work regularly takes him out of the state, both nationally and internationally, she added.

Arcy, who uses spray paint for these projects, even has a fine art collection for The Walt Disney Co.

He offered to donate his work to the project if CCD would pay for the paint bills, given that he didn’t have many opportunities to do large-scale work over the past year due to the travel restrictions of the pandemic, Daigle said.

Spada has a lifelong interest in dinosaurs, which led him to request the topic, Grasso said. These giant creatures can also be seen at nearby Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill.

It took three days of work, said Grasso.

Another project is the Sensory Trail in Pierson Park on West Street near the river, a popular spot for families, Daigle said.

Flashy and colorful activities along the way motivate the kids to do a variety of activities like jumping, marching, counting, and stepping on letters in alphabetical order, she said.

Children can also “hop” on man-made logs and enjoy an interactive play area, Demetriades said.

The art group received the most praise from parents for this endeavor, Daigle said.

“It’s a bonus – another extra thing to enjoy,” said Daigle.

Such guided exercise installations became increasingly popular during the height of the pandemic, when occupational therapists were able to socially distance the children while allowing them to exercise, Daigle said. In the end, people are encouraged to stop at a painted dandelion that has the word “breathe” on it and pretend to be blowing the seeds, she said.

The district regularly hosts events to raise funds for the organization, such as a scarecrow swap in October, a Christmas decoration contest in November, and a year-round audio tour of historic homes, a partnership with the Cromwell Historical Society.

Later this month, CCD will host a free block party, A Taste for the Arts, in Pierson Park. It will include a raffle, an untimed mile of paint running around the property, over a dozen craft vendors and food trucks. It is scheduled for August 21 from 2 to 7 p.m., the rainy date is August 28.

The runners are “doused” with colored chalk powder, said the organizers.

The bands include Tone Deaf, The Lost Weekend, TSC Acoustic, On the Loose, The Guitar Squad and the musicians Michael Perrotti, Terri Lachance and Ethan Messinger.

The color run requires a $ 10 donation and people are encouraged to wear white shirts. Interested parties should email [email protected] to reserve a spot.

More information is available at www.cromwellcreativedistrict.org.


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