The Milton Artists’ Guild has hired muralist Jon Young to lead a community-wide mural painting project in the park on June 16, thanks to state grant funds. The selectboard will formally accept the donation at its April 16 meeting.
The “Promise Community” grant focuses on early childhood development and dispersed $150,000 between several Milton organizations, including the guild. So far, the MAG has used a portion of its $5,000 allotment for Sunday art events at its Route 7 gallery space, but the majority will fund this project, president Gisela Alpert said.
“It would bring art in that area,” she said. “With children being part of painting these murals, it would be something that when they return as a family, they could stand proud that they had a part in this.”
Working with the Milton Recreation Department, Young chose designs that depict nature and community, including a butterfly, flowers and holding hands.
“The park is used by not just sports but all demographics and ages and different uses and all seasons,” rec coordinator Kym Duchesneau said. “We really wanted to keep it nature and fun and community.”
The process will imitate the art, too. Even Milton’s youngest kids will be invited to join the fun, as Young will provide them separate canvases that, once complete, will become a traveling exhibit at the MAG gallery, local schools and more. The MAG may also provide large tapestries and invite toddlers to take a dip in the paint and roll around, Alpert said.
If it sounds like chaos, Young isn’t dissuaded. A St. Albans resident, he’s hosted art lessons through his hometown’s recreation department. He is also a MAG member and contributed a large piece for the guild’s space: A bright, primary-colored mural that depicts hands spelling “A-R-T” in sign language.
Young primarily works in acrylic, watercolor, ink and oil, and his work is featured at Twiggs restaurant in St. Albans. By day, he’s the product adviser for Holbein Artist Materials in Williston, an international professional art supply manufacturer.
Young expects the entire process to take three days, including setup. On the project day, he’ll serve as the overseer, supervising each mural until sundown. The guild will staff each site with at least one adult “so kids don’t go crazy throwing paint around,” Alpert said with a laugh.
He’ll return the following Sunday to perform touch-ups and ensure the murals look professional.
“It will create a lot of vibrancy, interest,” Alpert said. “If it’s out there when you’re playing sports, it will be uplifting.”
Alpert has already seen this effect with the large mural on the Gardener’s Supply warehouse in Milton’s Catamount Industrial Park. Situated at the town’s border with Colchester, the vibrant hummingbird, butterfly and flowers provide a warm welcome to Milton, one Alpert and the guild want to reinforce throughout town with more public art.
Not only will the murals provide needed aesthetic, they could be economic engines, too, she said.
“It’s a cultural element,” Alpert said. “If you look at a lot of towns that have incorporated outdoor art, one finds tourism is up, and tourism equals to better economy.”
Conversely, the group has also considered the possibility of vandalism, the worst-case scenario for all public art, but decided Young’s project is worth that risk. For his part, Young said none of his murals have ever been defaced.
“People, even the kids writing graffiti, have respect for artwork that’s already on the wall and tend to stay away from that,” he said. “Just by putting the artwork there, that’s a good way of dissuading any vandalism.”
Duchesneau tends to agree and hopes Miltonians delight in the color the paintings will bring to the dugouts’ dull, beige walls.
“That’s all we can do,” she said. “Just hope and pray that it lasts.”
The mural painting project is scheduled for Saturday, June 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Bombardier Park with a June 23 rain date.