Posted by David Delcor, Times Argus on Apr 07, 2018
                                                                         JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR / STAFF PHOTO
A concrete retaining wall that has seen better days won’t be the canvas for a massive mural Barre Rotarians are planning for Summer Street. It will be the frame.
Summer Street. It will be the frame. Club President Caroline Earle pitched what she described as a “legacy project” to members of a short-handed Development Review Board on Thursday night. Though the design is still evolving, Earle said the plan is to bring all four seasons to Summer Street in an interactive mural that will cover most of the tail-less whale of a wall that has been the subject of less successful beautification efforts over the years. Unlike the long-gone mural conceived decades ago by artist Fredd Lee, Earle said the one envisioned by Rotarians won’t be painted directly on the retaining wall. And, she said, unlike two framed murals that haven’t weathered well since they were painted by students and installed several years ago, the display the club hopes to have completed by fall will cover almost all of the 2,100-square-foot wall. The odd-shaped wall has a 168-foot-long base and ranges in height from 21.5 feet in one section to a few inches on each of its tapered ends. Earle told board members a few inches of wall space around the perimeter of the city-owned retaining wall will remain exposed. The rest, she said, will be covered with cut-to-fit panels of special weather resistant plywood that will be painted in advance and mounted to create a seamless seasonal shift from winter and spring to summer and fall. Though the design is still conceptual, Earle said the mural will incorporate a yetto-be-determined number of “hidden depictions” of items and objects that are of historical significance to Barre and Vermont. The club, she said, is committed to creating an “interactive” exhibit that will prompt passers-by to stop and search, and could become a friendly field trip for classes studying Vermont history. “It’s going to be a more artistic rendition of ‘Where’s Waldo,’” she said. For those familiar with children’s books, “I Spy” might be a better analogy, because Earle said there will be no “Waldo” or any individuals depicted in the proposed mural. “We’re staying away from (painting) people,” she said o f a decision designed to avoid the kind of diversity-driven debate that created a still unresolved months-long controversy over a mural that was painted six years ago on Church Street in Burlington. Earle said the series of natural scenes contemplated by the club shouldn’t offend anyone. “This is a project designed to bring the community together, not to divide,” she said. Board members seemed less concerned about what will be depicted in the mural before it is installed than they were about what might be painted on it after it goes up. The wall has been frequently “tagged” by spray paint-wielding vandals and, some feared, the proposed mural could become an inviting target. “My primary concern is spray cans,” said board member Richard Deep, who sought and received assurance Rotarians would swiftly respond to any acts of vandalism. Earle said the club is committed to the project longterm and would repair or replace any damaged panels. Board member Linda Shambo said an investment in motion-activated lights could discourage vandals and protect the mural from unwanted graffiti. Earle said she appreciated the concern, but didn’t rule out the possibility of lights and acknowledged vandalism could be an issue. “We can’t guarantee it won’t be defaced,” she said. “But we will guarantee we will repair it.” That was good enough for board members, who said the retaining wall had become an over-sized eyesore. “I think (the mural) will be a great addition to that area,” Deep said. The board unanimously approved the club’s application, which received conceptual approval from the City Council last summer. Earle predicted it could take six months to design, paint and install the mural, which she hoped will be finished by foliage season.