WESTFIELD, NJ — Versions of Ricardo Roig’s hand-cut prints detailing iconic scenes of the town are now emblazoned on an underpass connecting the north and south sides of the town.
Roig, a former art teacher at Westfield High School who has opened an art gallery in the town, recently finished the mural underneath the NJ Transit underpass connecting the circles on North and South avenues.
“I tried to create enough detail where close up you can appreciate those moments, but at the same time, you don’t want to go too detailed where from you far away you can’t grasp what you’re seeing,” Roig said.
The artist, who said he is now set to work on a mural to be painted on the inside of City Hall in Jersey City, is looking forward to returning to the underpass in Westfield to paint the other side of the underpass.
Scenes on the new mural include Mindowaskin Park, Downtown Westfield at night and the Presbyterian Church, which along with the town is also turning 300 next year, Roig said.
“I just cut out the stencil and I spray-painted it, and then it evolved where I used the hard edge of cardboard to spray,” he said.
The mural was made possible through a $20,000 transformation grant from the Main Street New Jersey Program, in addition to donations from the James Ward Mansion, Union County’s HEART programs and The Presbyterian Church of Westfield.
Individual residents also provided monies through an online fundraiser established by the town for the purpose. The fundraiser is ongoing in its effort to raise monies for the other side of the underpass.
“This mural project is only the beginning of a broader strategy for bringing public art in our town, with the formation of a Public Arts Commission to establish a town-wide public arts vision, in addition to managing contributions and funding,” said Mayor Shelley Brindle.
Roig said passers-by motivated him throughout the process. He also had some help from friends from Westfield’s McKinley Elementary School and his wife, Michelle, among others.
“I kind of worked in little manic episodes — super fast bursts of work — because a lot of people stopped by and I wanted to connect with them and talk,” he said. “Someone would come by and give me so much great energy and then I would go at the mural for a while.”
Roig said that if he could dedicate the work to anyone, it would be to educators in the Westfield Public Schools, who helped him to find his potential.
“Just having found myself and re-found myself in Westfield it was through the school system and the teachers and colleagues, who always embraced my uniqueness and encouraged,” Roig said. “I was able to speak that voice through this mural. It is epic.”
Councilwoman Dawn Mackey, who was instrumental in the project, said the mural with its new depictions of iconic Westfield buildings serves as a way to honor the town's past while moving into the future.
“The mural serves as a visual invitation to leave the car behind and take a walk from one side to the other,” Mackey said. “Public art inspires, excites, brings joy and economic vitality. The feedback has been fantastic, and I look forward to additional public art projects.”
To learn how to contribute to the effort, visit https://www.westfieldnj.gov/publicart.
Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at firstname.lastname@example.org; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh
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