RARITAN, NJ - More than 30 people braved the cold Saturday to share in the ribbon cutting ceremony for the historic mural on West Somerset Street.
The artwork depicting the rich heritage of the borough was commissioned by the Raritan Historic and Cultural Committee.
Two local artists – Tara Mastromihalis and Jen Guarino – collaborated on the design and hand painted the pictorial glimpse into the past on the front wall of the Mangia Buono Caterers building.
Guarino, whose family goes back six generations in Raritan, studied illustration in school.
“It was exciting to be a part of this project,” she said.
Mastromihalis lives in Bridgewater and works in Raritan. She is a junior at Rutgers University studying painting and art design.
“I’ve never worked on something of this scale, she said. “It was a great experience.”
The work began on Oct. 20, and was completed Dec. 22. The artists worked together 90 percent of the time, and both agreed the weather was the biggest challenge.
But both also agreed that the best part of the job was all the residents who stopped to talk with them as they painted.
The idea for the project originated in May 2018 when the seven-member Historic and Cultural Committee applied for a $15,000 grant from the Regional Center of Creative Place Making of Somerset County. The concept of a mural was presented by Jim Fidacaro, the committee chairman.
Fidacaro beamed at the colorful addition to Raritan’s main street.
“This far exceeded my expectations,” he said thanking the artists for their dedication and hard work.
Guarino’s grandmother, 88 year-old Margaret Dombrowski, was one of the spectators.
“I love it,” she said. A lifelong Raritan resident she pointed to the mural and said, "I remember all of this. I remember the very first Basilone Parade and all the people coming out to watch it."
The mural contains the borough logo in one corner and the committee’s logo in another. In the center, four historic pictures are featured.
The pictures are a depiction of Veterans Memorial Park; the statue of John Basilone; the Raritan Woolen Mill, which supplied blankets for soldiers in World War I and World War II; and the signing of the Knox-Porter Resolution that ended World War I.
Mayor Charles McMullin, along with councilman, and mayor-elect, Zachary Bray came out for the occasion.
“This is Raritan, this is our history and this mural is a great addition to our main street," McMullin said. "Kudos to the committee and the artists, they’ve put our history front and center.”
Since it’s inception in 2010, the Historic and Cultural Committee has been actively working to preserve and share the rich history of Raritan by providing a visitor-friendly and lively environment on Somerset Street with the objective of increasing awareness of the downtown businesses.
Over the past nine years, the committee has completed numerous projects, including the installation of the monuments at Veteran’s Memorial Park and the Washington School; designing and placing pole banners honoring Raritan’s fallen heroes along Somerset Street; creating photo postcards of historic sites and distributing them to downtown businesses; and publishing two award-winning tour guide booklets.