The moving van had barely pulled into the driveway of their new home on Dean’s Bridge Road when Marilena and Marc Viscogliosi were swarmed by beaming neighbors bearing gifts and invites to a block party.
The couple had left the Bronx to be closer to family and to give their two young sons a chance to spread their wings.
Somers, with its largely off-the-radar character, historic homes and solid school system beckoned.
But it was the warmth and caring nature of the townspeople that really sealed the deal, Marilena says.
Two short years later, as frightened families hunker down, she’s more than confident that the community will come out the other side of the coronavirus crisis stronger than before.
She sees that in the way people have offered to go grocery shopping for seniors or share toilet paper-hunting tips. Children have gotten into the act, too, drawing beautiful blooms, reaffirming messages and thank-you notes to first responders in chalk on driveways.
“We’re all going to take care of each other. That’s the spirit of the place. From the first day, there was no doubt.”
Now the classically trained freelance illustrator wants to do her part to bring a bit of “color and life” to those whose spirits might be flagging with a “map” for Somers.
It includes local landmarks such as The Elephant Hotel, Muscoot Farm, the Bailey House, Stuart’s Fruit Farm, the lake communities and Reis Park. There are also shout-outs to popular local businesses such as Bobo’s Café, DeCicco & Sons grocery store and the summertime ice cream destination spot, King Kone.
Her past illustration commissions have included “maps” for publications such as the Tampa Bay Times, the Boston Globe, DownEast and Edible Communities magazines, as well as a national ad campaign for The Container Store.
She has illustrated dinnerware for Fishs Eddy, books for Penguin, Running Press, Sterling and St. Martin’s Press as well as columns for Girls’ Life magazine and The New York Times. She also created the look for a national junior fashion line and illustrated a storybook for a Geico commercial.
Marilena also wanted to support the Somers Record, her new hometown newspaper.
“In this particularly precarious time, I’ve found the past few issues of the Somers Record reassuring and a welcomed ‘regular’ in my home. Thank you for being there,” the artist wrote recently.
“Because of the incredible sense of community we have in Somers, I wanted to share a drawing I’ve been working on inspired by all the wonderful things and special places that make up our community.”
Her husband, Marc, is a proud New York City firefighter. Their two boys, 12-year-old Lorenzo and 11-year-old Luca, are both Boy Scouts and attend Somers Middle School.
Unlike a map, her generosity apparently has no borders; she plans to make posters of the “map” and donate a portion of their sales to a worthy local cause.
“Art brightens the day and my hope is I can do that for my neighbors when they reach for their next issue of the Somers Record,” she wrote.
Although they miss their friends and teachers, Lorenzo and Luca are loving being out of school...for the moment. “Ask me again in two weeks,” their mom said.
Mothering duties aside, Marilena hopes to be as productive as possible while the government’s stay-at-home orders apply.
“If this quarantine keeps on, I can see a lot more posters coming,” she says.
Marc, who is stationed in Manhattan, is “handling it like a champ.”
“All those guys (meaning his fellow first responders) are. They don’t complain; they do what they have to do and do it proudly,” says his wife.
While Marilena’s career has centered on the big commissions, under her professional name, Marilena Perilli, she gets much more satisfaction from doing the research for her “own pet projects.”
“I enjoy learning about local history; it’s fun,” she said, adding that when she first moved here, she thought The Elephant Hotel, aka Town Hall, was the center of the universe.
After exploring a bit, Marilena says she found that not only is Somers a much bigger place geographically, its heart is enormous—like its spirit pachyderm, Old Bet.
All the individual things folks have been doing to help each other during the crisis “may be small, but small things add up.”
She hopes the poster will be “a reminder of how great this place is.”
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