SOMERVILLE, NJ - Artists Leon Rainbow and Alejandro Medina spent most of the day both Saturday and Sunday transforming a 90-foot brick wall into a colorful tribute to their friend, Jerome Gonzalez, a prolific grafitti artist and self-published author and one of the prime movers in helping to establish the emerging arts community in Somerville.
The artists will continue to work on the mural next Saturday, Sept. 14, which coincides with the "Art All Day" festival in downtown Somerville, noon-6 p.m.; the mural is expected to be finished in time for the third day of the Central Jersey Jazz Festival Sept. 15, which attracts thousands to a concert stage erected on East Main Street, not far from the walkway.
Gonzalez' sister Isadora has been helping the two artists.
Gonzalez died at the age of 44 in February, 2018 competing in an endurance race in North Carolina. His parents, Hector and Sonia Torres, created a small shrine to their son on Saturday, setting up a table adjacent to the mural with a box containing his ashes.
Gonzalez, a talented graffiti artist who was equally adept working on canvas or paper, graduated Somerville High School in 1992.
His good friend, Shaun Daley, co-owner of the Gallery on Main at 30 West Main St., is coordinating the project with partner Michelle Kassick, with a GoFundMe page established to raise funds.
The mural is being painted on the stucco facade of a building near Daley's gallery, alongside a walkway that leads to Municipal parking lot No. 6 behind the Main Street buildings.
Medina created a poster of Gonzalez which is being sold at the gallery, with all proceeds donated to the project.
The father of a young son and daughter, Gonzalez was truly a modern-day Renaissance man, according to Daley.
Gonzalez was a high-profile, enthusiastic supporter of the arts in Somerville, eager and willing to pitch in wherever help was needed, from cleaning up a vacant store to host a pop-up gallery show to contributing his considerable artistic flair. He was also the author of a self-published book, "Pothole."
He played a key role in attracting fellow artists to produce graffiti murals for display during the annual Arts on Division outdoor shows the past two years.
Donations can be made to cover the expenses of the project online at https://www.gofundme.com/jerome-gonzalez-mural-project