WESTFIELD, NJ — With the help of generous donors and a local artist, the town is looking to give a train underpass in the downtown a fresh look.
With a $20,000 state grant in hand, at least $10,000 in private donations and more monies that organizers anticipate from a crowdfunding campaign, the town has commissioned a former Westfield School District art teacher with a gallery in town to paint the murals at the underpass adjacent to the memorial park.
“It really is to help promote pedestrian traffic,” said Ricardo Roig, the artist. “It’s to help promote the arts and highlight our community as an arts community, and to connect the north side and the south side as it literally is the bridge.”
Roig told TAPinto Westfield the murals are based on his Westfield series of hand-cut prints and will be built on structures to be affixed to the underside of the train trestle, framed with wood and painted with the help of volunteers.
The James Ward Mansion donated $5,000 to the cause and an anonymous donor contributed another $5,000, Mayor Shelley Brindle said. The Downtown Westfield Corporation secured the Main Street New Jersey grant in the amount of $20,000 for the project.
“We have now received $30,000 in generous donations towards our $70,000 goal, as well as a tremendous amount of positive feedback about this initiative,” Brindle said. “To keep the momentum going, we now have an online donation portal available on the town website for those who'd like to contribute quickly and easily.”
People wishing to donate may visit www.westfieldnj.gov/publicart for more information.
Municipal officials had been looking into a bringing public art into Westfield prior to Roig approaching the town with a proposal for the murals, said Councilwoman Dawn Mackey, who has been instrumental in the planning. The decision to highlight classic local spots seen in the mural in a new way, Mackey said, is part of what the town is looking for.
“We want to keep our traditions. We want to honor our past and we want to take that and move forward in a contemporary way," Mackey said. “I think this mural encapsulates this administration’s vision for Westfield.”
Roig said with the help of a local builder — who will construct the frame for the mural, something NJ Transit requires in the event the underpass needs repair — there is enough funding to cover the north side of the underpass, the side closest to monument park.
“I just feel really excited and happy that everyone is like ‘all systems go,’ and everybody is all for it,” he said.
Mackey noted the initiative is part of local efforts to make the town more walkable. She is hopeful the crowdfunding will pay for the second half of the project.
"We’re doing very well," she said. "We’ve raised more than half the money, and I’m very hopeful that we’ll have all the funding in place to do both sides by the end of the year."
Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at firstname.lastname@example.org; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh