Hartford Mural Art, Just Add Water

Sep 18, 2012

Downtown Hartford has a new piece of public art -- a large mural of the famous Charter Oak.  WNPR's Jeff Cohen met with the artist to talk about the project.

We're standing in a parking lot across from downtown Hartford's Bushnell Park.  In front of us is a former synagogue.  Artist Adam Niklewicz is my host.

"I'd call it a conceptual mural, which is an entity which is activated by water.  In other words, we don't really see much on the wall that the mural is placed on until the element of water kicks in and then an image emerges."

And that image is the iconic Charter Oak -- the state's tree.  Niklewicz and another artist went through several steps to get an enlarged outline of the tree on the brick wall.  They then sprayed water repellant around the outline, and here's the effect:  Add water to the wall, and the area around the tree repels it, while the image of the tree itself soaks it up.

And...so grows the Charter Oak.

Sprinklers on the side of the building will turn on every day at 3 p.m. to soak the wall and reveal the tree.  Niklewicz says he hopes the timing will help both the art and its public use -- as people stop and look.

"[Usually], artists [are] not quite certain or even eloquent about what lies behind the concept.  It just feels right or wrong...Artists [do] hope for a layers of meaning. And many people can indeed discover something for themselves."

And what will happen to the mural over time, as weather takes its toll?

"This is process art to some degree.  So we will see how the process continues."

The publicly-funded project is part of what is called The Capital City Canvas Initiative and officially opens this week.