A Community Effort Turns A Londonderry Eyesore Into A Work Of Art

Aug 7, 2014

Not long ago, graffiti was the only form of decoration on a crumbling cement retaining wall by the intersection of Routes 100 and 11 in Londonderry. Today, the wall is a picture of whimsy, featuring giant flowers, playful insects and fairy houses. The transformation was a true community effort.

Kindergarteners Seairra Stowell, Myles Ouelette, Evan Smilko, and Jaakko Pajala draw some of the original artwork that is the basis of the mural.
Credit Casey Junker Bailey / Flood Brook Union School

Local artists including Garrison Buxton, Alison Wallis Buxton and Sharon Crossman worked with Flood Brook School art teacher Casey Junker Bailey to come up with design ideas for the mural. They decided on a garden theme and the use of stencils for the final on-site artwork. Meanwhile, the group of community artists also gave the wall a base coat, in the form of an interim mural.

"Flood Brook students in kindergarten, first and second grade painted the original flowers, bugs and fairy houses which were then combined into a long collaborative mural," Casey Junker Bailey explained.

This original version of the artwork was displayed in a town store front, as a preview for the community.

This is a section of the original long, collaborative student mural that was replicated by local artists on the cement retaining wall.
Credit Casey Junker Bailey / Flood Brook Union School

Seventh and eighth grade students in the school's painting elective then spent several art classes making stencils of the younger children's work.

Middle school artists Annalise Bartlett and Gabby Blanchard translate the younger students' artwork into stencils.
Credit Casey Junker Bailey / Flood Brook Union School

Garrison Buxton also worked in the classroom with the older students involved with the project. "I gave a visual presentation on the history, relevance, and methodology of stencil making and worked with the middle schoolers to translate the art created by the elementary students into multi-layered stencils that could then be applied directly to the wall," Buxton said. "It was a great way to have their work present without their needing to work in a state roadway."

The group of adult Londonderry artists picked up the stencils toward the end of the school year, and got to work applying the students' work to the retaining wall. Local businesses and community organizations pitched in to pay for the supplies. And the work drew immediate attention, with passersby stopping to be photographed by the work-in-progress.

A flower-loving passerby stops to have his photo taken while the mural is in progress.
Credit Garrison Buxton / Ad Hoc Art

On site, the muralists added more flowers and embellishments to bring the wall together. 

Buxton summed up the effort saying, "One mural at a time, the world becomes a better place! Little houses amongst the flowers. Seeds of love rippling through space-time."

Due to its location along a state highway, those involved with the mural project know it won't last forever. Rain, snow and salt will eventually take its toll. However, school and community members plan to collaborate in order to keep the town's new landmark an evolving sight to behold. One community member called the idea "much like a collective Londonderry family refrigerator with ever-changing creative displays."