Color and vibrancy has returned to downtown Nashua as nearly 20 artists have been working to beautify what would otherwise be boring cement barriers.
"We are bringing something really different to Main Street that is going to brighten things up and improve that lull from the past year. There is going to be some life brought back into the downtown," said artist Cecilia Ulibarri, co-founder of Nashua's Positive Street Art.
Ulibarri is one of many artists working throughout the past week to paint 2,400 linear feet of jersey barriers that are being installed in the downtown area to expand outdoor dining for local restaurants.
Two groups were selected for the project — Positive Street Art and Beyond Walls of Lynn, Mass.
“The process itself has been not only creative, but really beautiful. The true beauty, to me, is seeing it all come together and making everyone very proud of this special accomplishment,” said Ulibarri.
The project is unlike a traditional mural or painting, as artists are often lying on the ground and working with just three feet of space while traffic is buzzing by and the wind is whipping around.
The artists admit that it has been a challenging, yet rewarding experience trying to convert a cold cement barrier into a work of art. The surface must be heated to at least 55 degrees for the paint to adhere properly, which has created some difficulties in the past week and a half.
Positive Street Art has 11 artists participating in the project, with all of them taking on different creative aspects to the theme — the four elements of nature, fire, water, earth and air, as well as space.
“It is going great so far. It has been a blast working with so many different artists,” said Manuel Ramirez, co-founder of Positive Street Art. “We told the artists to interpret the elements of nature either literally or figuratively, and we gave them the freedom to create their own piece that will all tie together as a whole.”
The jersey barriers were installed in temporary spaces downtown on March 29, and once the paintings are completed on Wednesday, the barriers will be relocated on Thursday to their semi-permanent homes outside downtown businesses. The barriers are being utilized along Main Street and some other downtown roadways to allow for restaurants to offer expanded outdoor dining.
“This has been a team effort to make this a reality. It is going to be a cool experience driving downtown and looking at the outdoor art gallery that we are setting up and all of the people dining outside,” Ramirez said.
Beyond Walls, a creative place-making organization dedicated to activating public spaces to strengthen communities, is also helping to improve the aesthetic look of the jersey barriers.
Golden 305, a Venezuelan muralist also known as Cristhian Saravia, traveled from Miami to Nashua to help Beyond Walls with its portion of the project, which includes painting 75 barriers.
“I have fallen in love with this area,” Golden 305 said last week while taking a break from his downtown painting. “It is art and it is energy that is going to make this place nicer and better for everybody.”
It is Golden 305’s first time painting cement barriers, and the renowned muralist admits that it is not easy. There is rain, wind and cold weather to contend with, as well as traffic and pedestrians, he said.
“But I just adapt to whatever,” said Golden 305, who has been utilizing 12 base colors to create an abstract design.
The barriers are being placed outside many downtown establishments, including Surf Restaurant, Peddler’s Daughter, San Francisco Kitchen, Fratellos Italian Grille, MT’s Local Kitchen and Wine Bar, Joanne’s Kitchen, Main Street Gyro, Nashua Garden and others.
“There is a real excitement in the air, and this project is creating an atmosphere that is far more pedestrian-friendly,” said Al Wilson, founder and chief executive officer of Beyond Walls. “It has been a real joy. The enthusiasm of the public has been really infectious and something to run on.”
Not only will the outdoor dining help during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it will make the entire downtown area more colorful, vibrant and safer, according to Wilson.
It is heartwarming to see so many artists join forces for such a great cause, he said, adding the whole Nashua community will benefit from the rejuvenated Main Street landscape.