The North Side got a long-awaited visit this Saturday when Mural Fest 2016 took place at Cheri A. Lindsey Memorial Park.
The event, focused on the beautification of the area as well as interacting with the people in it, brought students, locals and artists together to create new works.
“What sets this apart from a gallery walk is that we’re encouraging all the artists to have their own interactive, community-oriented activity,” said Matteo Reiss, volunteer coordinator at reBOLD Binghamton and an undeclared sophomore, a student group that Reiss describes as a “creative place-making” group.
Some of these interactive stations included painting cardboard houses, creating chalk murals and assisting artists with painting large canvases. Mural Fest also featured opportunities to listen to live music, observe the work of various local artists and help complete a large-scale mural on the wall of the park’s pool house.
This is the third year that Mural Fest was held in the city of Binghamton, but it was the first time it came to the North Side. In the previous two years, the event had been staged at the Peacemaker’s Stage in Downtown Binghamton.
Reiss said that moving the location of Mural Fest was a way to give some attention to an area of the city that rarely sees the event.
“That’s the great thing about Binghamton,” Reiss said. “They have all these events, but they never seem to come to the North Side.”
Mural Fest 2016 sought to change that.
“It’s a great way to show that we all care, and that every part of Binghamton cares about every neighborhood,” Reiss said.
According to Conrad Taylor, city councilman of the 4th District and a junior majoring in political science, this event is truly special.
“It’s just amazing,” Taylor said. “I think that bringing Mural Fest to the North Side was just one of the greatest decisions, because the community there really wants and needs something like this — something to occupy a Saturday afternoon in September.”
One artist present at the event was the winner of the the Mural Fest 2016 contest.
Amy Panella, of Endicott, is an art teacher at Vestal High School, as well as the grand-prize winner of the competition. Her work will be painted on the back of the old off-track betting building by the park, and will be visible from the highway and the river walk. According to Panella, the work features two hot-air balloons, a tribute to her father who recently passed.
“Now, every time I drive past it I’ll remember him, and it just makes me really happy,” Panella said.
During Mural Fest, Panella created a canvas and invited the community to help. The piece featured two holding hands, as well as the Helen Keller quote,
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
“My idea was that lots of people could help me paint the background and make it really colorful and pretty, and better than something I could do by myself,” Panella said.
Panella said she entered the contest in order to get back in touch with her creativity after the loss.
The event was put on by reBOLD Binghamton in collaboration with the Department of Public Art. Additionally, student involvement was substantial, through both volunteer work and tabling from the Center for Civic Engagement. Binghamton Sound, Staging and Lighting was also present to work with the musical performers.
According to many, Binghamton is the perfect city for this kind of event.
“This is just a great area for the arts,” Panella said. “You can’t beat it.”