The Department of Public Art and reBOLD Binghamton, an organization dedicated to uniting Binghamton University students and Binghamton area residents, have teamed up to beautify Johnson City for the fourth annual Mural Fest. Held in Floral Avenue Park, the event will be a day of painting, live music and a barbecue on Saturday, May 5 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
This is the second year that Mural Fest is being held in Johnson City after its relocation from Cheri A. Lindsey Memorial Park in Downtown Binghamton in 2017. Chelsea Cleary, a volunteer artist with the Department of Public Art, emphasized the importance of appreciating local art.
“We want residents to have beautiful images to enjoy,” Cleary said. “We hope that folks can rethink the storefronts or buildings from just blighted buildings to possible business space.”
The Triple Cities area contains many neighborhoods, abandoned properties and homes. Although art won’t solve the broader economic issues that cause the Binghamton area’s housing problems, Mural Fest organizers said they hope it can aid in bringing those problems to the forefront.
“The hope is that we will inspire folks in the community to want to create,” Cleary said. “When they visit these parks with the murals, we want them to feel a sense of ownership of the art because they helped make it.”
A feature of Mural Fest is the family-friendly environment created by the offering of activities for people of all ages. There are opportunities ranging from full-scale murals created by experienced artists to amateur painting for children. Cardboard animals and “box cities” — small cardboard model buildings that construct a city — are two options for children to paint.
According to Cleary, volunteer artists will paint mural installations that will either stay at the park or be displayed on old buildings around the Triple Cities.
For the organizers of the event, the effect that Mural Fest has on the children who attend is a huge motivator to make the event a success. Cleary said she was inspired to get involved after attending a previous Mural Fest and seeing its impact.
“It was amazing to see the children painting the giant cardboard houses and animals with their friends and caretakers,” Cleary said. “The kids have such a great time painting and their enthusiasm is definitely contagious.”
In addition to providing a calming environment that works toward the improvement of the area, Mural Fest aims to elevate attendees’ appreciation of art in general. Mural Fest’s coordinators said they intend to show attendees the positive influence art can have on the city’s morale.
“I want to inspire the youth in the area to see art as not something that you can only enjoy in a gallery or a formal place, but rather, it’s everywhere and anywhere they want to see it,” Cleary said.
Peg Johnston, a founding member of the Department of Public Art, said she has noticed the effect that art can have on a community.
“We love to go into neighborhoods that are visually dull and have been neglected,” Johnston said. “Public art just delights.”
Aside from the painting component of the festival, there will be tables for local community organizations and artisans. Live performances from bands Hot Dogs and Gin, Adam Ate the Apple and other local artists will play throughout the day, and barbecued food will be available for sale.