Updated: Aug 20, 2020
Mike Lamendola, leader of Garfield's River to Rail District run by Greater Bergen Community Action, Inc. in partnership with the City of Garfield, was the first NPP Coordinator to take the NJ NPP program's mural location recommendations from their Visual Punch List and build them into their local NPP Implementation Plan. Even more so, he and his NPP Team had dreams of creating a big visible and tangible impact in the heart of their District. They wanted to make those dreams real to show the community, businesses, and region that Garfield was on the move and that the Revitalization of the River to Rail District around Passaic Street was really happening. And then, when COVID-19 hit Garfield so hard, they wanted to create an authentic and inspiring beacon to personify hope and potential of a better future.
So they went big. Mike reached out to internationally-acclaimed mural artist Kelsey Montague (Instagram: @kelseymontagueart; Web: https://kelseymontagueart.com/) and they began a multi-month plan and dialogue about how to represent Garfield in the context of her global #WhatLiftsYou theme and the goals of the River To Rail NPP program. As Kelsey the artist noted:
“I travel the world creating these massive interactive street art murals. I'm super excited to be here in Garfield with Greater Bergen who commissioned this train. All my work is interactive in some way. So for this piece, you'll be able to look like you can jump on the edge of a train and look like you're taking off with the train.
I really loved working with Greater Bergen...it's amazing to work with clients who want to offer something special for their community...that people here can really take ownership of and relate to and love and have fun with. And I just hope that this work inspires and uplifts the community here and I hope you will come and visit this awesome town. It's a really cool place.”
Here was the site, seen by train passengers and everyone that uses the Garfield Station. It had looked like this for years and was the first (and only) impression of the River To Rail District that people had:
And here are some photos of the just finished mural with Kelsey, Mayor Rich Rigoglioso, and other local dignitaries:
After months of planning and preparation, it took 5 days (in a row) of work in the summer heat to finish the mural. Take a look at how it happened on this time-lapse video:
The Mayor, the community, the NPP District stakeholders, the artist, and her fans and followers love it:
The local stakeholder and business support for the mural and River to Rail district is phenomenal. NPP Garfield Team member/volunteer (and local restaurateur/entrepreneur) Steve Chrisomalis is offering free milkshakes to folks who post their Instagram photos of the mural with a grand prize winner of free food for a month at Steve's Burgers!
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