Willimantic Public Art continues its mission to beautify the city

November 1—WILLIMANTIC — Since their creation in 2021, Willimantic Public Art has made it its mission to beautify the city.

The nonprofit’s latest project, “Riverside Drive Art Walk,” features 200 feet of artwork by 20 diverse local artists. At a groundbreaking ceremony on Friday afternoon, Windham Town Manager Jim Rivers said the art walk reflected the progress being made in the town.

“It’s a place that turns into a destination,” he said. “You’re all activists in this town and you make these things happen and I’m glad you’re all here.”

WPA plans to keep the art until it drops.

WPA secretary Matthew Vertefeuille, who is Windham’s town development manager, said the art walk features works by “talented artists” who have imbued the area with “pride, energy and joy”.

Artists of different ages and backgrounds contributed to the project.

“The work reflects the creativity and diversity of Willimantic,” said WPA Treasurer Chris McNaboe.

Vertefeuille said WPA, a non-profit organization, was created because members felt art was “too important not to share.”

“We also wanted to see more art in town,” he said.

WPA’s mission is also to preserve art in the city.

“I think we need art in our lives, art in society,” Windham Mayor Thomas DeVivo said of the importance of WPA’s work.

The nonprofit was created with a $10,000 donation from the city’s Destruction and Beautification Fund. In July, Windham City Council decided to pay the money from the bottle bill into this fund. Under state law, as of July 1, municipalities now receive funds from wholesalers who sell liquor bottles that are 50 millimeters or smaller.

Rivers credited Vertefeuille for its burn-relief work which includes cleaning up graffiti, work in which WPA has also been involved.

The group is also involved in bringing new art to the city, including murals and painted electrical boxes. State Representative Susan Johnson, D-Willimantic, said the art walk is part of the plan to create an arts and entertainment district, which the city has planned for 20 or 30 years.

“We all work together, making sure we have a great community here and we know the best things happen when we work together,” she said.

During the event, Northeast Connecticut Chamber of Commerce President Sheila Anderson Frost spoke enthusiastically about the work done by WPA, noting that she is “not a fan of the burn.” .

“It’s a wonderful project and I can’t wait to see how it continues,” she said.

The project was made possible through the support of CT Humanities, with funding from Prides Corner Farms in Lebanon, Leo J and Rose Pageau Trust, Connecticut Department of Economic Development Office of the Arts, and many other private donations.

During the event, Prides Corner Farms in Lebanon presented WPA with a check for $4,500, which was raised through a plant sale organized by the company.

Artists who contributed to the art walk include students from Windham High School, art students from Capitol Theater magnet high school, faculty members from Eastern Connecticut State University, teachers from Windham High School and others.

“I didn’t pay them a dime to do this,” Eastern Connecticut State University president Elsa Nunez said, referring to Eastern faculty members who participated in the

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