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Conference will highlight public art in canal communities

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 August 2014 at 12:00 am

‘Mural Mania’ leader wants murals in every canal town

Photo by Tom Rivers – Orleans County’s canal towns already have many murals, including eight in Holley on an octagonal building by the Canal Park and lift bridge. Artist Stacey Kirby created these murals called Treasures of Holley. They were unveiled in the spring 2010.

An international conference focusing on the power of murals to beautify and educate will be in the Rochester region in 2016, and the leader of the local effort wants to see more murals in canal communities.

Mark Decracker, founder of Mural Mania, has spearheaded many murals in the Wayne County area. He pushed to bring the Global Mural Conference to the Rochester area in 2016. U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand announced the international will be coming to highlight public art along the canal.

Decracker said there are now murals in every canal community for 75 miles heading east of Rochester from Macedon to Syracuse. He would like to see at least one mural in every canal community – all 363 miles of the canal – within two years.

“You can take an unsightly area and turn it around,” Decracker said. “People will come to see a corridor of art.”

Provided photo – Arthur Barnes is pictured next to a 10-foot-long mural he installed in January at the corner of Presbyterian and Knowlesville roads at a former fire station. The mural highlights the nearby Widewaters section of the canal.

Photo courtesy of Mural Mania – This mural highlights the Battle of Sodus. It is one of several historical-themed murals in Wayne County.

Decracker is working to create an inventory of all of the public art along the canal trail. He also wants to encourage communities to add more. The conference can provide a goal to get the projects done by 2016, but Decracker said the murals will be a benefit long after the conference.

“We should do anything we can to improve the space,” he said. “Murals have a proven track record. They promote our heritage. They are a place to learn. Tourists will also stay longer if they can learn about local history.”

Decracker pushed for his first mural in 2007 in the village of Lyons. The community continues to embrace the projects and more towns reach out to him for help with projects.

“It’s a new renaissance along the canal,” he said. “We are filling in the gaps pretty quick. We can really make this place (the Canal Corridor) pretty special.”

Gillibrand held a press conference with Decracker on Aug. 11, announcing her support for the region to host the murals conference. A week later, an official announcement was made that the conference would be coming to the Rochester area.

“This is great news for the Finger Lakes Region and for everyone along the Erie Canal Corridor,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “This convention will bring welcome attention to the wealth of murals along the Erie Canal, as well as highlight everything that the region has to offer. It will bring together international, national, and local artists and give greater visibility to the talented artists in the area. The conference will encourage community discussion about how the arts can help to narrate the story of the Erie Canal and showcase our history in unique ways.”

Photo by Tom Rivers – Suzanne Wells, a retired Albion art teacher, created this Erie Canal-themed bench for downtown Albion. It is one of 10 benches painted as murals in Albion.

Decracker would like to work with schools to create individual art pieces that could be included in a larger mosaic. He would like that collective piece to then be showcased along the canal in a traveling boat.

Gordon Prestoungrange, president of the Global Mural Conference, said Decracker and Mural Mania put on a compelling presentation, convincing the conference leaders to come to the canal communities.

“This location was chosen because we wanted to learn about all that this region has to offer, and we are excited to aid in the revitalization of the canal corridor,” he said. “The Global Mural Conference will bring enthusiasm about the arts to Western New York and inspire even greater creativity in the area in the future.”

For more information, click here to see the web site for Mural Mania.