For art’s sake: Mural jazzes up Amherst Street

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Mural artist David Hady, foreground, dips his brush into some “spring crocus,” the base color for a new mural in progress on Amherst Street. The project is being produced by the Orbit Group in the name of promoting public art, says Orbit Group principle and creative director Liz Hitchcock, pictured in the background. The mural is taking shape on an exterior wall of Bunny’s Convenience. Photo/Carol Robidoux

MANCHESTER, NH — There is a wall on Amherst Street that demands your attention. Until about a week ago it was just another a brick wall in a city of brick walls with some details of interest that were easy to overlook — an architectural arcade of arches, white metal columns in need of some Rustoleum, and dark flourishes that hint of gargoyle.

But it was as much a tabula rasa as a nod to Manchester’s old city vibe for mural artist David Hady, who saw the potential there. And so he sketched out a proposal and floated it to building owner Pramod Nyaupane, who operates Bunny’s Convenience from that corner of Elm and Amherst streets.

Before: Stately architectural columns were in need of some refreshing, and artist Dave Hady gave them a fresh coat of paint. Courtesy Photo

Once he saw the design, Nyaupane gave the project the green light. 

“I thought it was cool, plus he’s a local guy, so why not?” he said. “It works out for everybody  – him as a local artist and a way to promote art, which is never a bad thing. Plus it gives a new look to the building, which is a win-win for everybody.”

Finding a willing host for a public art project among downtown building owners wasn’t as easy as Liz Hitchcock thought it might be.

“But in the end we found a great building owner and great art to go with the location,” says Hitchcock, creative director and principal at Orbit Group, which produced the project. “And Dave is an incredible artist.”

Longview of the mural in progress on Amherst Street. Artist David Hady. Photo/Carol Robidoux

The design is meant to be interactive and connects with the spirit of the street, which is now heavily under the influence of the revived Rex Theatre. Hitchcock said in brainstorming sessions they talked about other iconic murals that often show up on Instagram – like angel wings, umbrellas or faux park benches — and where people can insert themselves into the artwork.

This mural will provide several photo ops, although Hady is keeping the overall theme under wraps until it fully unfolds, hoping it might stir a little buzz among those who want to venture a guess.

Hitchcock said public art should provide a conversation piece that helps tell the story of a city.

“When the Currier put up the sculpture out front it was a bit controversial — and we hope this mural isn’t — but we do hope it generates some excitement and people see the importance of art for our community,” she says.

Hady is happy to leave his mark on his hometown. A 2007 graduate of Memorial High School, Hady says he always knew art was his ultimate career goal. He attended college part-time for several years, starting out at Manchester Community College and then switching to the NH Institute of Art, which recently became the Institute of Art and Design and New England College. He graduated last year with a degree in graphic design and illustration and has been making ends meet as a house painter, which he says gives him a technical edge for this project.

Mural artist Dave Hady hard at work on a public art piece on Amherst Street, made possible by The Orbit Group. Photo/Carol Robidoux

Last Friday Hady was making good progress. Stepping up on his ladder while simultaneously dipping his brush in a bucket of paint, he leans in and leaves a crisp blue line with one swipe of a thick brush. “Practice,” he says of his steady hand. Although he’s only just started, he says the mural should be completed by the end of this week, weather permitting.

The color palette is in complementary colors – purples, oranges, yellows, blues and browns, and Hady says he took inspiration from the unique canvas, which provided seven fragmented planes that work well with his design.

“There’s a fundamental rule these columns make and it was a big deal to figure out how to play with it,” he says.

Tabula Rasa: The blank slate with a base coat of “spring crocus” purple. Can you guess what it will be? Courtesy Photo

Curiosity-seekers and art lovers are encouraged to check out the mural on Amherst Street and make your best guess as to the theme, using the hashtag #luvMHT on social media. Are you a building owner interested in hosting a mural? Learn more at the MHT City Murals Project.

About Carol Robidoux 6532 Articles
Longtime NH journalist and publisher of Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!