New mural brings pop of color to Storrs Street stairwell

  • Mural artist James Chase applies spray paint to the work of his painting on the stairs that go from Main Street down to Storrs Street on Wednesday, May 18, 2022. Chase is also an associate professor at New England College and he has several students helping on the sanction project. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Mural artist James Chase applies spray paint to the work of his painting on the stairs that go from Main Street down to Storrs Street on Wednesday. Chase is an associate professor at New England College and he has several students helping on the project. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Mural artist James Chase applies spray paint with a guide to the work of his painting on the stairs that go from Main Street down to Storrs Street.

  • Mural artist James Chase looks over the progress of the work of his painting on the stairs that go from Main Street down to Storrs Street on Wednesday, May 18, 2022. Chase is also an associate professor at New England College and he has several students helping on the sanction project. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • The mural painting on the stairs that go from Main Street down to Storrs Street on Thursday, May 19, 2022 that mural artist James Chase has been working on for the city. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • The mural painting on the stairs that go from Main Street down to Storrs Street. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Published: 5/20/2022 4:17:34 PM

Using cans of spray paint, artist James Chase and a few of his students from New England College are creating a multi-colored abstract portrait of downtown Concord in an area of the city that often goes unnoticed.

On the walls of the pedestrian stairway that connects Main Street to Storrs Street, Chase first laid down a white base coat of paint to cover the graffiti there. Then he taped off his geometric design and filled in the triangles and cubes with bright hues of orange, blue and yellow.

“Basically, I took all the buildings downtown and abstracted them and then started filling them in,” Chase said this week. “Once I had those buildings, then I spliced them and cut them, so you wouldn’t recognize them. But for me, that was the starting point. Then, I tend to put in moments of blue sky, moments of rest and there’s not a lot of green area here, so throwing in more green too. So really thinking about how color can really activate the space.”

Once it’s complete, the mural will be sealed to make it last longer.

“Unlike graffiti, this is more sanctioned,” Chase said. “What separates this, is it’s archival. It’s going to stand the test of time. If something does happen, because it’s an image of the city, we’re able to repair it and fix it.”

The work was commissioned through the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce and its committee dedicated to the city’s creative economy. Chase and the Chamber successfully applied for a N.H. State Council for the Arts grant and then collected matching funds from a number of donors, including Bar Harbor Bank & Trust, Concord Antiques, The Courtyard by Marriott Concord and The Rowley Agency.

Chase came up with three different designs and then through conversation with the chamber’s Creative Concord committee, refined one into the final plan for the mural.

“That way stakeholders had buy-in of what’s actually going to be here, not just me being commissioned to do what I want,” Chase said. “It’s more of a reflection.”

That particular area was chosen because it’s one of the overlooked gateways to the city, with possible plans to bring an expanded winter farmers market and art market that would attract additional foot traffic.

“They were really trying to think about making downtown a more active place to be to stay, live, work and play,” Chase said.

Chase has a blueprint, but the final design remains a creative process between him and his New England College art students, all of whom are paid through the grant.

“My practice as an artist is trying to grow with each project and really give back whether that’s working with a municipality or working with students to kind of meet them where they’re at,” he said.

Chase, who got a master’s degree in studio art from Texas Tech University before moving back to New Hampshire, hopes the community likes the mural. Maybe it will be enough of an attraction, people will come by and take selfies with it.

As Chase was painting, cars driving by honked and others stopped by to watch his progress and offer compliments.

“What I always love about community art is a lot of the same people will come back and visit over time and they’ll see the transformation,” Chase said. “And those conversations that happen in between are just as rewarding.”




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