WELLSVILLE - After more than eight years of work, with the last strokes of paint applied on Wednesday afternoon, the Wellsville floodwall mural project is now complete. A dedication ceremony will be held at the floodwall at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Local and state dignitaries expected to attend, and the public is welcome.
Candy Bangor, president of the Wellsville Revitalization Committee, said she can hardly remember what the floodwall looked like when it was just bare concrete, with weeds and brush growing along its base. "Now there's thousands of dollars of artwork here, and people are coming to see it, and that's a great accomplishment," she said.
Bangor said seeing the finished product was a revelation since she and her fellow committee members have often thought of it more as a task to be completed over the years. "I've been looking at this project from the inside out, never realizing fully what it's like to stand and look at it from the outside in and just enjoy it," she said. "I'm looking at it with joy, rather than, 'How are we going to get this done?'"
Artist Gina Hampson puts finishing touches to the final panel of the Wellsville floodwall mural on Wednesday afternoon. State and local dignitaries will preside over a dedication ceremony, scheduled for Saturday evening at the floodwall. (Photo by Richard Sberna)
Connie Carmichael, WRC vice president, said the project has weathered a lot over the eight years since it began, including the deaths of other committee members, to finally come to fruition. "It is all so worth it now," she said.
For artist Gina Hampson of Hanoverton, the floodwall has become a home away from home. "This has been my own little corner of the world for the last eight years," she said.
Hampson laughed recalling a common question towards the beginning of her work on the mural. "A lot of people asked me, 'What if a flood comes? Isn't it going to wash it all off?'" She explained that wasn't very likely, as she's been using 25-year exterior-grade paint. "I can't tell the difference between bricks I painted in 2005 and the bricks I painted this summer," she said.
Still, Hampson wasn't above admitting a mistake of her own. She said that most of the photos she some cases, however, the panels had no source materials other than residents' stories and recollections. One was of the St. Rocco's Festival procession. Hampson recalled hearing stories about the procession from older residents during a visit to Bangor's home.
"They said every year, they would carry a statue of St. Rocco through the festival. So when I drew the picture, St. Rocco was lying down." She laughed and said that committee member Jim Saracco kindly explained to her that, as depicted in the statue, St. Rocco was most definitely standing up. "That's the only sketch I've had to change," Hampson said.
Funding for the project has come entirely from committee fundraisers or through private donations, with many of the individual panels dedicated to families or individuals. Bangor emphasizes that no government money, at any level, was involved in the project. Private donations also responsible for the boardwalk and a life-sized bronze statue of a boy fishing off the boardwalk, scheduled to be installed today.
The celebration will continue at 7:30 p.m. at the Son of Italy Lodge 657 on Main Street, including a performance by the Route 45 Band. Tickets for the event are available for $10 at the door or by calling 330-532-9488.