The Hippo


May 25, 2020








Artist Barbara Andrews learning to use the lift from Sunbelt Rentals. Shoshana Goldfein photo.

See “Vivian’s Dream”

Where: The corner of Main and West Pearl streets in Nashua, on the wall behind the TD Bank parking lot

Dreams come true
Tremont House returns to Nashua

By Kelly Sennott

 “One thing I have not heard yet, thankfully, is ‘you’ve missed a spot!’” said mural artist Barbara Andrews during a break from painting the long-awaited downtown Nashua mural known as “Vivian’s Dream.”

It was a hot and, thankfully, dry Monday afternoon, a week and a half before the unfinished mural’s July 20 dedication ceremony. Andrews sported paint-splattered jean cut-offs and a forest-green V-neck during the interview, adding slabs of sunblock and a floppy brown canvas hat while she worked. Volunteers were beginning to trickle in for the afternoon shift.
Despite quite a few days of unpaintable weather, the mood was light.
“You need someone to hold the net?” joked a crew volunteer, Basil Mansfield, who’d be one of Andrews’ spotters that day. He’d wheeled over during lunchtime on a fluorescent bicycle. 
Andrews had spent the better part of three weeks — when it wasn’t raining — piecing together the structure of the 35- by 40-foot mural depicting the Tremont House hotel in 1909. The image came from an old postcard, and she was approximately three quarters the way through.
The former building, which was at the corner of Main and West Pearl streets, once hosted Theodore Roosevelt during a visit to the city. In its heyday, the space was a center for commerce, with grocery shops, coffee houses and mills nearby. 
Andrews is no stranger to mural painting, nor to Nashua. She recently finished a mural on Water Street that looks south from an area near Railroad Square. She’s also the artist behind the Nashua mill landscape decorating Darrell’s Music Hall, in addition to the wall art at the Nashua Boys & Girls Club.
It was she who proposed this larger-than-life slab of Nashua history to cover the wall behind the parking lot of TD Bank, on the corner of Main and West Pearl streets. When she presented the idea to building owner Jim Walker four years ago, he was excited, to say the least; his wife Vivian, who’d owned a shop down the street, always dreamed that a mural might light up that downtown intersection. She died in 2011, and ever since, the project’s been “Vivian’s Dream.”
“It’s very architecturally detailed,” Andrews said. 
Most of her murals — which she travels across the country to paint, to Colorado and Florida most recently — depict natural scenes. 
“It’s definitely a bigger project than I’d normally do,” Andrews said. 
Actually, it turned out to be a larger project than anyone expected. There were obstacles to overcome, money being the largest. The paint, for instance, needed to be high quality.
“It dries quickly,” Andrews explained. “If it’s hot, it might even dry right off the brush. It’s also water-based, so I don’t have to use a thinner on it. I can treat it almost like an acrylic. It doesn’t come off the wall, really, unless the wall behind it started to break down.”
Installed lights will ensure that, even at nighttime, the mural will glow. (It’s also a good four or five feet off the ground, which is ideal to avoid tagging.)
In the past year, City Arts Nashua has held numerous events to raise funds, from free concerts to painting raffles, champagne luncheons to monetary and in-kind donations. More than 100 names will cover the plaque that eventually will brand the mural, and that doesn’t even include volunteer help. 
The mural is part of a movement in Nashua; downtown public art is popping up everywhere, and Judy Carlson of City Arts Nashua hopes it continues. She envisions an outdoor city gallery of sorts, a place people will drive to in order to savor the murals, sculptures and city art, with the aid of maps and tours.
“We want it to be a destination for the arts,” Carlson said. “We have 18 sculptures and public monuments, five theater companies, a symphony. … There’s so much art and culture here.”
Admittedly, it took a while for everything to come together, Andrews said. But the feedback has been incredibly positive. While she painted, passersby admired the work, sometimes as many as seven at a time. One fellow claimed to have remembered that building as a kid. (It was knocked down in the 1920s; according to Andrews, the said the passerby was in his 90s.)
“When an artist wants to help improve the city, it’s not their duty; it’s their passion,” Andrews said. “It’s coming from the heart. … I love creating an effect, and making the public love the place where they live.”  
As seen in the July 24, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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