Two Springfield College students, Nadia Salett and Asher Simon-Plumb, were selected as two of 11 early-career muralists to earn apprenticeships this summer as part of the Fresh Paint Springfield 2021 (FPS2021) community project. This annual mural festival has transformed the city’s large exterior walls into works of art. This year, the festival features 10 new murals that will be located in areas of downtown Springfield and in the Mason Square neighborhood of the city.
As part of the apprenticeship, Salett and Simon-Plumb received over 100 hours of hands-on training in the processes and techniques of polytab community muralism from established muralists from across the United States.
“The class work I participated in at Springfield College helped prepare me for this apprenticeship,” said Simon-Plumb, who is an art major. “To be able to work with other artists and work out in the community and see our work around the city of Springfield is a great feeling.”
What makes polytab unique is the fact that the murals are not painted directly onto the wall, but instead, the murals start with facilitated community gatherings to identify themes, ideas, and images that resonate with the group. The muralist takes these ideas and designs the mural, which is then projected on to specially prepared polytab sheets, creating a giant paint-by-numbers set-up. The polytab sheets are brought out into the community for paint parties, where everyone can help paint the murals. The muralist then does the detail work, and finally the mural is permanently installed on the wall.
The apprenticeship program was created in response to the increasing demand for trained polytab muralists in communities throughout western Massachusetts. After this training, the apprenticeship participants will be able to independently plan, design, and install high quality community murals.
“What’s great about this program is, both Asher and I will have our own skillsets to make our own murals moving forward,” said Salett, who is a digital web and multimedia design major. “It’s great to be out working in the community with this project, but through this apprenticeship, we will have the step-by-step knowledge to create murals using the polytab method, and have the contacts to be able to work with other local artists moving forward.”
During FPS2021, all of the murals that were created allowed community members to provide input into the design of the mural. This process created opportunities for more than 1,000 Springfield residents to actively participate in the beautification of the city.
“Not only did community members have the opportunity to help paint the murals, but we also involved the building owners at the mural locations to make sure the works of art were meaningful to this city, and specifically meaningful to the neighborhoods in which they lived,” said Greta McLain, who is the preeminent community polytab muralist in the United States and led the apprenticeship for Fresh Paint Springfield.
With McLain’s assistance in leading the apprenticeship program, Fresh Paint Springfield can move forward with local artists now properly trained in the polytab technique, an aspect of the event that wasn’t possible heading into 2021.
“It’s very rewarding to witness the passion of local artists, and have them produce such wonderful works of art,” added McLain. “I am excited to watch this event grow, and view so many beautiful works of art throughout this great city of Springfield.”
Springfield College is an independent, nonprofit, coeducational institution founded in 1885. Approximately 4,100 students, including 2,500 full-time undergraduate students, study at its main campus in Springfield, Mass., and at its regional campuses across the country. Springfield College inspires students through the guiding principles of its Humanics philosophy – educating in spirit, mind, and body for leadership in service to others.