Monday, August 12, 2019

Art for the Masses

When you visit Lyons, New York, the welcome sign at the edge of town declares that this is the home of “Mural Mania.” We visited the former Peppermint Capitol of the World last summer and had fun checking out all the scenes of the town’s historic past.

In Shik Lee checks out the Macedon mural.
Besides painting its own walls, Lyons claims credit for infecting other canal towns in western New York with mural mania. Just last week, on our passage to Palmyra, we spotted a mural we’d never noticed before—even though it was painted in 2013 and we’ve been cruising these waters for a decade.

A Mural in Macedon—Who Knew?

The Macedon Mural is on the village volunteer fire department’s picnic pavilion, facing Lock 30. It combines canal history with fire department history. 

Tucked in one corner of the mural is a fire engine . . . or rather a pumper,“Old Betsy,” used by the fire department starting in 1864.

This pumper was pulled by humans, not horses—a group of (presumably brawny) firemen would haul it around the village. Maybe that was faster than hitching up horses? 
The mural in all its glory. The figure at left is identified as "Indian Charlie, who sold baskets in Macedon." Wish
there was more info about him!
The fireman on the far right is Elmer Clark, who was a beloved fire chief in the 20th century, not the 19th.

Why, you haven't changed a bit!
The rest of the mural aims to show what you would have seen if you were standing on the bank of the canal back in the mid 1800s.

The centerpiece is a canal boat, ready to be loaded with produce bound for Albany or New York.  This area of western New York was “America’s breadbasket” in those days.

There’s also a fine barn in the mural . . . and a few days after we spotted the mural, we went for a walk in the neighborhood and noticed a barn that looked strangely familiar. 

It was the barn from the mural, still standing.

Of Course Greece Has Murals

The Macedon mural put us on the hunt for more outdoor art. And as we headed west toward Buffalo, we spotted this mural in the small town of Greece, New York—right near curiously named HenPeck Park.

The three-panel mural, painted on a bridge abutment, doesn’t merge eras in history like the Macedon mural does . . . it keeps them neatly separated. 

Left panel: digging the canal. Central panel: Canal boats on the canal. Right panel: the 20th century barge canal. A neat little history lesson, and more attractive than the graffiti we see on most Erie Canal bridges.

This laugh-inducing sculpture is at the dock in Brockport.
A friend of ours uses the Instagram handle ArtfortheMasses. I thought of that name while looking at these murals. 

They’re not breathtaking, or brilliant, or likely to land their makers in a museum.

But they’re charming, smile-provoking. They make you stop and reflect for a moment. They transport you to another time, another world.  

And, being displayed in very public places, they get lots of eyeballs. Good deal for the artist and the art viewer, if you ask me!

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