A former JMU student creates a community with the Crozet fresco | Culture
When former JMU student, graphic designer and studio artist Emmy Thacker (’20) heard about a potential wall project in Crozet, Va., She was into it.
âI was really excited to be working on the building,â Thacker said. “I was excited to do something in my hometown.”
The âWelcome to Crozetâ fresco reveals the Shenandoah mountains in the background and orchards in the foreground, from Crozet’s past in the foreground. Thacker included berries, oranges and other fruits linked to Crozet’s agricultural history.
The idea for Crozet’s first public fresco was that of Charlie Crotteau. The current architecture student at Virginia Tech – and Thacker’s former classmate at Western Albemarle High School – spotted the perfect canvas: the English Meadows Senior Living Facility.
âI went to school in Crozet for middle school and high school, so I would take the bus in front of this building every day, and I was like, ‘Wow, this building is really ugly,’ Crotteau said.
It wasn’t until Crotteau looked at the stucco wall with a more artistic eye that the idea for the mural came to him.
âWhen you’re in Crozet and you walk into the main area, there’s a corner that you go around and you can see this particular wall looming above everything else without anything obscuring it,â said Crotteau. “It’s Crozet’s tallest building, and I thought it would be cool to have a mural there because it’s just a big white wall.”
With the canvas chosen for the seven-story fresco, Crotteau only had to find the artist to execute it. It was then that he remembered Thacker, who had also taken the bus in front of this building.
âI knew it should be someone from Crozet,â Crotteau said. “I also thought it would be cool to have someone my age and a little bit promising.”
Thacker graduated from JMU with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and a semester of architectural design knowledge. She said she “has always been interested in town planning and public space”.
Artists can act as a âbridgeâ between vision and community identity, Thacker said, using architecture as a vehicle for creative expression. âThe emotional experience of moving around the built landscape is something that I’m really excited to be able to explore with my work now,â Thacker said.
Crotteau and Thacker began working together on the mural, a process Thacker described as “iterative.”
âA lot of it had to do with just going to the site and sitting down and being with him,â Thacker said.
Thacker planned the mural using a grid method, separating the seven story wall into smaller squares to divide the mural.
Although Thacker and Crotteau were the project leaders, they were not the only ones who contributed to the mural. The team brought in 15 to 20 volunteers to help with the two-week project, Crotteau said.
Crotteau said people have voiced their opinions on Facebook and Nextdoor about the mural, with some sharing negative opinions. The Crozet Gazette published an article early on posting a concept design for the mural.
âIt wasn’t very good for what we were working on, and people panicked a bit,â said Crotteau.
Despite the article, Crotteau said the mural was received positively by locals and visitors.
âI think there were a lot more people who didn’t like it that much,â said Crotteau. “As they saw him come together, they were more open-minded.”
Crozet is, as Thacker put it, “a fairly closed community”.
“I know it’s not even the image on the wall, but rather the interface between the community [at English Meadows Senior Living Facility] and the Crozet community as a whole, âThacker said. âI am truly honored to have been able to bridge this gap.
As small towns begin to use murals and other art projects as a way to display their individuality, Thacker said, artists need to work cohesively with the community to create a “bridge” between the area and the ‘art.
âI do my best to put my own aesthetic preferences asideâ¦ but I think it’s a blessing to be able to step out of the equation,â Thacker said. âIt has a lot to do with listening and trying to differentiate between my own judgments, assumptions and desires, and what is true for community and space. “
Alan Goffinski, executive director of the Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative, highlighted the importance of murals as a way to spark conversation and urge historically rooted cities to have more progressive conversations.
And, aside from the fact that murals are a major link between artistic expression and a city’s identity, Goffinski said, they can also play on the landscape and architectural uniqueness of the region.
âCrozet is an interesting place because it’s a growing city, and they kind of have to imagine what the future of their city looks like,â Goffinski said. “I think artists and creative thinkers should play a role and contribute.”
Thacker said she felt a sense of pressure when she signed on to paint the mural, but said it was a “renewal” to keep the project going.
âIt just made me realize that if you have an idea you can make it happen, and a lot of people want to see new art and change in the community,â Thacker said.
Thacker said she hopes the positive reaction to the mural, both from English Meadow residents and pedestrians who have expressed support, will serve as a starting point for incorporating more art into small rural communities. .
Once people see what a mural brings to a community, Thacker said, they’ll be more willing to invest in art and public spaces.
Although the mural is a stepping stone to a more common art, Thacker described the room as “very reserved”.
âIt was a good bite to eat, but I also feel like it doesn’t really make the statement I would really like to make or support,â Thacker said. “It’s very subtle – I wouldn’t say it’s not progressive, but it’s more reserved.”
Thacker said she hopes to work on more complex projects in the future, using her talents to express her artistic voice and have more impact in the world of murals.
âIn my own work, I’m just starting to explore my own voice and my own language and bridge the gap between ideas and visual expression,â Thacker said.
Thacker said she was excited to have a role in this project, adding her own artistic voice to the discussion.
âI have confidence in my abilities and my creative vision to be able to get on a job site and I am confident that I can solve any problems that arise and execute a plan,â Thacker said. âJust doing this on such a big project really gave me the confidence to take a non-traditional path. “
Contact Emma Johnson at [email protected] To learn more about the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture office on Twitter and Instagram at @Breeze_Culture.