CHINCOTEAGUE: Funding sought for three-story downtown mural

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PHOTO COURTESY MICHAEL ROSATO Designs for a three-story mural in downtown Chincoteague depict the history of the town through its historic working waterfront and local marine life.

BY CLARA VAUGHN, Eastern Shore Post —

Chincoteague’s downtown merchants are raising funds to bring a mural to one of the town’s oldest buildings.

The project by the Historic Main Street Merchants Association aims to add a three-story rendering of Chincoteague’s historic working waterfront to the north side of 4110 Main St.

Artist Michael Rosato, of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, plans to begin work late this summer, after businessowners raise funds for the project.

“A mural is like one frame of a story,” Rosato said. “People engage with stories if it’s a good story. It engages the viewer to find out a little bit more.”

“We’re hoping that this mural will open the door for other blank canvasses to get considered for murals,” said Cindy Faith, a member of Chincoteague’s Main Street Merchants.

The concept of creating a larger-than-life canvas on the 1892 building came about a year ago, after the former Showard Brothers Hardware building was torn down, Faith said. 

In recent years, the shop was home to the Purple Pony Shirt Company, but it had fallen into disrepair, she said.

Razing the 90-year-old storefront exposed the side of the neighboring business, a former Masonic building that houses Sunsations.

The three-story building is visible from the causeway, giving travelers their first glimpse of the mural as they approach Chincoteague Island. From there, the painting will open up to a lifelike scene showing watermen working along the backdrop of downtown Chincoteague as it would have appeared a century ago.

Chincoteague is “an incredible community with a long history and a very real and engaging story, and it lends itself wonderfully to storytelling through murals,” Rosato said.

The self-trained artist has been creating murals for over 30 years and specializes in narratives told through realism and large-scale pieces.

He lives in Church Creek, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and has created dozens of murals, including a recent rendering of Harriet Tubman at her namesake museum in Cambridge, Md.

Rosato met with the downtown merchants to develop the concept of a painting that tells the history of Chincoteague Island. The scene celebrates diversity with two watermen, including the image of well-known Chincoteague resident Woose Reed, and features local marine life such as flounder, shellfish, and a 8-by-16-foot blue crab.

“As you come in closer to the mural, you start to see the detail of the fish in the water, the crabs buried in the sand,” Rosato said.

“An important part of the mural painting is that viewer experience,” he said. “When a viewer looks at the wall, you want to engage them.”

Business owners provided input on the final design, which is “a celebration of Chincoteague’s history with the seafood industry and the working watermen,” Faith said.

The building is historic, too, surviving two major fires that destroyed most of the downtown area aside from a few brick structures. It served as Chincoteague’s post office for years after the former post office burned down in 1920, Faith said.

“You can look at it two ways: You can look at it as blight, or you can look at it as a blank canvas,” she said of the recently exposed wall.

“Murals bring walls to life,” said Rosato.  “It can transform a building – sometimes it can transform people in front of it.”

They agreed the mural will draw visitors downtown, into shops, and even to the Museum of Chincoteague Island to learn more about the history shown in painting.

Work on the mural and repairs to the wall will cost around $36,000, Faith said, and the merchants are raising funds to complete the project.

Supporters can donate directly to the effort by walking in to Taylor Bank or by dropping off a donation at Sundial Books, both on Main Street, she said. They can also mail a donation to Sundial Books, care of Historic Main Street Merchants, 4065 Main St., Chincoteague, VA 23336.

The Main Street Merchants will host a fundraising event at the end of the summer, which they will announce at a later date, Faith said.

Businesses can sponsor the mural, which is tax deductible, and a GoFundMe page for the project is forthcoming, she said.

Visit www.michaelrosato.com to learn more about Rosato and his murals.

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