Downtown’s farm mural to get a facelift

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The faded mural on the East End Arts Council's barn.

The “Welcome to Riverhead” tractor mural on East End Arts Council property is about to get a face-lift.

It’s a little faded and worn, so downtown Business Improvement District officials are planning to bring the same artist back to either paint a new mural or touch-up the old one.

The mural was painted in 2003 by Pennsylvania artist Wayne Fettro and was paid for by the Agricultural Heritage Festival committee. The BID board agreed last Wednesday to allocate $6,000 to hire Mr. Fettro for a week and pay for his hotel room.

“To me, that barn is a disgrace the way that mural has been left to decay,” said BID member Ed Densieski, who spearheaded the move to have the barn painted in 2003, when he was a Riverhead Town Board member.

At the time, the project was opposed by the town’s landmarks preservation committee, since the barn itself has landmark designation. Then-councilwoman Barbara Blass said it would look “a little tacky.”

The East End Arts Council also wasn’t happy about it at the time. The barn, which was built before 1870, sits on town-owned land that is used by the East End Arts Council. The council’s executive director, Pat Snyder, declined to comment when contacted this week on the mural plans.

BID members say part of the problem leading to the mural’s decay has been that the property’s irrigation system has been regularly spraying water at the painting’s base.

Richard Wines, chairman of the landmarks preservation committee, said the group’s original objection was due to the fact that the first version of the painting represented Pennsylvania farming scenes, complete with a grain silo.

“We wanted to make sure the picture represented Long Island farming,” he said. The image was amended accordingly, and Mr. Wines said the committee has no problem with it now.

The barn was originally a carriage house owned by Moses Benjamin, who operated a drug store near where Parto’s restaurant is now, according to Mr. Wines.

Mr. Densieski sad the mural has been well received over the last eight years.

“That mural has been featured in many, many magazines,” he said at last Wednesday’s BID meeting. “It’s very popular. People talk about it. And I think it would be nice if we got that back to its original luster.”

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