The Arts

Hummingbird mural to stay, building owner says


A colorful mural on East Main Street seemed destined to be taken down a couple of weeks ago after the building owner’s architect said that it would be removed as part of a facade alteration.

But an effort by Caitlyn Shea — the artist who created the mural last summer — to save the piece of public art seems to have worked: the mural has proven too popular to remove.

“I thought it was nice to see that people have supported it,” building owner Jason Gamba of Garden City said on Wednesday.

Mr. Gamba said that doors and windows will be added to the side of the building that the mural was constructed, which could potentially cause damage to it. Knowing this, he offered Ms. Shea the opportunity to paint over the doors and the area around the windows after they’re added.

Due to financial constraints, however, she’s unsure if that will be feasible.

“To put it in originally was about $1,500,” she said. “Just the lift to get up there is $900, so it’s not like I can easily change things or make arrangements for that.”

Architect Chuck Thomas told the News-Review in late July that the building, which is expected to become a restaurant on the first floor and an apartment on the second, would undergo an exterior alteration that would remove the mural entirely.

Ms. Shea then created a public Facebook page called “Save the Hummingbird Mural” in order to gain support for the painting. As of Wednesday afternoon the page had over 240 members.

Additionally, she passed around a petition at Friday’s JumpstART event, which garnered about 50 signatures. Ms. Shea said she had plans to create an online petition, but no longer sees the need.

The artwork clearly made an impact on one person in particular — a potential tenant for the second-floor apartment was drawn to the space because of the mural, Mr. Gamba said.

He added that he hopes the renovated building, and the remaining hummingbird mural — which Ms. Shea called “The Garden Party” — will draw people to downtown Riverhead and showcase the town’s potential.

“That’s what public art is supposed to do,” Ms. Shea said. “It’s supposed to make people want to be near it. It’s supposed to increase business in the local area. So it was a positive in the end.”

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