Student Mural Celebrates the Past—and Future

Guilford High School freshman Olivia Sommo is shown painting the Hyland House on the Sullivan Drive Bridge mural project, which will invite visitors to the entrance of the New England Trail.
Guilford High School freshman Olivia Sommo is shown painting the Hyland House on the Sullivan Drive Bridge mural project, which will invite visitors to the entrance of the New England Trail. Photo by Lorri Hahn

Marrying the past with the present, and creating a future vocal point for the town, 15 Guilford High School students replaced the graffiti along the bridge running over Sullivan Drive with a mural highlighting iconic parts of town such as the Green, Jacobs Beach, and the Hyland House.

The vision of 375th Anniversary Committee member Paul Mei, the mural adorns the five-foot-high, 44-foot-long abutment walls that line the bridge and now provide an inviting entrance to the East River Preserve.

Inspired by a student-created mural that adorns the walls of the Baldwin School, Mei had the idea last fall to include the students in the 375th anniversary celebration by having them create this mural. To start, the Guilford Public Works Department cleaned the concrete structures at the beginning of the year in preparation for the new paint job. The students then worked with professional muralist Brook Sheldon to create this unique piece of art.

"I thought that if the students created the mural, they would have more pride in it-and it's for them after all; they are the ones who will enjoy it for years to come," said Mei.

"I think this is a perfect example of the fact that these students love to give back to their community and help out when they can," said Guilford High School Principal Rick Misenti. "What these students have accomplished and created here is admirable, and it mirrors the fact that our students are actively involved in this town."

With the theme of "Guilford 375, Past, Present, and Future," the artscape isn't just intended to be beautiful, but also to inform visitors and residents about Guilford's diversity and history, as well as act as a gateway to the East River Preserve. The preserve land is part of the National New England Trail System, a 220-mile, national scenic trail that stretches from Guilford to New Hampshire.

The mammoth mural will be unveiled this upcoming weekend as part of the 375th Committee Celebration. The Covenant Memorial signing will take place on Saturday, June 7 from 1 to
3 p.m. at the point of land between Old Whitfield and Whitfield streets, and the New England Trail Dedication will take place Sunday, June 8 from 4 to
7:30 p.m. at Chittenden Park. The dedication event will feature musical performers, speeches, exhibits, food, and an official ribbon-cutting, followed by a performance by local bluegrass duo The Rosenthals. Bring lawn chairs and blankets to sit outside and enjoy the festivities.

The weekend will also include a parade, exhibits, historic home and museum visits, and walking tours of the East River Preserve, with student guides talking with guests about points of interest.

"The whole event should be a very good time for everyone, as well as very informative," explained Mei.

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