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Matthew Chew's friends push for city mural to reflect his art

New London - A group of young people living and working in the city is hoping that one of the murals to be painted downtown as part of a City Canvases Project will incorporate the artwork of a friend who was murdered on Huntington Street in 2010.

Matthew Chew was a 25-year-old aspiring artist and pizza maker when he was stabbed to death by a group of teens, one of whom said the group was roaming the streets looking for a victim because they were bored.

After his death, Chew's friends held vigils, met with city officials and eventually helped organize an annual youth talent show, not only to highlight the creative gifts of youngsters who live here, but also to give them something to do. Their friend loved working and living in the city, they say.

"Having one or more of his murals throughout the town would be a wonderful representation of who he was and how we are trying to help the community,'' Amanda Bachand, a friend of Chew, said.

His friends had talked with Rod Cornish of Hot Rod's Café about painting one of Chew's images on the side of the Bank Street restaurant when they heard New London was one of seven cities chosen to take part in the statewide mural project. They had been wondering how they could come up money to pay for the mural.

"Call me crazy, but to me, that's fate working at its finest.'' Bachand said.

They are hoping their proposal to incorporate Chew's abstract work into a mural on the Carriage House building facing Eugene O'Neill Drive will be chosen for the project.

"After he died, everyone was calling Matthew Chew a Renaissance man. He was a chef - an award-winning chef - a DJ, a musician and an artist,'' Jade Huguenot, who graduated from Ledyard High School with Chew, said. "He embodied the spirit of New London and what's good about it."

The city and Hygienic Art Inc., which is organizing the mural project, received a $126,000 grant from the Department of Economic and Community Development and the Connecticut Office of the Arts. The grant is part of the governor's City Canvas Initiative, which also includes Bridgeport, Hartford, New Britain, Stamford, Torrington and Waterbury.

The Hygienic is accepting applications through 5 p.m. Friday for proposals for murals on the side of Caruso Music on Eugene O'Neill Drive, the backside of the outdoor stage at the Hygienic Art Park, and the side of the Carriage House building on Golden Street, where Homeward Bound Treasures is located.

A. Vincent Scarano, president of Hygienic, said a committee will be looking at proposals, which should include why the person wants to do the mural.

"It can involve the arts community, the historical nature of New London. It can be about the city's diversity. It can be about anything,'' he said. "We're not looking for anything in particular, but it has to be great art.''

Chew's friends have been talking to muralist Carolyn McNeil of Norwich, who painted the sea horses racing above the door of Copperwood Grill, to submit a proposal for the mural, which would incorporate some of Chew's work.

"We met with Carolyn, she showed us the concept and I almost cried,'' Huguenot said. "It was incredible. I couldn't possibly have thought of anything better. It captured the culture of New London and a side of Matt."

All the murals are expected to be completed by June 30.

The grant provides money to prep the walls, scaffolding, and a special application to preserve the work.

Artists selected to paint a mural for the City Canvases Project in New London will receive $22,000 for the wall at Caruso's Music; $20,000 for the Carriage House wall; and $15,500 for the Hygienic wall. Editor's note: This corrects figures in an earlier version of this article.

Artist Peter Good already has been selected to create a fourth mural on an outside wall of the staircase tower at the Water Street parking garage. The 50-foot trompe l'oeil painting of shells will cost about $20,000.


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