Artists help with facelift at New London Police Department
New London — The city’s latest public mural project is in an unlikely location.
Artists have spent weeks transforming the lobby of the New London Police Department into a colorful, eye-catching and what some artists have described as uplifting environment.
The mural project, called the “Art of Community Protection and Service,” is the brainchild of Hygienic Art resident artist Troy Zaushny.
Among other projects, Zaushny was one of two artists behind the "Hard Hat Painters" mural on the side of the Carriage House building on Golden Street.
One day before Saturday’s public unveiling, Zaushny was on a lift in the lobby of the police department putting the finishing touches on an image of a mermaid jumping out of the water with New London landmarks on its tail.
Zaushny, the lead artist and instructor for the project, pulled together local students for a monthslong project that included classroom work, public forums and collaborations as they discussed ideas for the police department.
He saw it as an opportunity for students to have a conversation and maybe build some bridges with police.
While Police Chief Margaret Ackley allowed a mostly blank slate for the project — there were lines that could be crossed — Zaushny said the mural ended up being less of a social commentary and more aimed at the people most likely to see it.
Artists visiting the police department noted that the lobby was mostly occupied by people waiting for long periods of time, many with children.
The idea, Zaushny said, was to make the drab waiting area a little less intimidating for visitors.
He thinks police also might enjoy the inspiring display.
One wall is covered in a colorful mosaic representing the diversity of the city.
Another depicts a series of hand gestures — fist bumps, hands clasping and others reaching out to each other.
The hands, created by Clara-Luz Hoffman, have no recognizable skin tones.
“We don’t want the community to be against the police or the police against the community,” Hoffman said in an online video blog. “That’s what I wanted my piece to show.”
Hoffman is a student at the Science and Technology Magnet High School of Southeastern Connecticut.
This latest endeavor was made possible with a $34,000 grant from the State Department of Economic and Community Development through the Connecticut Office of the Arts Public Art Community Projects Program.
The project was supported by the city, Hygienic Art, the New London School district and New London Main Street.
Zaushny applied for a state grant with the help of Barbara Crouch, the Hygienic’s director of development.
Zaushny recalls that it was an official from the New London police department who first approached the Hygienic last year about painting a mural.
It came at a time when police and community tensions were high following protests surrounding the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody in Baltimore.
“I saw it was an educational opportunity,” Zaushny said. “We didn’t know what the images would be going in.”
The core contributing artists include Adriana Robbins, Xiangyu Jin, Arianna Burdick, Jessica Oppert, Ben Doukas, Moli Mitchel and Ben Abraham, along with co-instructor Kim Abraham.
They also were joined by students of Hygienic’s Artist Academy Jr. in making some of the smaller, movable murals for the project that were part of the project.
Saturday’s unveiling will be held at 11 a.m. at the New London Police Department.
The public is invited to a reception with the artists at Hygienic Art Park, 81 Bank St.
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