by Gary Schuster

A picture is worth a thousand words. Rather than reading dry statistics on the arts as an engine of economic development, look instead at a picture. Maybe it’s more like a movie.

In 2002, Newburgh’s Father Bill Scafidi conceived the notion of brightening up the Newburgh waterfront with a mural painted on the massive, gray, graffiti-riddled railroad trestle that blocked the view of the city. The idea was greeted enthusiastically, and Trestle, Inc. was formed as a not-for-profit corporation. A contract, drawn by a local attorney, was entered into with Carriage House Art Studio, the business run by the artist and muralist, Garin Baker, who lives in New Windsor but works frequently in Newburgh.

The first step was to prepare fundraising materials. Trestle and Garin hired local photographers and digital artists to prepare a 30″ mock-up of the proposed mural. Local writers, designers and printers were engaged to put together a fundraising packet, as well as a promotional piece for the sale of the personalized bricks that have been installed in the sidewalk near the mural. Most of the bricks are from a supplier in New Windsor.

After initial funds were raised, the next step was to secure the necessary permits from the City of Newburgh and CSX, the railroad that owns the trestle. The City permit was obtained rather easily, but the railroad required a lengthy contract as well as several kinds of insurance, some of which proved to be uncommon and difficult to secure. Trestle engaged another local attorney to negotiate and oversee the contract and help acquire the insurance. The insurance was purchased through a local insurance agent.

With permits and insurance in place, physical work could commence. The first task was to prepare the wall. In order to get people on the wall, scaffolding was needed. A local scaffolding company was engaged. Its employees erected the scaffolding, smoothed and resurfaced the wall to create a uniform and moisture-resistant surface, and then applied a primer. All the employees were local, and the materials were purchased locally. A local carpenter was hired to build an on-site storage shed. A local printer produced the banner that was hung from the Genie lift.

Once the wall was primed, Garin hired assistant painters. There were about 12 assistants in all, working at various times. The assistants were all experienced, local, working artists. Local photographers and digital artists were also hired to take photos of Newburgh scenes and then digitally alter them to serve as models for the painting. Naturally, the project required a lot of paint and brushes and other materials. Many materials were donated but much was purchased locally. Finally, two bronze plaques, giving credit to the painters and major donors, were ordered from a local supplier.

When the mural was completed, a publicist promoted the dedication event. There was catering and entertainment, all from local sources. If merchandise based upon the mural is ever produced and sold, designers, manufacturers, warehouses, shippers and others will be kept busy for years.

Virtually all the money raised by Trestle was spent and circulated within the community, generating local employment, the sale of goods and services, and tax revenues. Other value has been created, much of which cannot be quantified. While the mural was being painted, more people visited the waterfront, and stayed longer. More food and drink was sold. More parking fees were collected. More shopping was done. Busloads of school children visited to watch and learn. People who live in Newburgh feel better about Newburgh. People outside Newburgh think better of Newburgh. As the commercial says: priceless.

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