The Forge project at 490 Broadway is sporting a new mural. The piece was painted by muralist Julia Bottoms, who I spoke with earlier today. Here’s what she had to say:
Does the mural have a name?
“Out of the old comes something new…”
How did it come about?
It’s thanks to developer Ernst Valery (SAA EVI Development) who wanted something eye-catching, and would tell the story of the site itself. Before, the site was that of Buffalo Forge, which manufactured steel products. Then it was a brownfield (sitting fallow). For years, developer Rhonda Ricks* pushed to have this site developed; she wanted to build nice housing in the neighborhood – a neighborhood that doesn’t have enough of it. For years she ran into closed doors, until she teamed up with Ernst. She was committed to the site, and to the project. She passed away before the project was completed, but her vision did come to life – she got to see the beginning stages of the development.
*Aside from the Rhonda Ricks Memorial Mural, there is also a street named after the minority developer who literally “forged ahead” with her dream to build the housing development – the street is called Dr. Rhonda Ricks Way.
Tell me more about the design.
I wanted to talk about the history of the site and honor Ricks with the design. One of her favorite flowers was the rose. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to incorporate flowers… something growing where nothing had grown previously. The gears are a nod to the industrial history.
How big is it?
About 60 feet high by 48 wide.
What did you think when you first saw the wall?
For every muralist, seeing the wall for the first time, you get super excited. For me, it’s a dream to paint a surface that was so smooth. I’m used to painting on textures.
^Drone footage: Rook Hawkins (IG:@awrstudios)
What was challenging about the project?
When the boom lift first arrived, I remembered that I have a fear of heights – it took a while for me to get used to it.
Any other challenges?
When you work with such large scale, it can be difficult to get the realism right. The smallest rose is my height. I would go back and forth, up and down, viewing from afar, reevaluating… it’s easy to lose perspective when you’re up so close.
How long did it take?
About a month.
Was this the biggest mural that you ever worked on?
No, I worked on the Louise Jones mural downtown, which is actually bigger.
What other murals have you painted around town?
It was a fun project – very challenging. I think this project was very special. You don’t always see developments like this – I feel good about painting this, because the developers cared about the project and the people that live there. I toured the site… the housing is beautiful and affordable, and needed in this neighborhood. It’s about putting people first.
The Forge on Broadway was designed by Silvestri Architects