Selectmen Approve ‘Fun, Whimsical’ Dog Park Mural
Pooches and their owners visiting Newtown Park and Bark, the community’s free range dog park on Old Farm Road, are in for a treat as the Board of Selectmen (BOS) has approved a local artist’s dog-inspired mural to be painted on an adjacent building.
On July 19, the BOS conducted a meeting in the Newtown Municipal Center’s council chambers to discuss and vote on the intended dog park mural, which depicts eight dogs, of all different breeds, looking over a fence with yellow flowers lining the bottom.
In attendance to speak on the subject were Amy Mangold, director of Newtown Parks & Recreation; Laura Lerman, chair of the Cultural Arts Commission; and Andrea Spencer, vice chair of the Cultural Arts Commission. Both Lerman and Spencer are also on the commission’s Grant & Scholarship Committee, which is supplying the grant for the mural.
First Selectmen Dan Rosenthal explained that having the representatives bring this project to the BOS for approval was appropriate because they are responsible for town buildings.
Seated before the board, Spencer gave some background on who the artist is and how the mural idea came about.
“The dog park mural is a very interesting story about vision and perseverance. It began in the spring of 2020 when a young and extremely talented Newtown artist named Lindsay Fuori submitted a grant proposal to the [Cultural] Arts Commission,” Spencer said.
Originally, Fuori’s idea was to paint three mini-murals on electrical boxes around town over the course of three seasons. When looking into that possibility, though, they found that the Connecticut Department of Transportation owns the town’s electrical boxes and would not permit them to be painted.
So, for the next year and a half, Fuori and the Cultural Arts Commission brainstormed several other art projects for locations around town.
Spencer recalled how when the idea for creating a mural on the building next to the dog park came about, the Cultural Arts Commission and Newtown Parks & Recreation were in unanimous agreement on it.
“For the arts commission, it is very gratifying to see all the hard work paying off, and we are delighted that the town recognizes the value of this project and the joy we hope it will bring to the community,” she said.
She thanked Mangold, the Newtown Parks & Recreation Department, and the Board of Selectmen for their support.
Next, Mangold spoke about how she was thrilled when she heard the news of the project.
“It’s something that actually the Dog Park Committee had wanted to do and we just never really found a partnership to do it with anyone,” she said.
She added that she knew Fuori from her days at Newtown High School painting sets for the drama productions. Knowing Fuori’s professional capabilities and work ethic, Mangold said, she was sold on the project.
Concluding her statement, Mangold told the board, “I wanted to be here to say the Parks & Rec Commission and myself are in great support of this. We think it is a fun, whimsical drawing that will kind of enlighten a building that is drab down there… It will also enhance that area and bring probably more community awareness of the facility, and make more people want to come appreciate the art as well. We think it is an enhancement all around for that area.”
Rosenthal said that he is very much about supporting art in the community, but he did also want to bring up the zoning guidelines surrounding this project.
“I’m by no means a zoning expert but, as it was explained to me, we have what’s called permissive zoning in Newtown. By permissive, I don’t mean anything goes, it means that it explicitly says what you can do and what it doesn’t say is basically assumed you can’t do,” Rosenthal said.
With that in mind, the regulations do not include language that says murals can be done. However, for this project, they are considering it a sign for the dog park, which is permitted.
“In this case it was okay. When you go by, you can’t see it from the road. I think people in the dog park will enjoy it immensely,” Rosenthal said.
It was brought up that if they or others wanted to install murals on the sides of buildings, or things of that nature in the future, the zoning regulations would have to be amended.
Lerman voiced in favor a zoning regulation change and noted that “the arts are an incredible economic generator.” Spencer chimed in that it would also be beneficial to update the guidelines, as Fuori has other projects in mind that they are tabling for the time being.
Hearing their feedback, Rosenthal said he believe they can find “some common ground” and can speak to the Planning and Zoning Commission about updating the zoning guidelines.
Selectmen Maureen Crick Owen then motioned to approve the dog park mural as presented. It was unanimously passed.
“I think it’s great,” Crick Owen said.
Selectmen Jeff Capeci agreed, saying, “I think it is beautiful.”
He also mentioned that the Farmington Canal Rail Trail’s murals are on old buildings, and that they can be an example to look into when researching other towns for updated zoning regulations.
For more information about upcoming Board of Selectmen meetings, visit newtown-ct.gov/board-selectmen.
Reporter Alissa Silber can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.