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New mural catching eyes in Newfane

NEWFANE – A mural celebrating the rural charm of this small Niagara County town now graces the side of a Main Street building, thanks to the local business association and an area artist.

The Newfane Business Association (NBA) unveiled the 11-by-17-foot canvas mural created by Newfane artist Jeff Watkins on Wednesday at 2712 Main St.

The collage depicts a boy held aloft on a woman’s shoulders, reaching for an apple from a tree, with fields of cabbages and an orchard’s neat rows rounding out the agriculture theme. Meanwhile, a man catches a fish in a stream meant to recall nearby Eighteen Mile Creek, celebrating the town’s fishing tradition.

Watkins said he created the oil painting on a 22-by-34-inch canvas, which was enlarged and printed on the large canvas for hanging on the side of the brick-fronted, cement block building.

The building houses Bob Eadie’s barbershop downstairs and apartments upstairs, and is owned by Ann Webb and managed by her daughter, Kim Farley.

The canvas method allows artists to mount murals on all types of surfaces – some of them rough and uneven – which hasn’t always been the case, Watkins noted.

“I’ve been in the sign business all of my life and I painted murals all over the Midwest, by hand,” he recalled. “This was all before computers. But now, this is printed right onto the canvas and there are no seams, wood or metal, and it can easily be replaced down the road because the frame is there now.”

The building sits next to a parking lot at a traffic light at the corner of Main Street (Route 78) and West Avenue.

“People stop there for the traffic light and we just wanted something to brighten it up,” said Sue Neidlinger, NBA president. “The cost of a (handpainted) mural would be too expensive for us, but Jeff came up with this other process and it was something we could afford.”

Neidlinger said the NBA received a $2,400 grant from the William G. Mayne Jr. Business Community Enhancement Program, provided through the Niagara County Center for Economic Development, which also included money for flower plantings on Main Street.

Neidlinger said the NBA entertained two possibilities for the mural site, but the other one had a south-facing wall.

This mural was installed on a north-facing wall, which means the sun will be much kinder to it and tend to bleach it less, Watkins said.

“You can see it best as you head south down Route 78 from the lake,” he noted.

He said the mural is a way to “invite people into your town.”

“I seem to see more and more of them these days,” he added. “I think there’s a real interest in it.

“I’m proud of the area we live in, that we raised our kids in,” he noted. “You want it to be a little personal … It’s about connections and I’m proud I had the chance to do this.”

Neidlinger said Kim Smith, pastor of Newfane United Methodist Church, who also serves as the NBA’s vice president, headed the mural committee. The committee also included Karen Drumm and Vicki Taylor, and it worked with Watkins to develop the themes for the mural, which was a yearlong project.

The NBA is continuing to accept donations to the matching grant for the mural project, which may be addressed to the NBA at P.O. Box 174, Newfane, NY 14108.

“And, when businesses join our association, their $50 dues helps go toward beautification, like this, as well as advertising and funding our different events,” Neidlinger noted.

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