Downtown barriers to add a splash of color to Main Street

As the weather gets warmer and the days get longer, local restaurants and businesses will begin to expand across the downtown area. In order to mark increased outdoor seating for Main Street’s many locally-owned restaurants, road barriers will be dispersed throughout the area to delineate additional seating. However, this year, the barriers are returning with an artistic twist.

Sixteen barriers, which will be installed on Main Street by late-April, are all designed by Connecticut-based artist Ben Keller of RiseUP for Arts. The designs take many forms and will be spread across the downtown area in front of businesses such as Bistro on Main and Center Perk. However, they all serve the purpose of bringing an additional splash of life & color to an already vibrant downtown Manchester.

Keller, who has completed various works throughout Manchester, noted the significance of working with the town in order to serve and give back to the Manchester community, one that has experienced such a turbulent past year.

Many Manchester residents have become familiar with RiseUP for Arts over the past months, including through their completion of the Martin Luther King Jr. mural at the Mahoney Center and the planned completion of three additional murals of civil rights leaders in June.

In addition, RiseUP has completed “over 25 mural projects throughout Connecticut, supported 20 Connecticut based artists [and] partnered with over 20 organizations,” according to Matt Conway, founder and Executive Director of RiseUP.

“Working with local municipalities is crucial to complete these larger scale projects [and] to give back to the community and local business”

While the barriers serve the functional purpose of ensuring restaurants additional outdoor seating, the artistic purpose is equally as important. Gary Anderson, the Town of Manchester’s Director of Planning and Economic Development, said that in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Town must actively create a lively downtown in order to ensure that local restaurants and businesses are able to thrive.

“We understand the need to help our [local] businesses whenever we can, who have had to go through such a tough time this past year,” Anderson said.

Over the past years, the Town of Manchester has emphasized the need for public art, evident through works such as the mural series at the Mahoney Center, the Downtown Manchester ScareCrow Festival and the planned mural addition at Purnell Place. The barriers will serve as an additional outdoor gallery, Anderson said, further emphasizing the town’s willingness to listen to the community’s interests.

“Art is a big part of what we are trying to do in [Manchester], especially in the downtown,” Anderson said. “Art is something that the community said was important to them, so we listened.”

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