“The murals are like covered bridges, people come out to see them”
After nearly two tumultuous years, Warner’s Main Street has a new ray of hope, despite the challenges local businesses have faced.
Over the weekend, the Economic Development Committee unveiled a huge 50-by-12-foot mural in front of City Hall. It’s a birthday present in advance, commemorating the city’s 25th anniversary in 2024. It mixes scenes from the past with those of the present.
Charles Albano, chairman of the three-year committee, said the mural is one of the ways the group hopes to boost local businesses.
âThe murals are like covered bridges, people come out to see them,â Albano said.
Manchester muralist Jyl Diane Bittbenner was chosen to paint the mural, which was done in sections of 4 feet by 8 feet in her studio. Some of the selected scenes were chosen because of their historical significance, while others reflect current efforts to be “a small but vibrant community,” said Albano.
Bittbenner’s work features historical black and white scenes interspersed with contemporary scenes in vivid colors. Historical images include women operating telephone lines and men sawing wood, the train station and farming. To reflect the current community, jewel-toned graphics are included with live music on the Jim Mitchell stage, farmers market, fall foliage and various outdoor recreational activities.
Albano said Bittbenner worked closely with community partners and did research with the Warner Historical Society.
âShe really did her homework,â Albano said.
The eight-judge panel, comprising several artists, city officials, a member of the Warner Historical Society and the owner of the wall, chose Bittbennner from eight nominations from New Hampshire artists.
âIt’s a wonderful mix of diverse community players,â said Albano.
The Economic Development Committee raised approximately $ 10,000 to order the painting. The New Hampshire Arts Council contributed $ 3,750, while donations covered the remainder. No taxpayer money was used, Albano said.
The pandemic has added complications to the project, with many meetings taking place virtually rather than in person. Despite this, the mural was completed about a year after the call for nominations was launched.
âThis is what makes Warner so special,â said Albano. âIt’s a wonderful example of how the community comes together under difficult circumstances. “
Warner businesses, especially its restaurants, have been hit hard by the pandemic and several have changed owners and names.
Just months after the start of the pandemic, Schoodacs CafÃ© owner Darryl Parker decided the obstacles from the coronavirus were too great. He has closed. This business has been sold and has been operating as Cafe One East since it reopened. The cafe hosts live music on Sundays and serves coffee drinks and pastries throughout the week.
The Foothills, a 15-year-old restaurant in town, stuck with take-out and the paycheck protection program for a while, but in July 2020 they also announced they were throwing in the towel . About a year later it was sold to new owners and became The Kitchen Warner, moving from a location in Andover, which just started serving customers last month.
The local, which was in the building owned by Bob Egan and Rhonda Rood where the mural is located, announced in April that after eight years it would close. The restaurant has been sold to the owners of the Flannel Tavern in Chichester, who are making improvements before planning to reopen.
Other companies have banded together and, so far, have seemed to rise to the challenges. Katharine Nevins of MainStreet BookEnds told the Granite State News Collaborative last summer that she worked with her neighbors in the Warner Public Market to coordinate curbside pickup times, so customers can make two stops at the same time .
âMain Street is really booming,â Nevins said. “These companies … we all react [to the pandemic], and the community responds in terms of support.