Mural of Florence

Hanging History

Written for the Daily Hampshire Gazette by Bera Dunau

May 2, 2019

NORTHAMPTON — On Wednesday, installation began on a new mural in the stairwell of the Lilly Library.

The mural, an aerial photographic image of Florence, is the vision of Lilly Library Director Adam Novitt, and as it was being affixed to the wall, Novitt described it as nothing less than a “career-defining moment.”

“Not everyone gets to do something like this,” said Novitt, who hopes the mural will stand for years to come. “It’s humbling.”

The mural, more than 250 inches long and deep, shows a square mile-plus of Florence, including residential areas as well as landmarks like Lilly Library, Maines Field, Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, Look Park and St. Mary’s Cemetery. It will be unveiled on Monday.

“Everybody wants to try and find their house,” said Novitt, who said the library has purchased five laser pointers to allow people to do just that.

The original 2014 aerial images are courtesy of the Department of Public Works. Contained in an approximately 6-gigabyte file, they are so detailed that, in the original image, objects up to 2 inches can be seen.

“The resolution is incredible,” said Novitt of the original file, adding that the DPW has aerial shots taken periodically to update information. Novitt, who came up with the idea for the mural around six months ago, used to work with maps for the DPW.

Novitt said that archives can sometimes be difficult to access and that, with the mural, he wanted to create a piece of archival material that is super-accessible to the public.

“I think it’ll be incredibly valuable in the future,” he said.

Novitt also said that he wanted to show the library’s place in the community in the mural.

“We’re a community institution, and I wanted it to be about that,” he said.

Private funding for the mural came largely from Florence Bank, Finck & Perras Insurance, and Craig and Kathy Della Pena, who all got the meaning behind the project right away.

“Fundraising took an afternoon,” said Novitt.

He noted that $750 for the mural came from the Northampton Arts Council, and $2,000 came from Friends of Lilly Library.

Printing the mural cost $4,000, and Novitt said that a discount was given on its installation. The lead installer of the mural was Mike Jennings, of Jennings Paperhanging & Painting, who has been hanging wallpaper for 29 years.

Despite all of that experience, Jennings was nervous about doing the installation. “The first thing that comes to mind is ‘stressful,’” he said. “It would be so easy to mess it up.”

There were no backups.

The mural was printed by the New Hampshire-based company MegaPrint on billboard material, which Novitt said will allow it to “last for 60, 70, 80 years.”

“It should still be here in the next century,” he said.