By Dave Dunbar
Next time you drive by the VFW Post on South Main Street in Bellingham, you might notice a new look.
In addition to the recently re-paved and painted parking lot, there is now a new, four-color, hand-painted, patriotic mural that wraps the south end of the building.
“We’ve been working on this since last fall,” explains Post Commander Tom Lane. He hoped to get some high school art students involved and contacted Bellingham High art teacher Tim Etter.
“Our students have done murals for different parts of the school,” says Etter. “But this is the first permanent piece that can be seen by everyone.” He asked 10 advanced art students to come up with some designs. They produced 12. The designs were evaluated by VFW members, voted on, and the one produced by student Rylee Chiappone was the winner. “It was a lot of fun to work together, to all chip in little parts of it.”
“I love this class of trailblazers,” offered Cindy McNulty, the Chair of the Bellingham Select Board. She was on hand along with State Representative Mike Soter, the town planning board’s newest member Nick Mobilia, and about a dozen others for the unveiling of the mural last month.
McNulty adds, “They’ve started a tradition. This mural will be auctioned in a year and the money will go into a relief fund for vets. And then there will be a new mural.”
Soter presented the student artists with a proclamation that recognized “their impactful contribution to the community. They are leaving something in the community – a legacy – and I can see the pride in their eyes.” In addition, “this shows our appreciation for our veterans.”
Here are the names of all the students involved in the mural project: Rylee Chiappone, Brendan Hewett, Emily Welch, Cassandra Senna, Alyssa Rosado, Cierra McMahon, Summer McGill, Lilly McFall, Paige Margiotta, Carlyn LaRose, Isabella Kelley, and William Ferguson. Most are seniors in art three and four classes. And most will be off to college in the fall, including URI, Community College of RI, Westfield State University, and Massachusetts College of Art and Design where Brendan Hewett will be going.
Hewett plans to study 2D and 3D animation. “I really like the looks of Beauty and the Beast… the joining of traditional and realistic elements.”
Soter said he was grateful to play a role in getting the mural project to happen at the VFW. “This is a special place for me, to see it get back on its feet after the pandemic and know that vets can come here to support each other.”