“Cool Waters” was unveiled last night before hundreds of excited city residents in downtown Waterbury. Photograph by Chelsea Murray

                                   Photographs By John Murray

   The city unveiled a 900-square-foot mosaic, designed by artists Bruce and Joanne Hunter and assembled by hundreds of volunteers, during a block party celebration last night hosted by Mayor Neil O’Leary.

   It was the first chance for the public to see the finished artwork, which has a Waterbury theme that honors the restoration of the Naugatuck River. The mosaic is composed of 30 panels, each 3-by-5-feet in size. Under the direction of the artists, hundreds of volunteers, including Waterbury students, helped create the mosaic during the course of nine days. They used the stage of the Palace Theater as their studio.

   The project is part of the state’s City Canvases Initiative, which is meant to improve downtown areas by incorporating artistic designs with build­ing facades. The city of Waterbury and the Arts and Culture Collaborative of the Greater Water­bury Chamber of Commerce Foundation were chosen by Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development and the Connecticut Office of the Arts to participate.

Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary welcomed state and local dignataries and said the unveiling, coupled with the KaBoom playground project on Saturday, signaled a resurgence in Waterbury. 

An aerial view of the proceeedings minutes before the ceremony got underway.

Oversized Brook Trout will now provide a daily reminder to downtown Waterbury that the Naugatuck River has been reborn.

A little girl’s sense of awe and anticipation were on display as a drum role announced the unveiling.

As the next two images demonstrate, the crowds reaction was a mix of joy, surprise and bewilderment. Exactly what art elicits – emotion.

Artists Joanne and Bruce Hunter, and “Cool Waters.”

A wide range of responses swept through the crowd as the tile mural was revealed.

Art is subjective and personal, and clearly this young man was underwhelmed by “Cool Waters.”

Several in the audience were overcome by joy as a massive blue tarp was lowered to reveal the mural.

Frank Tavara, left, the executive director of the Palace Theater, Dan Esty, middle, the Connecticut Commissioner of Energy and the Environment, and State Rep. Selim Noujain react to “Cool Waters.”

Kathleen McNamara, a grant writer for the city of Waterbury, was instrumental in bringing the public art project to downtown Waterbury.

Annie Curran was excited all day to see what was behind the massive blue tarp. When “Cool Waters” was revealed, she was heard to utter “Uh oh.” Photograph by Chelsea Murray

Saranda Belica, right, (taking pictures with her I-Phone), is the economic development aide for the City of Waterbury, and was one of the driving forces behind the Block Party celebration, and was the person who coined the name, “Cool Waters”,  for the artwork.  Standing to next to her is Michael O’Connor, the former head of the Waterbury Development Corporation, and now a real estate specialist for Webster Bank.

The Block Party featured hot dogs by Frankie’s, gyros and kebabs by the Dirty Greek Gyro Co., Spanish delicacies by El Americano Restaurant, gourmet popcorn by The Popcorn Man, Italian Ice by Icee Delights and live music by the Guy Malone Band. There was something for everyone.

A week before the unveiling/Block Party, a crew form Industrial Riggers toiled through 95 degree heat to install the mosaic tile project along South Main Street in Waterbury. For a few short hours the design of the art project was visible, and was then covered by a massive blue tarp.

Industrial Riggers donated their time and equipment to the installation project, saving the city an estimated $20,000.

While not everyone loved “Cool Waters”, the overwhelming response to the project was pure joy.