WILLIAMSBURG — The City of Williamsburg celebrated the completion of the first public mural approved by the Williamsburg Public Arts Council (WPAC) on the wall alongside Silver Hand Meadery in Midtown Row on Saturday, Aug. 20.
The mural, “Flight of the Honeybee, circa. 1622,” was designed and hand-painted by artist Emma Zahren-Newman. The now colorful city wall displays native plants and pollinators at a time when the first European honeybees were introduced to the area, around the year 1622.
“It’s kind of surreal. My family has been visiting over the years and we were just commenting this morning on how this used to be such a drab wall, and honestly even just starting the process of power washing it, I was like, ‘Okay, this is going to be great,'” said Zahren-Newman in an interview with WYDaily. “We cleaned it first, and then just put in the first layer of blue. Every layer just felt like such an improvement of what we had here.
“I’m glad that we have a system now where artists can share their visions. The city and the public arts council are actively looking for that, which is amazing because this is a really great community,” added Zahren-Newman. “We have a lot to share and we’re a modern city as well as a historic city. So I like that they give attention to that kind of meaning.”
Zahren-Newman studied 2D studio art at the College of William & Mary (W&M). The artist received a master’s degree in education and has taught students at WJCC Public Schools.
At about the same time, she met Glenn and Sherri Lavender, the owners of Silver Hand Meadery. She worked part-time at the meadery, and also volunteered with the James City County’s Clean County Commission, where she acted as a co-chair. By coincidence, one of the Clean County Commission programs she worked on was a project about local pollinators, the theme of the public mural project.
“I think with the last couple of years of having everyone locked up inside and stuff, having these bright colors and life and vibrancy painted on the wall is just such a gift,” said Glenn Lavender. “I love traveling and getting to see places that have a real artsy look and vibe to them. So, for us to kind of be leading the way with that, in Williamsburg, it’s just awesome to have the first mural here, and I know we have a lot more coming too from the public arts council.”
The mural was first proposed in Sept. 2021 as part of WPAC’s early efforts to bring art to public areas around the city. The art council has also been in the process of launching another mural project in Midtown Row. The proposed spot is a wall located across from Sal’s By Victor. Work may soon be underway, once details are finalized with the city.
“The sky is the limit. The public arts council really did approve this as their very first endeavor,” said Williamsburg City Council Member Caleb Rogers in an interview with WYDaily. “We have a lot of other areas that they’re looking at for public art. We see in other towns like Decatur, Georgia, or Beaufort, South Carolina, that public art like this really contributes to the vibrancy of an area. It makes people want to visit and then come back if they’re tourists. So our hope is that the success from Silver Hand Meadery’s unveiling here, and the permanent installation, will encourage more places in the city to pursue mural or sculpture work as well.”