BY KATHY CHANG
EDISON — Thomas Edison’s light shines through the arts as members of the Edison Arts Society unveiled two ceramic murals along the entrance way leading into the Edison Municipal Building at 100 Municipal Boulevard.
Fernando Silva, an internationally known artist and township resident, spent 3,000 man hours making the 400 tiles that make up the 11 feet wide by six feet high murals.
Members of the Edison Arts Society (EAS) welcomed dignitaries who included Consul General Pedro Soares de Oliveira for the Embassy of Portugal, Mayor Thomas Lankey, members of his administration, Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak (D-Middlesex), state Sen. Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex), Township Council members, benefactors and members of the public to the unveiling ceremony that was held on Sept. 28.
“I’ve done many of these,” said Silva. “But it means more in my hometown.”
One of the murals is devoted to the township’s namesake, Thomas Edison, and the other is to honor all the men, women and companies who have helped develop the township.
The project began last year as a concept by the EAS to do something to enhance the municipal building, which was built in 1987. EAS is a nonprofit organization established in 1998 by Catherine Spadoro, wife of then-Mayor George Spadoro, designed to cultivate and foster a love for all of the arts.
Gloria Dittman, chairwoman of the EAS, said she contacted Silva, who has erected large ceramic murals in Newark and Elizabeth.
Silva, who has lived in Edison for 22 years and is originally from Portugal, has participated in various art exhibitions. This year, he received a Community Spirit award from the Edison Chamber of Commerce.
His artwork is represented in many official art collections in various countries and he has illustrated various types of books for poets and writers, including organizing and choreographing and painting scenes for different events.
Silva said work on the murals began a year ago with visits to the Thomas Edison Memorial Tower and Menlo Park Museum, the various parks and gardens in the township, the various churches, and more.
“I took photographs and did sketches,” he said.
Silva said the murals have a lot of movement from the center, which displays the Edison Memorial Tower and from there the movement drifts out to familiar landmarks in the township from the parks, gardens, churches such as the St. James Episcopal Church on Woodbridge Avenue, schools, the Raritan River and more.
Interwoven in the artwork are windows from the landmarks, people and steps that signify what Silva said he observed as he soaked in the diverse population of the fifth largest township in the state.
Edison Township is home to over 101,744 people and 34,200 households. It boasts a 42.5 percent Asian population, predominantly Indian along with Pakistani, Chinese, Korean and Filipino families.
The project also incorporates all of the logos of every school, public and private, in the district on a ceramic tile with the help of J.P. Stevens High School Art Teacher Alison Paolello and her students.
Dittman said the challenging part of the project was seeking donations. The project was completed at no cost to the township.
She said once she and members of the EAS started talking about the project, many people stepped up and offered donations and/or services.
Ardex Americas, a company based in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, offered its tile installation services and the Department of Public Works spruced up and painted the corridor.
Mayor Lankey said one of the goals when his administration came into office in 2014 was to make Edison look better.
“What better way to start than at home,” he said. “This is a huge step in making the township better. I’m not artistic, but I am amazed by the talent of what artists do.”
Lankey said the unveiling of the murals is a testament to the recent Money magazine article that ranked Edison Township 19th among the 50 Best Places to Live in America for 2016.
Edison was one of four New Jersey towns to be named on the list, which also included Parsippany, Franklin Township (Somerset) and Cherry Hill.
“This is one of the reasons why we are the best place to live,” he said crediting the Edison Arts Society.
Each benefactor was recognized at the dedication reception and received a tile memento and The Pines Manor provided catering for the ceremony.