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Public mural gets help from a robot in Metuchen

A robot named Albert, the world's first robotic muralist created by SprayPrinter Technologies, gives a helping spray to artwork at a building on Station Place in Metuchen.

METUCHEN — A robot named Albert, the world’s first robotic muralist created by SprayPrinter Technologies, gave a helping spray to artwork at a building on Station Place in Metuchen.

Artist Ariel Rutland, a one-time resident of Metuchen and graduate of Metuchen High School, created the name “METUCHEN” in large block letters. Surrounding it are clouds and other fanciful artwork to evoke a retro video game inspired aesthetic.

Albert spraypainted Rutland’s artwork on the side of Hailey’s Harp-Cade at 15 Station Place on Sept. 12. The artwork is fitting for the business, which opened two years ago: it is a retro arcade with a bar and food menu.

“The robotic technology represents a shift in the art world similar to other industries in which technology is expanding human potential,” Isaac Kremer, executive director of the Metuchen Downtown Alliance (MDA), said in a prepared statement. “Artists are now working in tandem with machines that remove human limitations from the artistic process.”

SprayPrinter’s robotic muralists can easily paint massive murals in a matter of hours, according to the statement. The technology also enables artists to create simultaneous works from afar, in places that may not be easily accessible, running robots across the country and across the globe.

Kremer said he was first introduced to SprayPrinter through Main Street New Jersey on July 5. The business is based in California.

“Originally they were looking for five towns to demonstrate the technology … they ended getting double that amount,” he said, noting Metuchen has joined Bloomfield, Bridgeton, Westfield, West Orange, Highland Park, Montclair, Vineland and South Orange in the endeavor.

The project is the latest result from the Public Art Team of the Metuchen Downtown Alliance, a volunteer-based, nonprofit, downtown management corporation dedicated to the management and revitalization of the designated Metuchen business district (the District) in partnership with stakeholders, residents, municipal government and other partners.

“Public art has the power to enliven our public spaces and contribute to the image of Metuchen as an innovative place that attracts people from far and wide to patronize our 309 downtown businesses,” he said. “Over the past two years a public art policy was developed and work has been commissioned from renowned artists.”

Kremer said Rutland is an artist whose family lives in Metuchen. Rutland is a freelance branding and packaging designer who spends her days working with restaurants, non-profits and retail shops. Before going out on her own, she was senior designer at a boutique branding agency, and designer for a national retail company in New York City.

“We worked with her earlier this year on a downtown business directory and poster that was mailed to 5,000 households,” he said. “After deciding to work with SprayPrinters, we were stuck on the creative approach and design. Local people were not satisfied putting a photographic reproduction on a wall.”

After more brainstorming, Kremer said the Public Art Team decided to bring in Rutland.

“In less than a month starting in the middle of July she went through three designs on two locations to come up with the final iteration,” he said. “She worked closely with our Public Art Team, SprayPrinter’s and others to make sure what she designed would be something unique to Metuchen.”

Eric Berger, chairman of the MDA, said he wants to give people a reason to walk downtown and enjoy it.

“The more people we can attract the more successful our businesses will be,” he sad.

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