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Rise’s Greater Goods Thrift Store to serve as home to new Hightstown mural

A blank wall on the south side of Rise’s Greater Goods Thrift Store on Rogers Street will be transformed into a mural depicting Hightstown Borough’s welcoming nature, starting Aug. 12.

The Hightstown Cultural Arts Commission has arranged for Newark-based artist Layqua Nuna Yawar to paint the mural, which features hummingbirds, flowers, butterflies, two pairs of open hands, railroad tracks and the Peddie Lake dam.

Yawar, who was born in Ecuador and who immigrated to the United States as a young child, will start work on the mural Aug. 12. He is a graduate of the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University.

On Aug. 15, Hightstown residents can join Yawar in painting the mural. They can indicate their interest in participating by email to cac@hightstownborough.com and to stay informed of schedule changes.

The design grew out of a community meeting last month, in which attendees shared ideas and images they would like to see in the mural, said Ann Marie Miller, who chairs the Hightstown Cultural Arts Commission.

The design reflects the town’s past – the railroad and the Peddie Lake dam – and its present. The message is that Hightstown is a place where families can grow, dream and flourish, Miller said.

“We were very encouraged by the diverse audience that attended the community meeting last month, including several longstanding Latino Hightstown residents who were very engaged in the process,” Miller said.

Miller said that when the Hightstown Cultural Arts Commission was formed five years ago, one of the early goals was to establish a Public Arts Master Plan that offered guidelines for acquiring and installing public art – along with educational and cultural programs for Hightstown residents.

The commissioners toured the borough, looking for suitable sites for sculpture or other public art, Miller said. They sought permission to place a mural on Main Street, but could not find any takers.

That’s when Rise stepped up and said it would be interested in having a mural painted on the wall of the Greater Goods Thrift Store, Miller said.

According to its website, Rise began in 1967 as a “small group of impassioned community stakeholders” who were fighting “the local war on poverty.” Originally known as Community Action Service Center, Inc. (CASC), it was one of four local neighborhood locations throughout Mercer County that provided food for impoverished families.

In 1982, CASC became a private nonprofit group and eventually changed its name to Rise: A Community Service Partnership in 2008.

After a series of local garage sale fundraisers in 2006, Rise was able to open its Greater Goods Thrift Store on Rogers Street “as a social enterprise that both serves [the] community and increases [its] financial independence.”

The costs for the mural, ranging from the artist’s fee to the cost of materials, will be covered by the Hightstown Cultural Arts Commission. It has raised money from its annual Empty Bowls fundraiser, Miller said.

To learn more about Rise: A Community Service Partnership, visit its website at www.njrise.org.

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