Hightstown to dedicate first public mural Sept. 22

The Hightstown Cultural Arts Commission will dedicate its first public mural – a design drawn on the back wall of RISE’s Greater Goods Thrift Store at 114 Rogers St. – on Sept. 22.

There will be music and light refreshments at the dedication, which runs from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. It is a rain-or-shine event.

The mural, dubbed “Familial Portal,” was painted by Newark-based artist Layqa Nuna Yawar. It features hummingbirds, flowers, butterflies, two pairs of open hands, railroad tracks and the Peddie Lake dam.

The Hightstown Cultural Arts Commission described the mural as an historical and contemporary narrative of Hightstown. The flowers, birds and bees represent a growing community, while the railroad tracks represent the town’s 19th century transportation history.

Yawar, who was born in Ecuador and who immigrated to the United States as a young child, is a graduate of the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. He started work on the mural Aug. 12 and completed it on Aug. 18, with some help from the community.

The cost of the mural, ranging from the artist’s fee to the cost of materials, was covered by the Hightstown Cultural Arts Commission with money generated by its annual “Empty Bowls” fundraiser.

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

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

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 in search of a location for the mural. RISE stepped forward and said it would be interested in having a mural painted on the wall of its Greater Goods thrift store on Rogers Avenue.

RISE, according to its website, began in 1967 as a “small group of impassioned community stakeholders” who were fighting the local war on poverty.

Originally known as the Community Action Service Center, Inc., it was one of four local neighborhood locations throughout Mercer County that provided food for impoverished families.

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