What are your hopes and dreams for the future? For yourself and your loved ones, for our community and the world? These are the questions Kersten Harries and Diana Loja asked their village of Sleepy Hollow in August.
In 2019, Harries and Loja organized the first Sleepy Hollow Cultural Festival and were looking forward to doing so again. But when the pandemic hit in the spring, they knew the celebratory public gathering wouldn’t be possible this year. So they came up with another idea: a community mural.
The project, whose official name is The Wishing Wall Riverwalk Community Mural, would provide a much-needed distraction, and would allow people to gather outside in a safe and socially distant way. “We wanted to create something that would pull this community together,” said Loja at the opening reception for the Wishing Wall on Oct. 17.
The village responded to the above questions with both imagery and text. Three designers (Erin Carney, Tim Grajek, Katie Reidy) came together to combine more than 50 community submissions, creating a continuous composition that would flow along the 520-foot curving wall.
Residents representing diverse cultures and backgrounds, ranging in age from 2 to 80, joined together in the project. Individuals and organizations reserved specific panels for their own artwork. Volunteers helped to fill in the larger designs using a paint-by-number system.
Some donated their leftover paint, some paused their morning runs to offer words of encouragement, and others came along to keep their family members company as they painted.
“There are hundreds of people who have put their hands on this wall,” Harries said. “And that, for me, is one of the most gratifying parts of this project. It’s not just what you see before you but the experience of having been part of it. The power of that.”
The Wishing Wall is located next to the Tarrytown Lighthouse in Kingsland Point Park, at the site of the former GM assembly plant. It is organized into four sections: air, earth, water, humanity. All the hopes and dreams blow from the north end to the south through variations of these elements.
When the wall comes down in 2021, the wishes will be released. Edge-on-Hudson, the development company that owns the property, and was happy to collaborate on the project, will turn the area into a public park 125 feet deep.
Sleepy Hollow’s Mayor Ken Wray, who was in attendance at the opening, embraced the mural’s impermanence. “Some art isn’t supposed to be permanent,” he explained. “Some art is ephemeral. It’s like the incredible sunset that you see… It’s going to disappear, but at least we got to experience it while it was here.”
He also commended the community-building effort at such a difficult time. “Yes, we need to have shelter,” he said, “yes we need to have food, but we need something to feed the inside as well. And art does that.”
Caedra Scott-Flaherty is a writer living in Croton-on-Hudson. Find her at Caedra.com.