The murals under the railroad trestle in downtown Crozet that evoke the early days of local history got a spruce-up in the first week of April by its original artist and other volunteers.
Bob Kirchman, the Michelangelo of the murals when they were first painted under the bridge on Crozet Avenue in 1993, came over from Staunton, where he now lives and plies his calling as an architectural illustrator, and joined Crozet painter Meg West to lead the restoration of the paintings.
“This is a polite restoration,” Kirchman said. “We want the people who first worked on it to still to be able to see their strokes. We’re stabilizing it for another 20 years. We want to be able to pass the torch and make them a living tribute to the past and for the future.”
Kirchman said it’s a sign of the pride and respect Crozetians have for the murals that they have never been harmed. Perhaps that’s because the names of all the folks who helped bring the murals into being are still signed on it.
The murals were washed to get off grime that had washed down from the tracks overhead and then scraped where they had suffered some damage. Then they were primed and the missing features of the mural were repainted. The task took a week. The painting was brightened and repaired spots were resealed with epoxy. Kirchman said that ideally the murals would be entirely resealed with epoxy before the fall when the fresh paint has thoroughly dried. But there is no plan to pay for that now.
Laney Riley, a young mural painter from Staunton who worked on an 80-foot mural at a church there that included 30 faces, came over to aid the project. Kirchman hopes she will be the one to come back in 20 years to direct the next refurbishment.
“The whole trick is in layering,” West explained to Western Albemarle students who had come to help over the school’s spring break. “Getting the colors to match is the idea. We don’t want to redo the whole mural.”
“We want to preserve it,” stressed Kirchman.
Deeper layers of color were applied by novices, and Kirchman, West and Riley, experienced painters, did the upper layers and the finishing touches. “There will be more life in it,” Kirchman said. He said the painting will be essentially unchanged “but there might be some surprise additions of little critters.”
“We just want to help the mural,” said WAHS eleventh graders Soobin Choi and Shuhui Wu. The restoration crew also included Linda McNeil and Morgan Munson.
Kirchman said that when the murals were first painted, the volunteers could stand in the street to look at the job, but traffic is so much heavier now that the volunteers dared not step back from the curb. Cones, highway work signs and orange tape marked off the sidewalk work area and the painters got greetings and praise from passing friends and fans of the murals.