Activist brings holiday cheer to downtown Claremont windows
All it took was initiative, acrylic paint and talent
By BILL CHAISSON
CLAREMONT — “I really just wanted to contribute to as much holiday cheer as I could,” said Erica Sweetser by email when the Eagle Times contacted her about her holiday window paintings in downtown Claremont. “I thought of window painting. I work at Taverne On the Square and the Pleasant Restaurant, so I started with them.”
Sweetser had never painted on glass before, so she consulted with Susan George. Once she knew what she needed to buy — Folk Art acrylic paint — Taverne on the Square owner Michael Charest contributed the funds to purchase the supplies.
“I discussed my idea with [business development specialist for the city] Rebecca Vinduski, she suggested I ask [director of economic development] Nancy Merrill about doing a city property.” Hence the four-panel painting next to the police station facing Opera House Square.
“A local kiddo, Audrina Pelton helped paint the Pleasant doors,” Sweetser said. “She also helped me paint the fence behind the high school. Next week I will be doing Pleasant Street Gaming Room, with the help of Jason Hurley, Wolf and Bee Tattoo. I’ve also been asked to paint at the Barn Cafe, RA sewing shop, Cumberland Farms, and possibly Pathways.” The Barn Café agreement actually come about in the body of a Facebook thread, suggesting that social media, suddely widely vilified, retains its upsides.
“I’ve tried to put pieces of Claremont in the paintings: Arrowhead lodge, the twin church steeples, our gazebo, cardinal,” Sweetser said. She turned her community-mindedness into community action this summer when she sought out the owner of a fence on Summer Street after it was defaced with graffiti. The owner gave her permission to whitewash the fence and add the new mural that is there now.
“It’s surprising what you can do if you just ask. I wish that more people would take a chance and present ideas to the city that they may assume will be shot down, or pointless,” Sweetser said. “I just feel honored that Nancy took a chance and let me paint on city property. I know Claremont has taken steps to embrace local art, particularly the paintings displayed downtown and the Makerspace, I hope it continues because we have a lot of talented artists here.” She is referring to the paintings that were put in vacant storefronts on Pleasant Street in a project organized by Ernest and Philip Montenegro this past fall.
Sweetser is a regular booster of downtown life via social media. In those forums participants can see a growing cadre of residents who are reminagining life in downtown Claremont.
“I would love,” said the painter, “to see the area behind the Santagate Bridge, North St side, turned into a street art park