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Waterbury Community Mural Project  

“Madonna’s Earth” by Raphaella Brice was chosen for the Waterbury Community Mural Project. Photo courtesy of the Waterbury Area Anti-Racism Coalition.
Waterbury’s most recent public art project, a mural welcoming all and promoting anti-racist social change on the wall of the Stowe Street Cafe is holding its unveiling ceremony on Sept. 30.

The murder of George Floyd in 2020 served as the catalyst for the project, spurred on by founding member Marioni Minter of the the Waterbury Area Anti-Racism Coalition (WAARC). Three years in the planning, project co-coordinators Chiyomi McKibbin and MK Monley applied for and received a two-to-one matching grant from the state of Vermont after their crowdsourcing effort yielded $10,405 by June 20. 

Monley, a retired art educator from Brookside Primary School, says community connections are essential to the project. McKibbin, who works for a nonprofit organization, was drawn to the idea of the welcoming mural on Stowe Steet as a way to reach out to BIPOC residents and visitors. (A prominent sign on the entrance to the town on Main Street greets arrivals with “Waterbury Condemns Racism and Welcomes All” — also a product of the WAARC intendiing to make clear the town’s welcome.) 

After extensive competition, Burlington-based artist Raphaella Brice emerged as the winner. The design “Madonna’s Earth,” depicts the Black Madonna as an expression of the divine feminine. According to the committee, Brice, known as “Raph,” reflects the group’s mission to foster a sense of belonging and to continue efforts against racism. Brice draws on Roman Catholic imagery and the ancient worship of Mother Earth as inspiration to promote anti-racist social change.  Her style has been called “cultural psychedelic.”

Finding a prominent site for the mural resulted in participation by the Stowe Street Café. Proprietors Nicole and John Grenier offered the wall of their building at the entrance to the Stowe Street Historic District as well as interior space. 

Led by community members, the art scene in Waterbury is flourishing. Last year, students painted colorful designs on the large electric boxes throughout downtown. A metallic mural, “Phoenix Rising” “commemorates Waterbury’s recovery after Tropical Storm Irene and is displayed on the brick wall next to the Phoenix Gallery and Music Hall on Stowe Street.