Brunswick artist works on massive downtown mural | Culture & Leisure

Once a bustling railway town, Brunswick has calmed down over the years. Lea Craigie-Marshall likes this.

Craigie-Marshall, born and raised near Washington, DC, has lived in Brunswick for about a decade. And now she’s working on a 2,500-square-foot mural that she hopes will add color – and inspiration – to the city’s historic downtown.

“It’s amazing what a mural can do,” she says.

The mural will adorn the former Citizen newspaper building on West Potomac Street. Craigie-Marshall hopes to complete it by September. It’s called ‘Walk Through Brunswick’ and when completed will serve as a colorful ode to the history of the small riverside community, with landmarks such as its pizzeria, brewery, library and bowling alley.

Craigie-Marshall’s works are inspired by artist Mary Blair, she said, who worked for Walt Disney and created art concepts for films like “Alice in Wonderland”, “Peter Pan” and “Cinderella”. Blair’s affinity for bright colors and semi-abstract graphics lends itself well to an urban landscape, Craigie-Marshall said.

“I wanted this fresco not to be a typical historical fresco,” she said.

Like Blair, she takes a less realistic approach, aimed at capturing the atmosphere and emotion of the city, rather than its exact form.

Art is in the family of Craigie-Marshall: his two grandmothers and his mother were also artists. She spent much of her childhood in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, attending art workshops and classes for adults.

Craigie-Marshall laughed, remembering that the adults in the room were upset when, at age 6, she overshadowed them in painting or stained glass.

Now she works alongside her best friend and assistant, Seanna Cookus. Craigie-Marshall is responsible for the composition of his pieces and all the finer details, but Cookus steps in to help prime the walls and paint large swathes of the background.

“We go on artistic adventures together,” said Craigie-Marshall. Towards the start of their current business, the couple visited the mural site about twice a week. But as Craigie-Marshall walks towards the finish line, she plans to be there about five days a week.

Ideally, she lives three minutes away.

The Brunswick mural was commissioned by the Frederick Arts Council as part of its public arts master plan. The plan, written in 2018, aims to “make Frederick a model of creativity, showing how public art can boost economic prosperity and a sense of belonging,” according to its cover page.

The 108-page document identifies best practices for implementing public art projects across the county. He reviews the opportunities in each city and advocates for public art as a driver of economic growth and community ties.

For Brunswick, the plan encourages “the art of the walkway” which could “visually mark the connections between the river, the trail and the city”, weaving together the three key elements of the region. He identifies a handful of locations, including the MARC station, that could serve the purpose well.

This concept excites Craigie-Marshall. She could see her adopted hometown becoming a “little Portland,” she said. She plans to “become a real wall city”, and she has worked with the mayor to develop a sort of art scavenger hunt around town.

“I really feel like Brunswick could be something really amazing,” said Craigie-Marshall. “A lot of cities, when they’re going to revitalize themselves, the first thing they do is add art.”

In a city center facing challenges since the decline of the rail industry, Craigie-Marshall added, public art could be a key ingredient of the comeback.

“It gives people hope,” she said. “It makes them positive about where they live and excited about the future.”

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