By Liz Kirchner
Last summer, the Montgomery County Emergency Assistance Program, MCEAP, launched a fund-raising project in which pictures of donors’ pets were painted on the otherwise cheerless cinderblock wall on the courthouse parking lot side of 7 Roanoke Street.
On a brilliant grassy-green background, happy dogs ran, cats curled in trees, chickens and a brown goat floated under a navy blue sky. But last month, the mural was scrubbed from the building leaving only scraps of brilliant green and the tatters of blue.
“When we reviewed the wall in the spring,” said Matt Nottingham, MCEAP Pet Mural Project Coordinator and member of the board, “we became aware that the mural was not sticking properly to the wall, and was starting to peel off in places.
So, rather than losing the mural to the elements, they decided to start over.
Carefully documenting the pets on the wall, scouring off the mural and preparing to revive the public art effort.
“We want to ensure the mural and the pets are a beautiful part of Christiansburg for many years to come,” Nottingham said in a letter explaining the mural’s fate. “Stephanie Akers, the original artist, did a wonderful job getting and promoting all the donations we received.”
Akers is now pursuing a new career agenda and MCEAP will restart the mural next week with a team of professional artists led by Sue Hassock.
The project is expected to be complete by the end of the year portraying the original pets and painting more.
“The pets will go back up. There were about 28 put up and we have a total of 78 pets who have been commissioned,” Brenda Springer, Pet Mural committee member said in a phone interview.
MCEAP won’t be taking any new donations until the current donated pet portraits are done.
“It has been a wonderful project. It has been frustrating we haven’t been able to ask for more. We’ve stopped taking donations until we can get what we’ve got completed.”
Some pictures are in memorial to pets gone by, but many are pictures of living, loved pets and a good way to donate to MCEAP.
“Certainly some of them are alive and panting,” Springer said. “There is a goat. There are a number of horses. I believe there is a goose…no, it’s a duck…. It’s a whole variety. It is completely up to the donor,” she said.
After the wall is prepped, painting will start again, possibly next week according to Springer
“We have consulted with Chris Croy at Valley Paint in Blacksburg to make sure we have a proper base for the pet mural,” Nottingham said. “Greg Branscome of New Look Exterior Cleaning has generously donated his services to power wash the wall, so we could get a new start.”
All pets have been assembled on a master plan so that the mural can be worked on as a team to speed completion.
“I am very excited. I think this will be a wonderful contribution to downtown Christiansburg. It’s a fun, beautiful mural that is about love of pets and has been a wonderful way to support MCEAP,” Springer said.
Nottingham thanks the public for their patience.
“We are excited to start again with an amazing crew of artists from our community. Please help spread the word of the status of the project,“ he said.
The Montgomery County Emergency Assistance Program, MCEAP, is a completely volunteer organization that works to meet the immediate, emergency, and temporary needs of low-income, unemployed, elderly, and handicapped individuals and families. Those seeking assistance should apply in person at the New River Community Action building at 110 Roanoke Street.