Artist’s New Mural in Port Jeff to Drive Foot Traffic Downtown

Artist’s New Mural in Port Jeff to Drive Foot Traffic Downtown

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From left: Suffolk Chamber Alliance Co-chairs Bob Fonti and Gina Coletti, Discover LI President and CEO Kristen Jarnagin, Greater Port Jeff Chamber Executive Director Barbara Ransome, VP of Community Development for People’s United Bank Elizabeth Custodio and artist Kara Hoblin in front of the new artwork in Port Jeff. Photo by Kyle Barr

Business advocates are hoping that local businesses in Port Jefferson can rise above the challenges of the day — on wings if necessary.

A new interactive mural was painted by a North Fork artist over the past week displaying two bird wings in the alleyway between Salsa Salsa and Chris Silver Jewelry. Each wing displays a host of flora, fauna and landmarks of the eastern part of Long Island. Residents and visitors are being encouraged to stand between the two wings to take pictures or selfies underneath the colorful feathers.

Greenport-based artist Kara Hoblin said her piece evolved over the course of painting to represent the multitude of things that make the East End unique. There is everything from monarch butterflies, who make a stop on Long Island during their migration, to the North Fork’s pumpkins in the fall to the everpresent deer. 

The mural is part of Discover Long Island and the Suffolk County Alliance of Chambers’ Shop Small Long Island campaign trying to encourage residents to shop small and shop local this holiday season despite the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Kristen Jarnagin, the president and CEO of Discover Long Island, said they are doing “everything we can to help our small businesses and downtowns.” 

Creating local art that can be utilized by social media campaigns and bring traffic downtowns is just one initiative of several, Jarnagin said. They are also emphasizing residents can use tools such as the Suffolk County Alliance of Chamber’s MyChamber App and Discover Long Island’s Downtown Deals Travel Pass app to allow shoppers to explore businesses within Long Island’s downtowns while also redeeming savings at their favorite shops. Discover LI is also pushing its own Long Island TV that airs every week on where to go and what to see on Long Island.

That message, coming in right before Small Business Saturday Nov. 28, has become especially important now, as the positive rate in Suffolk County rises past 4% in some areas, and all are looking to see if Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) implements any new restrictions or business shutdowns.

Co-Chairs of the Suffolk County Alliance of Chambers Bob Fonti and Gina Coletti said that they see these wings flying and they “want local businesses to soar as well.”

Small businesses have had more than a rough few months since the start of the pandemic. The murals, Fonti said, help make places like Port Jeff a destination. 

“It’s important that we as an alliance of chambers promote our downtowns,” Fonti said. “The financial tsunami, that we don’t know where that’s going to go, we want to drive 10 cars ahead of that, or hopefully ride above that wave.”

The new mural is just one of a host of public art the local chamber and Business Improvement District have been adding to the village over the past several months. Barbara Ransome, the executive director of the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, said “it’s an added attraction, for sure.”

“It’s visually appealing, and it’s safe,” she said. “Those combinations lend itself to hopefully people coming to see them.”

Ransome also thanked the landowner Dominick Parillo, who not only gave his blessing for the project but had people come in to whitewash the wall in preparation for the mural.

The original mural crafted for the village by Port Jeff artists Linda Menda-Alfin and Jennifer Hannaford was of a fish tank-type scene on an electrical box behind Chase Bank.  

The chamber had requested $1,000 in seed money from the BID back in January for the initial mural projects. Seeing the positive response, the chamber received an additional $2,000 to create even more murals on public infrastructure around the village. 

In addition to the one described before, Ransome said the village will have five electrical boxes featuring artwork. The chamber is planning another mural of a sea turtle and baby sea turtles on the alleyway wall between Chase Bank and Ralph’s Famous Italian Ices.

Another mural sponsored by Discover LI is being crafted for Long Beach in Nassau County, which new art will showcase the sites and other landmarks of western Long Island.