The go-to muralist of the South Shore, Tess Parker, an East Islip native, completed another community art project, this time to celebrate Bohemia.
When Rob Ferrara of Migrate Realty at 1087 Smithtown Avenue, Bohemia, purchased the shopping center where the mural was eventually painted, earlier this year, he thought the location was a natural showcase for the artwork.
“Tess is a longtime friend of mine, and as soon as I went into contract on the building, I reached out to let her know I have the perfect spot.”
Ferrara had envisioned a design similar to Parker’s piece completed in Oakdale last year at the Idle Hour Deli.
With this in mind, Parker began to search for and compile Bohemia landmarks. “Once I had the representations I wanted of each landmark, I then chose which reference images of each would look best within each letter; then I built on it from there,” said Parker.
The outline of Long Island with a heart was not in the original design, but Ferrara thought of the idea while Parker was working on the mural.
Central to Parker’s vision was to convey town pride, with special recognition towards emblematic sites, interests, and activities of the Bohemia community.
The statue of Jan Hus, represented in the “I” of “BOHEMIA,” was built in 1893 and was erected to commemorate him for leading the Bohemian religious reformation 100 years before Martin Luther, and was the first statue in the world to have been erected to the Czech martyr who was burned at the stake in 1415.
With a canvas much larger than Parker was used to working on, it allowed her the space to include the Long Island, New York, caption underneath the Bohemia portion of the mural.
“I feel that [the Long Island, New York, caption] is the most distinguishing characteristic compared to my previous similar works,” said Parker.
Another major aspect is the waving patriotic American flag within the letters of New York, something Parker found to be “essential during a tensely divided political climate.”
“Studies show that public art contributes to unity and identity; empowers individuals; fosters community pride and a sense of belonging; enhances quality of life for its residents and visitors; and improves aesthetic, value, and economic vitality of a community. At the heart of community-engaged art projects such as this is inclusion and support; I genuinely engage with community members throughout the process, encourage suggestions, and prioritize the overall desires and representation of the people within the community,” said Parker.
The process took a little over a month to complete, with Parker finishing in December.
Taking a stab at professional masonry for the first time, Parker utilized an assortment of tools to rip out any loose stone or concrete from the wall and then patched the crevices, which were later ground down before priming.
With no graphic design tools or projectors for her large-scale work, Parker sketched her drafts by hand with either spray-paint or regular paint, occasionally using multiple references on her phone.
“This is by far my largest piece, and being able to write out ‘BOHEMIA’ at that scale in that font without a projector or measurements or any pre-measured scale was expected to be a challenge, but I did it on my first try. Acquiring a new skill as well as acknowledging one I hadn’t previously been aware of were my biggest personal accomplishments with this piece. I’m hopeful it has impacted those within the town of Bohemia, but I am also hopeful it has inspired other surrounding areas on the South Shore of Long Island to encourage the arts and support local artists,” said Parker.
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