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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Mural artist will recreate old Tremont House hotel on W. Pearl Street wall

For Barbara Andrews, her trip through the past begins high on scaffolding over a Nashua sidewalk.

Andrews, a mural artist, is working on another downtown installation and will soon tackle the depiction of the old Tremont House hotel on a West Pearl Street wall, near where it once stood off Main Street. ...

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For Barbara Andrews, her trip through the past begins high on scaffolding over a Nashua sidewalk.

Andrews, a mural artist, is working on another downtown installation and will soon tackle the depiction of the old Tremont House hotel on a West Pearl Street wall, near where it once stood off Main Street.

Her current project is on a brick wall on the Water Street ramp. She works up close to the brick with a set of paints and brushes at her feet. She’ll climb down and step back to check her work, or maybe rely on her husband to provide feedback. It’s quiet except for occasional passing traffic.

“I’m thinking about, well, cause and effect. A good effect to the public, giving them something to be happy for,” Andrews said. “People love history. Shoot, this is the USA. Especially the East Coast,” she explains. “We have history.”

Andrews is the artist responsible for fulfilling “Vivian’s Dream,” the giant depiction of the once-grand Nashua hotel that served locals and visitors for many years, before it was torn down for the Second National Bank in the 1920s. The 35-foot by 40-foot mural will recreate a postcard view of the building as it looked in 1909, when it had large columns and upper-level porches over the Main Street sidewalk.

The Water Street project recreates another well-known view of Main Street, looking south from an area near Railroad Square.

Andrews, who lives in Haverhill, Mass., has an office on Main Street. “I’ve been an artist my whole life,” she said. Andrews studied graphic design and took advantage of Photoshop training to make paintings. Her first mural was created on a big wall inside a cottage in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. A friend talked her into making the piece.

“I did it and fell in love,” she said and has been painting murals ever since.

Andrews explains the process of turning a blank, urban wall into a window onto the past.

“I first start off with a Photoshop rendering,” she said. “I do what I call a T zone.” She points to a spot in the center of the painting. “I find my horizon. See that tiny yellow dot? That’s one of my reference points.” .

Nearby is another of Andrews’ creations.

The Nashua Manufacturing Co. mill, now Clocktower Place apartments, was painted on the wall of Darrell’s Music Hall, also on Water Street.

She said her current project is the most detailed one she’s done, featuring about six fully identified buildings, unlike the one primary structure on the wall at Darrell’s.

Andrews said she thinks her work is something people will identify with for years and will become a local landmark and reference point. She said other work, such as an outdoor mural in Pensacola, Fla., can be spotted when searching with Google Maps.

“I always use a paint that will last,” she said. “You’ll never see this paint come peeling off. I guarantee at least 10 years.”

Her affinity for the city and its history is evident when she talks about her public art.

“Nashua’s basically my historical project,” Andrews said.

When not recreating historical views for the public, she paints “a lot of realism – seascape, landscape, birds, animals.”

However, Andrews said of her outdoor public work, “history is always what people want.”

She recounts when she was painting the millyard, “you know how many people would walk up to me and say, ‘I used to live on this floor,’ and they’d point out the window of the building back there. There are people who know,” she said. “They say their grandmother had place down here on that part of the street. They love it.

“It’s a key to their past. It’s kind of like that hope chest from the past. You can just turn that key and open it up and say ‘yeah, I’m going to have this.’ It keeps their history in focus for their future.”

Don Himsel can be reached at 594-6590 or dhimsel@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Himsel on Twitter (@Telegraph_DonH).