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Reprinted with permission from

Community Pitching In To Restore Wyland Whale Mural
Careful restoration on tap for original painting in downtown New London
By Ann Baldelli

Wyland's whales are getting a touch-up.

Volunteers have joined forces to give the oversized mural of whales, dolphins, tuna and squid on the side of Sarge's comic shop in downtown New London a fresh look.

By mid-April, building owner and City Councilor William M. Cornish should have scaffolding erected alongside the whale wall at State Street and Eugene O'Neill Drive. Work should have commenced to put a new copper cap on the roof and caulk cracks in the 4,200-square-foot marine montage, first painted by artist and environmentalist Wyland in 1993.

Photo by Dana Jensen

Artist David Bishop, left, and union painter Norm Johnson are helping out in the restoration of the Wyland whale mural at the corner of State Street and Eugene O'Neill Drive in New London. Johnson and other members of Local Painters Union 1122 in New London will do the prep work and Bishop will do the finish painting.

Then, retired union painter Norm Johnson of Pawcatuck will enlist the help of Local 1122 to gently power wash grit and grime from the mural and prep the wall for painting.

Next up is artist David Bishop of Mystic. He'll use paint matched by computer to Wyland's original hues to touch up the mural that is now one of nearly 100 worldwide that the artist painted to promote protecting marine life and the world's seas.

Donations toward the effort can be sent to :
Friends of Fort Trumbull,
C/O John Hanrahan
90 Walbach St.
New London, CT 06320.

The donations should be marked to indicate they are for the whale-wall preservation project.

“I will start at one end and basically fill in the gaps,” says Bishop, a self-described artist, draftsman, technical illustrator and author. He is a former museum curator at the Naval Submarine Force Library & Museum, where he painted the 12-by-12-foot rendition of a sketch from Jules Verne's “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”

Wyland painted with a spray gun from a perch in a mechanical lift. Bishop will climb the scaffolding and use a bucket and brush.

“Wyland had a moveable cherry picker and a compressor and a spray can that he sprayed in large swaths back and forth. That's not one of my talents,” says the 63-year-old volunteer artist. “I'm more of a brush artist. My plan is to feather in all the colors and make it almost look like a sprayed effect.”

Bishop's plan is to cover the entire mural with fresh paint, making it as true to the original as possible.

“I hope to brighten up the whales and the background, and maybe sharpen the image just a little,” he says.

Years ago Bishop painted three large murals at the former Wheelus Air Force base in Tripoli, Libya, while stationed there.

“I've been drawing since I was 4 years old,” he says.

Johnson, the union painter and a vocal supporter of preserving Wyland's whale wall in New London, has been in touch with Wyland headquarters in California and gotten approval for the touch-up.

Johnson says the best way to save the wall would be to replace the paint with custom tiles replicating the original rendering. The tile replacement is endorsed by Wyland and would cost about $200,000, including installation, in New London. Until such funding is available, the volunteers will work with the resources available.

George A. Sprecace, a spokesman for a grass-roots citizens committee that has been meeting about ways to save the wall, says donations toward the effort can be sent to Friends of Fort Trumbull, care of John Hanrahan, 90 Walbach St., New London, CT 06320. The donations should be marked to indicate they are for the whale-wall preservation project. The nonprofit Fort Trumbull group is helping the effort by allowing the whale wall group to collect donations for the whale wall fund-raising effort under its aegis.

The goal, Sprecace said, is to raise about $5,000. Most of the labor, and the paint, he hopes, will be donated.

“The greater the number of smaller contributions, the more involved the community, and the better we like it,” says Sprecace.

Both Johnson and Bishop said the pace of the work will depend on the weather, and the volunteers.

“This is the time for people who want to help to let us know,” says Johnson.

“We want to save the wall,” says Bishop. “We don't want to replace it; we want to restore what's there.”
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