6/29/2012 - Mural flows through city | 'Cool Waters' may just be watershed moment for Waterbury revitalization

Mural flows through city | 'Cool Waters' may just be watershed moment for Waterbury revitalization

Yes, they're fish.

And yes, that's water.

The new mural unveiled Tuesday on South Main Street in Waterbury is a watershed for the city. It's a turning point for several reasons, not the least of which is that the mural itself is a splendid piece of artwork. Crisp, kinetic, colorful and allusive, "Cool Waters" reminds viewers that the city's moniker, "The Brass City," is of fairly recent vintage. Brass may have made the city's fortunes, but it was water that shaped its destiny.

Moreover, it was never one brass factory, just as it has never been one signature revitalization project, that nourished the city. What nurtured the city was a constellation of factories — a mosaic, as it were — working collectively to ensure the health of the city. This refreshing addition to the city, compiled by volunteers through the affixing of thousands of colored tiles to boards eventually puzzled together, will not save the city. One cylinder — whether it's the Palace Theater, or the University of Connecticut-Waterbury or even a major new hospital — is not enough to fuel any post-industrial city. Ultimately, it will be the firing of all those cylinders simultaneously that will sustain this city.

"Cool Waters" may not engender what the state's arts commissioners call "creative placemaking," or the incarnation of a new gathering place prompted by art. What it will do is spruce up a rather down-in-the heels corner of the city, give its volunteers a greater sense of ownership of the city's look, and remind people that the "water" in Waterbury is what really shaped its destiny. Just as the trout and the Naugatuck River have been restored, the mural implies, so, too, the city of Waterbury will be restored.

Comprising several swaths of sky blue, teal, cobalt and avocado green, "Cool Waters," conceived of by Joanne and Bruce Hunter of Danbury, depicts six brook trout rushing through the Naugatuck River.

The fish are speckled green and blue, their gills looking like large scallop shells. The cursive swaths of multicolored blue move along with the fish, which dart over an eddy of multi-colored stones. Come up close and it's clear that the greenish swirls lacing through the piece are actually shimmering brass mosaics, an homage to the city's industrial past.