There’s a guy spray-painting a wall in the Belmont Bay area of Woodbridge, Virginia, and the community members couldn’t be happier.
The guy is international graffiti artist TakerOne, and the wall he is working on belongs to George Mason University’s Potomac Science Center. His mural, “Fauna of Belmont Bay,” is part of the Murals at Mason’s larger eco-consciousness mural series titled Elements, and the result of a university-community partnership.
In the “Fauna of Belmont Bay,” the muralist and street artist from Budapest, Hungary, highlights four species that inhabit Belmont Bay: the yellow swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus), the tree frog (Hyla cinerea), the wood duck (Aix sponsa), and the North American river otter (Lontra canadensis).
Since 2001, TakerOne has been creating public art around the world. His work can be found on buildings in London, New York, Los Angeles, New Zealand, Spain, and Israel. He was selected from a group of artists who answered a Murals at Mason call for proposals in 2019. Although the project was delayed by the pandemic, TakerOne finally began work in mid-September and completed the mural, his largest to date, this week.
University Curator Don Russell, faculty advisor to the Murals at Mason project, said that this mural was just meant to be.
“Doing projects like this often feels like an impossible task,” said Russell. “It's a miracle when you actually get through to completion. This was very complex.”
“After reviewing his photorealistic style, we knew TakerOne would be the strongest candidate for a mural that highlights key species of Belmont Bay in a visually captivating way,” said Mason alum Yassmin Salem, Murals at Mason program manager. “This is the first hand-painted outdoor mural that [Murals at Mason] has commissioned. We were thrilled to finally welcome Taker to the States after working through COVID-19 restrictions and changes in university policies and U.S. entry requirements.”
Molly Grove, director of campus relations for Mason’s Science and Technology Campus, is essentially the “customer” for this project. Working with the support of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, the Belmont Bay Homeowners Association, and Carruthers Properties, Groves requested the mural and found donors to support the project.
“The only stipulation we put on the design was to make sure it had an environmental science focus,” said Grove.
At a meet and greet in early October, TakerOne shared his techniques and artistic process with a group of community members. He found the species he highlighted on a Mason environmental science website that the Murals at Mason team had shared with him for inspiration. He experimented with alternate designs that included a fish and an osprey, but opted for the tree frog and wood duck to bring more color into the mural.
“I told them it would look cute,” the artist said.
TakerOne started the project by marking up the center’s wall with blue spray paint.
“How many of you thought we had been vandalized?” Grove asked the audience.
TakerOne then explained how he uses the mark-up as reference points, which he transposed over his design in Photoshop to help with placement.
Community sponsors for the public art project include the Wall Foundation; William A. Hazel Inc., which provided the fuel for the lift the artist used; and community member Carolyn Wixsom, who provided housing for the artist during his almost month-long stay. Pitkin's Ace Hardware provided all the paint for the mural—a special high-quality fine arts spray paint from Germany that TakerOne prefers.
“This mural is a showpiece in the Belmont Bay community,” said Grove. “It would never have come to fruition without the support of our sponsors.”
“It is a true honor to be given an opportunity like this,” said TakerOne. “Knowing that people put their trust in me makes it extremely important to me to produce the highest possible quality, with no compromise. All of the positive feedback I have gotten so far from the residents of the area and the people from George Mason University proves that my efforts were successful, which makes me very happy.”
Additional university sponsors include the Office of Research, Innovation, and Economic Impact; College of Visual and Performing Arts; School of Business; Patriot Green Fund; Center for the Advancement of Well-Being; Counseling and Psychological Services; and the Provisions Research Center for Art and Social Change.
The official unveiling of “Fauna at Belmont Bay” is this Saturday, Oct. 9, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Potomac Science Center in Woodbridge, Virginia. Find out more about the event and register here.