Take a walk along Main Street in Saugerties between Partition and Market streets and you can’t miss Kelli Bickman’s art work. Her large murals grace the Odd Fellows Hall at 236 Main Street and the M&T Bank building, which was the work of teens from the Boys & Girls Club along with Bickman. She also restored the mural on the wall of the Reis Insurance Group overlooking the parking lot on Partition and Main streets.
Bickman described her plan for the next project, which she hopes to begin next spring, at a Village Board meeting on Monday, December 5. The mural would feature Rocky the Owl, the small saw-whet owl found in the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in 2020 and treated at the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center in Saugerties for a short time before being returned to the wild. The owl has been the subject of a children’s book and has captured the imaginations of people worldwide. “He’s become such an icon for Saugerties,” Bickman told the board. Her canvas would be Cliff Tienken’s building at 241-243 Main Street.
Bickman would probably not begin until spring, partly because she would need the time to find funding for the project. “I will need between $6,000 and $8,000 to do it,” she said. You guys were so helpful when we did the last one. It was extraordinary, the team effort; I had a dozen professional artists and at least 10 or 12 students who came in to work on that project. It’s community building.”
Some 30 students worked on the mural at the M&T parking lot, Bickman said. Her projects are designed to involve the community and spread the satisfaction of creating art to more people she said.
Mayor Bill Murphy said the village would help, possibly providing manpower for some of the work of installing the wood panels that make up the art work on the side of the building.
The board voted to support the project.
As for the finances, Bickman said she might do a “Go Fund Me” appeal and possibly go to local businesses to seek help. She has a page on Spotfund for contributions, https://www.spotfund.com/story/9bacdae3-d8b5-4fb8-8c17-cdcb9b6e514a? source=c&share_location=e&SFID=gRjy7Pce&referral_id=63c33d2b-f0a3-4e05-929c-2bfe23be182dthe.
Following the meeting, Bickman provided more details about her methods and her work.
A smaller painting of the owl that will be reproduced on the building can be seen in the Newberry Artisan Market, where Bickman has a space. Her work includes paintings suitable for the wall of an average home to large pieces suitable for display in a gallery, museum or mansion.
Bickman will paint the large version of the painting on wooden panels, which would then be installed on the building. This is the technique she used to produce the mural that graces the Odd Fellows building, where Bickman previously had a studio. The second floor of that building included a huge ballroom, where Bickman could set up the panels for her murals. She has moved to West Saugerties, where she has far less space, so she will be looking for a large space to set up the owl mural.
While it is early to be assembling, some people have already volunteered. While the art work is her painting, she said, others may contribute alterations that improve the work. “For instance, on the ‘Strong Together’ mural on the Odd Fellows building, I had designed it to have clouds in the background. “Artist Sara Conrad-Ferm jumped in and painted the most glorious clouds that were far beyond what I would have done.”
While Rocky the Owl has become something of a symbol in Saugerties, Bickman said, “owls symbolize truth, understanding, patience and wisdom to us when we need it most. They are a totem to guide us through difficult times.” Bickman said.
Perhaps the ultimate expression of Bickman’s view of art as a shared experience is her World Peace Mural, which is the composite work of thousands of people who have seen it and added to it with each showing. Small pictures, written comments and combinations of these media fill the 12-foot by 36-foot piece. The mural is in storage now, but Bickman said she hopes it can be displayed again at some time in the future.