2013: Casey Opstad, Artist
The DUMBO BID offered me the opportunity to paint a mural under the Archway. I answered: "Yes, Yes, and YES!" The Archway is a unique space in New York City. No cars! Protected from rain! Picnic tables! Yes- I wanted to be a part of this public space that is open to all.
I took mural measurements and suggested to the DUMBO BID possible twenty-two foot by fourteen foot designs. They selected the pixelated water motif. Great choice. Size was the biggest challenge: it is difficult to paint large-scale murals quickly.
I started work under the Archway, bright and early, at 7 a.m. I stood atop the twelve foot ladder and started painting the upper left-hand corner of the mural. Although I worked for ten hours straight, I made little progress. I freaked out and realized that I could not complete the project alone. I called everyone I knew with a fine arts degree and asked: "Can you work for the next two weeks?" Fortunately, some friends agreed to help. I would not have been able to create Watergate without Adam, Oliver, Dean, and Jess. I would like to thank Jess, in particular, for her contribution; this mural would not exist without her.
The train rumbled overhead. The train RUMBLED overhead. I did not bring earplugs on the first day of painting. I went to sleep that night with the sound of trains rumbling in MY head. The next day, ear plugs.
People often stopped by to say hello to me under the DUMBO Archway. I am originally from North Dakota. New Yorkers, in my opinion, are the friendliest people in the world: they talk to and help anyone and everyone! It is true that people often wear masks, during the day, in the city. But people remove those masks under the Archway. I talked to hundreds of people while painting. Children were the best at breaking the ice. They asked me, "What are you doing?" A great question!
The Archway atmosphere changed as the days went on. It was quiet in the morning. It started buzzing at around 10 a.m. It got busy at lunch. It became wild and packed at night. Then, it became quiet again. The only sound was the rumble of late night trains.
I felt at total peace when I finished the mural. It was a new feeling: I was floating. I was completely connected. Jess was with me at the end.
A ladder, besides the metal fence, allowed passersby to look over the Watergate mural. You could see down along the length of the Manhattan Bridge towards Manhattan. You felt like you discovered something that no one saw before. Water poured off of either side of the bridge when it rained. The Archway was peaceful and magical.
I am grateful for the entire experience.