“Art changes lives. Art changes communities.”
Ordinarily, those might sound like big words, but Ed Trask and his words seemed dwarfed by the 6,000 square feet of art he was standing in front of.
About a year after they were conceived – and a few months late because of a summer full of incessant rain – the five giant murals on the back of Alamo Drafthouse in One Loudoun were officially unveiled after a brief ceremony Sept. 22.
Trask, a Purcellville native and Loudoun Valley High School graduate, joined fellow Richmond-based artists Steve Hedberg and Matt Lively in creating the enormous works of art. First conceived by One Loudoun Managing Director Bill May, the murals represent One Loudoun’s five fundamental principles of new urbanism – harmony, social, connected, organic and urban.
“This is a celebration of our core values,” May said as he introduced the artists. “I never could have imagined that something like this would come out of what started as a few simple ideas. Thanks to their creativity and artistic talents, they were able to literally weave the concept of new urbanism into the very fabric or One Loudoun.”
Trask moved to Richmond after high school to study art at Virginia Commonwealth University. When his studio work wasn’t attracting enough attention, he began doing “unauthorized” murals on older, often unused building in his neighborhood. Then, he spent a few years touring the world as a punk-rock drummer – taking his paints along to “mark his territory” in between music gigs.
Trask and his wife, Kelly, have a daughter named Eleanor and a son named Loudon. He and his growing family settled back into Richmond and he went back to focusing full-time on his painting. His reputation grew, and with the connections he made there he helped start the annual Richmond Street Art Festival, which draws thousands of artists and art-lovers every September.
When May approached Hedberg about the murals at One Loudoun, Hedberg brought Trask and Lively on board. The goal was to have the murals finished by the end of May, but rain slowed or completely halted the work in the time the three artists had set aside for the project.
One Loudoun Vice President of Marketing Julie Dillion said it was “fitting” that a few uninvited sprinkles crashed the party again Saturday.
Trask, sporting a Boston Red Sox cap perhaps to keep the rain off his face, said he was excited to see the finished product unveiled, especially with friends and family – including his mother – in attendance.
“This part is the best feeling of all,” Trask said. “For a while, it felt like it was never going to end.”
Trask’s work – in the middle section – focuses on the W&OD Railroad, which filled one important role in Loudoun County in the past but has now been re-purposed for recreational use as a hiking/biking trail.
“It symbolizes movement, not just in terms of transportation and but in terms of change,” he said.
Hedberg’s mural on the left end features an eagle morphing out of a modern jet-liner.
“I think it shows how nature informs technology,” Hedberg said. “But I lost my father when we were in the planning phases. He was in the foreign service, so he was always jetting here and there around the world. Every minute I was painting it I was thinking about him. He became that eagle, so it took on a second meaning.”
Lively’s work, at the right end of the five murals, shows older urban buildings being reflected in a steel-and-glass skyscraper. It also contains the bees that have become Lively’s trademark.
“That all started because when I started painting my compositions always left big holes,” he said. “So I started using them that way. Then I started hearing about the life-cycle of bees, and that became even more intriguing for me.”
The artists worked individually on the the end panels and the one in the middle. They worked together on the other two to make one giant composition that flows from one end to the other.
“It was a lot of hard work, but it was all worth it,” Trask said.