Branchville mural has a simple message

Ross Clark’s upbeat mural is easily visible to southbound drivers on Route 7 in Branchville.

Ross Clark’s upbeat mural is easily visible to southbound drivers on Route 7 in Branchville.

Contributed photo

With vibrant colors and a now familiar positive message — “We’re all in this together”— the mural greets southbound travelers on Route 7 in Branchville. It is meant, simply, to raise their spirits.

“One of things that was really important to me with the coronavirus pandemic is everybody that’s stepped up and tried to do good and be proactive and positive,” said Ross Clark.

“I felt if I did something like that, I could probably brighten a lot of people’s days as they drive by, and increase the positivity during a dark time. That was kind of the thinking behind it.”

Clark, a self-taught artist who works in the family construction business, spent about 11 hours painting the mural on a south-facing wall of the Branchville building where Clark Construction is based.

He’s been getting good feedback.

“Lots and lots of people stopped by. People are regularly posting it on social media and saying it brightened their days. Lots and lots of heartwarming posts, so I’m pretty happy about that. That was essentially the goal,” he said.

“While I was painting it, people were stopping by every five minutes to take pictures and tell me they like it. I had some guy, he drove into the parking lot and turned around and said, ‘Bravo!’ and gave me a round of applause.”

Landlord’s support

Of course, before undertaking a huge, highly visible mural on a building where your company is a tenant, it’s best to check with the landlord.

“Joe Ancona owns the building, so I went to him with the idea and with a really rough drawing,” Clark said. “He was immediately on board.”

Originally, Clark said, his plan had been to do the mural on a smaller wall on the other, north-facing side of the building, which is less visible. Ancona suggested he paint on the big wall that is directly in the view of southbound drivers on Route 7, waiting at the Branchville traffic light.

“He really liked it and suggested I use the big wall that I painted it on,” Clark said. “It really worked out well.

“The bigger wall gave me an opportunity to do something much more interesting, I think,” he said. “Kind of what led the whole design were the windows and trying to figure out how to make the windows fit in nicely.”

Clark, who lives in Danbury, grew up in Ridgefield and graduated with the Ridgefield High School Class of 2006.

Art and drawing have long been interests.

“I was the kid that always got in trouble for doodling in my notebook in class,” he said.

In recent years he’d done some spray-painted artwork, but nothing like the Route 7 mural.

“I’ve never done anything this big,” he said.

“While I was painting, a local business owner came and asked me to do their building. And a couple of other people that are artists reached out to me and they want to team up,” he said.

So he may try to put those two things together and do some more mural projects.

“I might have more to work on,” he said.

Trying to help

Clark Construction is an established local business.

“We have eight employees and we have a lot of trade partners that we work with regularly. We do renovations and additions — that’s what we’ve been doing for 32 years now, since my parents started it,” he said.

“The way that we try to run our company is always doing what we can to help the community,” he said. “There’s a number of things we try to do.

“Through this COVID-19 pandemic we made six gallons of hand sanitizer and gave it away to high risk individuals. We got a great response to that,” he said.

The coronavirus crisis has also prompted them to collect donations for Meals on Wheels and RVNAhealth, the visiting nurse organization, he said.

And the mural artist also organized a mask-making effort.

“I made a group on Facebook called ‘The Mask Collective’ and there’s probably 80 or 90 members making masks for healthcare workers,” he said. “We’re doing free pickup and delivery of donated masks.”

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Clark launched another home-grown effort to better the world a little bit — a nonprofit called Clean Our Land.

“We do large-scale litter cleanup events around the country,” he said. “We’ll go to a state park or town park or a beach and clean up all the trash.”

For all that, he’s enjoying the way his mural project worked out and seems to be making a modest contribution to the public mood during the trials of the pandemic with its required social distancing.

“I had good inspiration for it. I felt motivated to get it done,” he said, “and I’m really glad it turned out how it did.”