MIDDLEBURY — After the Seward Johnson statues left downtown last fall, the Middlebury Then & Now committee began searching for a project to replace them. The fruit of that brainstorming session is the “Faces of Middlebury” — a series of locally created and owned wooden cutouts.
“Our committee is always looks for hometown, family-friendly projects and events that we can sponsor,” said Darla Kauffman, the committee’s treasurer. “After the success of the statues from last year, we thought it would be fun to have sort of our own version for just Middlebury and we could have them sponsored by local businesses.”
But before the project could launch, they needed an artist.
“We wanted somebody local,” Kauffman said. After asking around, the committee approached local painter and art educator Linda Pieri. She agreed.
“I’ve just been running around painting everywhere,” Pieri said with a chuckle. At first, she envisioned five or six cutouts. But by this week, she was working on the 18th cutout in her garage. The final collection will include 20.
“They already have a waiting list for next year. More businesses are wanting to do it,” Pieri said.
Pieri has worked with each business to choose or create an image for their sponsored cutout. The artist said Das Dutchman Essenhaus will feature a ‘57 yellow Chevy.
Kauffman added, “The one for Affairs to Remember is kind of a ‘50s dress. It’s very pretty. Rulli’s has two guys that are bakers, and they have an Italian theme. There at the bank we have a bank robber standing next to a replica of our cannonball safe. … It’s been fun that each business has picked their own design.”
Pieri has worked closely with Middlebury Greencroft’s group of woodworkers. The lumber purchased by Middlebury Then & Now was given to Pieri to trace an outline, then delivered to the woodshop for cutting. Once Pieri finishes each one, it is then returned to the woodworkers for them to add a finishing coat and a box for sandbag weights on the back, according to Kauffman.
The 20 cutouts will be displayed around Middlebury in late May. Kauffman said they hope to time the unveiling to coincide with the annual Elkhart County Quilt Gardens.
Pieri smiled as she talked about seeing people use the cutouts for photos for the first time.
“I think it’s going to be so much fun,” she said. “We’re going to have maps printed. They’re tear-off maps. … We start at Bonneyville and go all the way to Rise ‘n Roll.”
Leandra Beabout can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-533-2151, ext. 314.