ATTLEBORO -- A local artist is giving a bright and creative new look to what had been a drab downtown alleyway.
Jess Tracey for the past several weeks has been painting fictional characters from a children’s book series on exterior walls of the municipal parking garage and surrounding brick buildings.
The entire project will have several components, at least six major paintings of creatures, including whales and angler fish, said Mim Brooks Fawcett, executive director and chief curator at the Attleboro Arts Museum, which is coordinating the artistic endeavor. Tracey expects to put the finishing touches on the artwork in early fall.
The alley runs along the back of the Sanford Street parking garage from Bank Street to North Main Street and includes part of Academy Street.
It is being called the Thomas H. Cuddy Jr. Courtyard in memory of Cuddy, a longtime owner of a local insurance business who was very active in city affairs and died earlier this year.
“This work is all about finding growth and life in the places you least expect it,” Tracey said. “My hope is to have visitors of Cuddy Court interact with the artwork again and again. Each piece will provide the viewer with a playful experience that complements the new energy being created in Attleboro’s downtown.”
Fawcett has been working with Tracey to develop images that go beyond the typical public mural and reach out to viewers.
“Jess has a vivid imagination allowing her to bring magical characters to life. Her creatures are filled with emotion and personality. Add that to her masterful painting skills and love of her native Attleboro and she’s the ideal artist for this effort,” Fawcett said. “The broad appeal of her work will turn Cuddy Court into a go-to spot for children, teens and adults.”
City officials along with the building owners and businesses supported the project.
“This alleyway has been neglected and poorly lit for decades,” Mayor Paul Heroux said. “The recent improvements will help connect our municipal garage to downtown businesses, attracting foot traffic and supporting our efforts to build the local economy.”
The Cuddy family is also thrilled with the project.
“The Cuddy Family and the longtime loyal staff of FBinsure are so pleased and happy with the revitalization project behind our agency office and abutting the municipal parking garage,” said Mark Cuddy, Thomas’s son, “My dad would be speechless knowing of the honor of having it named Cuddy Court. We thank everyone involved for their passion, interest, dedication and hard work.”
Cuddy pointed out Tracey is a longtime neighbor of the family.
“Her artistry was unique and exceptional even in her youth, when over a dozen years ago she painted Pat the Patriot on my son’s bedroom wall,” Cuddy said.
The development of Cuddy Court was made possible through a Shared Winter Streets and Spaces grant from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
Public art arose through the efforts of Attleboro’s Transformative Development Initiative and a $20,000 grant from MassDevelopment.
“Enhancing Cuddy Court with murals from a local artist will help further activate an underutilized public space, create room for programming and events, and increase visibility and access to the underutilized Sanford Street garage,” MassDevelopment President and CEO Dan Rivera said.
Cuddy supported many local causes and organizations, served on the board of trustees of Bishop Feehan High School, was a member of Sturdy Memorial Hospital Foundation and actively served on the Attleboro YMCA board of directors for nearly 50 years.