By Eileen Moon
SEA BRIGHT – Waiting for the bus in Sea Bright is a lot more fun than it used to be thanks to the talents of Monmouth Beach artist Megan Health Gilhool.
Like most people who live close to the ocean, she’s driven up and down Ocean Ave more times than she can count.
And as she traveled, she couldn’t help but see her surroundings with an artist’s eye.
In the right hands, a little paint and TLC could work wonders, Megan knew.
Take the bus stop, for instance.
Every time she passed it, she thought about how the workaday building that provided bus riders a place to get out of the weather as they waited could use a facelift.
Or, as Megan put it, “Every time I walked by it, I just thought it needed a big hug – a big, paint hug!”
Several years ago, she approached the borough about the possibility of painting the bus shelter, but at that time, no one was interested.
She tried again this year however, and with the support of the Sea Bright Business Alliance, she got the green light.
A fine artist whose abstracts have been featured in numerous art shows and galleries, Gilhool also does commissioned work that includes everything from family and pet portraits to tromp l’oeil murals in business and private homes.
And as the bus stop illustrates, she spends a lot of time planning and conceiving her designs.
She spent more than three weeks on the bus shelter project, setting up her paints and supplies and taking them down each day when she was finished. I don’t travel light,” she said.
As she worked, she encountered a number of people who asked questions and commented on what she was doing. One business owner across the street often sat on a chair on the sidewalk watching her work.
Some found her color choices too bright, Gilhool said. “They wanted it to look Nantuckety. But this is Sea Bright. What about New Jersey? New Jersey has its own life, its own spirit.”
Like most folks blessed to call the two river area home, Gilhool has a deep love for and appreciation of the ocean, and that’s reflected in the whimsical interior of the bus stop, which is painted to resemble a comfy summer cottage by the sea.
A trompe l’oeil
Gilhool researched a lot of beach-related sayings before settling on that one, she said.
Painted “Magazines” with a beachy theme are also displayed in a basket with the name of one reading, “N.J. Shore Life,” as well as a painted copy of Sea Bright’s newsletter, “The Seabreeze,” with appropriate headlines.
Such little whimsies are abundant, like the painting of Megan’s real-life cat Buster, sleeping on one wall – not far from his faux food dish.
Inches from the bus shelter’s floor, there’s a painted “snapshot” of Ralph Kramden, the bombastic bus driver played by Jackie Gleason on the 1950s TV series, ***ITALSThe Honeymooners***ENDTALS.
Thanks to Gilhool, commuters caught in the winter chill may enjoy a little bit of summer as they settle inside on the brightly painted bench to wait for the next bus.
And now that the business community has added a little evergreen at the side of the shelter, the scene has taken on a Christmas-y feel as well.
Since she finished painting the shelter, Gilhool has seen parents stopping in with their kids to take photos inside the stop, which always makes her smile.
“It really was a fun project,” said Gilhool.
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