By Jay Cook |
SEA BRIGHT – The revival of Sea Bright is well underway.
Sure, the anticipated reopening of Donovan’s Reef and the ongoing work to replenish washed-out beaches got visitors excited. Yet for locals living along Ocean Avenue and its side streets, there’s one particular project that has them particularly jazzed.
It’s happening right now, and in the most unlikely of places – a rebuilt bus stop. Lifelong local and professional painter Megan Heath Gilhool is recreating an art installation that was once beloved in town before it was washed away by Super Storm Sandy.
For Gilhool, the project is centered around one key ideal.
“Keep Sea Bright alive,” she said.
For those trekking to the beaches or waiting in line for the Rumson-Sea Bright drawbridge to shut, it will be hard to miss Gilhool this summer.
Clad in a white smock smattered with colors across the spectrum, glasses hanging on the tip of her nose, Gilhool is in the midst of recreating the personalized bus shelter she handpainted prior to Super Storm Sandy.
The original project, a full-out interactive mural depicting the fashionable interior of a maritime getaway, lasted just over a year before it fell victim to “stupid Storm Sandy,” as Gilhool calls it, when it was sent off in chunks into the Shrewsbury River.
Since the storm, Gilhool has been waiting patiently for a new fixture, thinking about how she can grow off of the original artwork.
The first rendition was an homage to the trompe l’oeil style, using realistic imager y to create an optical illusion. The original stop was hand-painted from corner to corner, adorned with a number of different unique additions.
It plays well with her personal style, Gilhool said. “I do very serious, and then also very whimsical.”
Take, for example, the old water and food bowl for the fittingly-named feline Buster, who was painted onto the wall. A large vase, lantern, mermaid, starfish, hand-painted curtains, and realistically designed pillows could be found throughout the mural.
Though this time around, she plans to incorporate a balance of new and old ideas, as she is continuously planning what’s next.
A portrait of Ralph Kramden, main character of the mid-1950s sitcom “The Honeymooners,” who Gilhool called “the most famous bus driver of all time,” was a suitable addition, and will have a place in the new bus stop.
A bookcase with quirky titles will be installed. The most famous of those books would most likely be by the fictional author Justin Time, with his masterpiece “Almost Missed the Bus.”
Gilhool also anticipates a portrait of a setting sun will have a home inside, because “That’s what Sea Bright’s all about,” she remarked. “It’s a brand-new day.”
Last Friday afternoon, Gilhool was braving the 90 degree-plus temperatures for some final work before she stopped for the weekend. It was her first full week of painting, considering the bus stop construction had been completed.
Steve Kelly, who said he’s lived in town his entire life, was excited to see Gilhool back at work.
“She’s doing a fantastic job, and she did the last time, too,” Kelly said.
Kelly continued to say the painting is unique to Sea Bright, considering “it adds character to the town.”
While Gilhool donated her time in the first go-around, a consortium of local businesses are pooling money to fund her work on the second bus stop.
Supplies ranging from paint brushes to whatever color paint her heart desires are being donated by Frank Bain, co-owner of Bain’s Hardware, located across the street from Gilhool’s installment.
“I’m happy to help her,” Bain said by phone, earlier this week. “It’s my own little way to give to the community.”
He also provided necessary tools to the 2011 bus stop project, and was more than willing to do it again.
“She took a not-so-nice bus stop and turned it into a focal point of the town,” Bain said.
For Gilhool, there’s no set deadline on when she will finish. But it won’t be finished until she’s completely satisfied.
And for those that missed out on her first edition she said be prepared for a mentally and emotionally uplifting piece, one that she hopes will captivate the senses.
“Don’t be afraid of color,” Gilhool said with a smirk. “It’s your friend.”
This article was first published in the August 10-17, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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