DERRY — A new mural in town pays tribute to the area’s rich aviation history, including Derry’s own first American in space.
Colorful, painted images were officially celebrated along a 411-foot wall near the rail trail off South Avenue recently, with town officials, artists and supporters gathering to cut a ribbon on the new mural that chronicles the area’s strong flying history and where that history may lead in the future.
The mural also puts hometown astronaut Alan B. Shepard Jr. in the spotlight, along with other tributes to flyers like Irene Keith and Judge George Grinnell. Other flying technologies, inventors, and early aviators with ties to the area are also portrayed in paint.
The project was a community collaboration through the Greater Derry Arts Council Public Arts Committee, artist Karen Munday Lincoln, Derry Heritage Commission, the town, and many other organizations, groups and volunteers pitching in to help organize, research and paint the mural.
Families also offered information and photographs so artists could feature their ancestors’ stories to be part of the mural. That information may also be recorded to be an extra part of the mural, so people can learn more about aviation history.
“It’s a huge community effort,” said Derry Economic Development Director Beverly Donovan. “We couldn’t have done it without so many.”
While the mural was taking shape over the past several months, many got involved to stop and see the progress or pick up a brush and paint images.
Neighbors living in the area also watched the colorful flying images take shape.
“It really did take a village,” Donovan added.
The mural officially lies on town property, along segments of the community’s rail trail. The Public Arts group in town also contributed colorful images to paved portions of the trail, including the words of poet Robert Frost.
Frost and his family called Derry home for about a decade while he taught English at Pinkerton Academy.
Donovan added that Derry’s aviation history is strong and deep, with Shepard’s own flying milestones, including his first space flight in 1961 and then traveling to the moon aboard Apollo 14 in 1971.
For Lincoln, this mural is the longest she’s done. Lincoln was also instrumental in the planning and painting of other murals on business walls on Broadway.
It was also special, Lincoln said, to be able to have the opportunity to work on this mural, given the strong history and this year being the 50th anniversary of Shepard’s steps on the moon.
Lincoln said she is the daughter of a geologist who loves to fly planes, adding her parents raised her to always see the bigger picture.
The mural tells stories, many dating back generations to simple cow fields where early flyers would test their planes, up through the years to more advanced adventures into the skies.
Lincoln also credited all the people who helped, including local students who helped paint, or provided ideas for images for the mural. Pinkerton Academy’s JROTC was on hand during the ribbon-cutting to help celebrate the school’s famed alumnus Shepard, a member of the Class of 1940.
“This was an opportunity to bring people together,” Lincoln said.
Lincoln said she hopes the mural will be a permanent reminder of a strong past when innovators and pilots reached for the stars.
“I hope this mural gets used and (people can) reflect on the past and look to the future,” she said.