Aug. 20, 2022, Silver Hand Meadery unveiled a 270 feet mural outside their store. The mural, titled “Flight of the Honey Bee, circa 1622,” pays homage to the honey bee and other pollinators and is the first public mural approved through Williamsburg’s public art program.
When Emma Zahren-Newman, ’17, M.A.Ed. ’18 first conceived of the idea to paint the wall, Silver Hand Meadery co-owners Sherri and Glen Lavender were excited about the possibility. After the design was approved and Zahren-Newman painted the blue background, Glenn Lavender knew it was going to be incredible.
“We are so excited about it… it’s beautiful,” Glenn Lavender said. “To have a very large piece of art on our property that will always be here, I think it’s a great thing for the city. You know, we’re always wanting this town to feel more artsy and artistic. And I think this is a good thing for when visitors are in town.”
Zahren-Newman spent over a year hand-painting the mural and said the idea to paint this particular mural actually originated during an interview for a part-time position at the meadery.
“We have this shared passion for pollinators,” Zahren-Newman said in reference to the Lavenders. “In my interview with them they said, ‘You know, of the qualities hungry, smart and humble, like which one do you feel a little out of whack?’ And I said, ‘For hungry, like I bite off more than I can chew. Like, for example, all I want to do is paint that wall outside of your establishment.’ They were like, ‘Oh, that’s a great idea.’”
A third grade teacher during the day, Zahren-Newman used to come after work multiple times a week to spend a few hours on the mural. Following these long sessions, she said her students were always excited to see the progress she was making and she would consistently take pictures to show them updates.
Some of her students were in attendance at the unveiling to support their former teacher.
“I’d come in the next day with a picture like, ‘All right, this is what I did last night,’ and they were like, ‘That’s so cool,’” Zahren-Newman said. “ I actually took a couple of them to the library this summer and we were like on the way back I’d be like ‘wanna see the mural?’ and they were like ‘Yeah!’”
Now working at the U.S. Department of Energy loan offices, Zahren-Newman served as the co-chair of the James City County’s Clean County Commission which also worked on projects regarding local pollinators.
Zahren-Newman is passionate about sustainability and climate change solutions.
“That’s why I joined the Clean County Commission… as a volunteer,” Zahren-Newman said. “It’s a group of people, citizens who volunteer to run educational programming. And a lot of those people are just concerned citizens who find solutions that we can actually do as locals, which it was awesome to be a part of and that kind of like led into all these other projects.”
“Flight of the Honey Bee, circa 1622” marks the first mural completed through Williamsburg’s public art program, which was created last year to help reach the city’s 2040 vision. Along with beautification efforts, the program hopes to celebrate the city’s past, present and future.
The program is led by the Williamsburg Public Arts Council, which, through their nine members, approves applications for grants and city-sponsored art located on private property.
Robert Currie serves as the chair to the Williamsburg Public Art Council. An artist himself, Curried used to work as a curator in New York before he moved to Williamsburg in 2016.
“’I’m so excited that we finally have completed the first one,” Currie said about the mural. “I think hopefully it’s the first of many public arts projects, not just murals, but public art is anything that is accessible to the public. So if it’s a gallery space, performance art, music, theater, anything that contributes to the cultural vibrancy of Williamsburg, we want to support it. And this is just the beginning.”
City Councilman Caleb Rogers ’20 said the idea of the public arts program was to make other parts of Williamsburg vibrant and to also help drive tourism.
“The Public Arts Council has other areas of the city that they are trying to contribute to and put art in,” Rogers said. “Right now they have an application open for the brick wall that’s kind of right across Sal’s in Midtown. I would love for this effort to inspire more artists to actually put a project in and receive funding and then get to beautify other areas of our city.”