Keri Roskill spent her Fourth of July weekend finishing her most unusual work of art yet.
The artist usually paints on a blank canvas surrounded by silence and solitude. But throughout her most recent project, she witnessed the curious faces of passersby as her latest painting came to life on the black asphalt.
Roskill contributed to a project created by the Natick Center Cultural District to beautify and brighten downtown Natick through public art. Her paintings of bright-colored koi swimming through aqua waters grace the intersection of East Central and Park streets in Natick Center.
Usually creating and selling her work in private, the Framingham artist was excited by the opportunity to display her artwork out in public to Natick residents and visitors.
“One of the best parts of this whole thing was meeting people and being surrounded by the public,” Roskill said. “[People] could see the progression from the very beginning ... and then they would stop by and they would ask questions of what I was doing.”
Athena Pandolf, executive director of the cultural district, said the idea for the project was first conceived in 2020, with the goal of calming vehicle traffic and protecting pedestrians at busy intersections by placing eye-catching art on the streets.
While pavement art increases the visibility and safety of pedestrians, Pandolf and contributing artists agreed that the project evolved to reveal something more.
“Art benefits public health and the wellness of people in ways that I don’t think I understood prior to the pandemic,” Pandolf said. “I do feel it brings a certain lightness or happiness and joy to people to see public art.”
Fostering joy was Roskill’s uppermost priority when deciding what she wanted to paint. After in-depth research, she decided to paint a koi pond, which she said is visually dynamic and symbolizes good luck, courage, and perseverance.
Those values were particularly relevant to Roskill during the height of the pandemic when she ― and the rest of the world ― were in isolation. However, the principles continue to resonate with her today, and she hopes they’ll connect with her audience, too.
“I was trying to think of something that I could do that would be calming and serene and a little bit cheerful,” Roskill said. “A koi pond, it’s sort of meditative.”
While Roskill chose a peaceful theme, Sasha Kutnetsova, an artist from Natick whose pseudonym is KOUZZA, is taking a more whimsical approach. Public artwork is nothing new to Kutnetsova. The artist has beautified Natick in the past by painting electrical boxes and commuter rail stations. Now, she’s taking her talents to the streets.
For this project, her artwork will depict a colorful conglomeration of buildings, people, cars, flowers, and other playful designs. Kutnetsova’s biggest wish is to put a smile on the faces of those who see her work.
“People should be surrounded by something bright and beautiful,” she said. “The better the surroundings the better the people.”
Although Roskill finished her pavement art earlier this month, Kutnetsova and others involved are still working on their contribution to Natick’s collection of public art.
The paintings can be found at the intersection of routes 27 and 135 as well as on the corner of Park and East Central streets, and Washington and West Central streets. Pedestrians can see the pavement art come to life in real time, but they will officially be revealed to the public Oct. 15, kicking off the Natick Artist Open Studios event.
“I think [public art] provides people a sense of togetherness and community,” Pandolf said. “So I really hope that when people walk by the art that their spirits are lifted.”