BEVERLY CITY — What was once just the bare wall of the Beverly Free Library Annex is now a bright and colorful scene symbolizing new life.
Local leaders gathered last week outside of the Beverly Free Library to celebrate the unveiling of the city’s new mural, one which officials hope will revitalize the small downtown.
The mural features three butterflies perched on three bright yellow sunflowers painted along the wall of as if they sprouted from the library’s driveway. Above each flower floats a bee, and one pair of butterfly wings is situated to offer the perfect Instagram-able moment.
“I think it's just lovely. I’m really proud of it. I hope it revitalizes the town,” said Dale Thompson, who was the driving force behind the mural. She said she got the idea last year while on lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is a COVID idea,” Thompson said, adding she was inspired by a mural recently unveiled in Burlington City.
City officials agreed, hoping the mural’s message — one of new life — comes true for the city.
“We have so much potential, but we have constrained parking, we don't have a lot of businesses. We're trying to bring them in,” said Councilman Mark Schwedes.
The small city (a population of just over 2,000, according to U.S. Census Data) along the Delaware River has made efforts to attract developers, however, with limited developable space — the city is almost built out — it’s been difficult. Not to mention the impact of COVID-19.
“We've been standstill for a year and a half. (The pandemic) put a hurting on us,” Council President Bob Bancroft said.
However, small steps over recent years have been made; a new vegan restaurant has opened, as well as a Family Dollar. Murals hopefully will help the small town make take larger steps.
“They did a beautiful job,” said Bancroft, who added there could be plans for more. “It draws people's attention to the library, which is the number one spot in the town.”
Thompson enlisted the help of her friend Ellie Curtin, who suggested the mural be painted on the wall of the Beverly Free Library Annex; and Mount Holly artist Debbie King, who painted the mural.
“It's always good to see people from within the community volunteer their efforts to bring new life to it,” said Mayor Randy Miller.
King was able to complete the painting in about 24 hours over the course of a few days in November.
“It was a privilege, and I had so much fun doing it,” King said. “I thank God for the image of the butterfly, because it's a symbol of new life.”
She was presented with a certificate of appreciation by U.S. Rep. Andy Kim and state Sen. Troy Singleton for efforts. Both legislators gave brief remarks to the crowd gathered on the library’s lawn.
“To see how much pride you all have in your community, how much pride you have in this mural and what it represents ... I have to say that's really it's really touching,” Kim said.
“This is talking about all of our communities and what we've been through this year. We had a tough time, but we're like that butterfly — everyone's now opening themselves up again and creating a new normal and a better normal for each and every one of us," Singleton said.
In addition to the mural, the event also kicked off the city’s seasonal farmer’s market at the Free Library, which will run the first and third Wednesdays of each month through September.
A tractor was even brought in to “cut” the ribbon by driving through it.