Student-made banners celebrate Fairfield, to adorn downtown, Central Office

Photo of Justin Papp

FAIRFIELD — It took several weeks for James Wray to get the details of his computer generated burger-and-fries meal just right.

There are the many shades and crinkles of the lettuce, adding depth to the fries, which sit behind the meat patty, and placing the many poppy seeds carefully on the virtual bun.

Wray, a 16-year-old Fairfield Warde sophomore, is one of several students in a Digital Illustration class led by art teacher Maraget Caparon working with Adobe Illustrator this semester to create images that represent the town, and that will be printed onto banners and hung around town.

“I had to learn a lot of new skills for the project and I had to implement a lot of new techniques to make the image 3-D and more realistic,” said Wray, who took an introductory digital illustration class his freshman year.

Wray’s poster highlights Fairfield’s culinary heritage, while others in the class, like senior Sam Walter, 18, and junior Ethan Larkin, 17, were creating posters that highlighted Fairfield’s golf courses and Farmers Market, respectively.

“I’m a little nervous because the project is for the town,” said Megan Henry, also 16 and a sophomore who had one year of digital illustration experience under her belt. For over a month she had been working on a recreation of Lake Mohegan, a first draft of which she had to scrap midway through in favor of a design she felt was more polished.

“I’m excited too, but I’m a little anxious,” Henry added.

The banner project began almost by coincidence.

In fall 2017, Michele Hermsen, director of K through 12 art at Fairfield Public Schools, got a call from Mark Barnhart, director of Fairfield’s Office of Community and Economic Development, who had some ideas to enhance downtown.

Shortly after speaking with Barnhart, Hermsen got a call from Elise McKay, Parking Authority of Fairfield board chair, who expressed a desire to display the uniqueness of Fairfield in the downtown train station.

“There were a couple different conversations going on with different organizations, but everybody wanted the same thing,” Hermsen said. “Basically, we wanted to do something called ‘placemaking,’ which is when you try to create an essence of the town to draw people here for all its great characteristics.”

Hermsen met with Barnhart and McKay, and then visited the train station to brainstorm ideas.

“I looked around and saw an opportunity for art,” said Hermsen.

Hermsen originally enlisted the help of five students in Ludlowe’s Advanced Digital Illustration class, taught by Johanna Estevez.

Over the course of several months, the students worked to create a series of five banners, each of which celebrates some positive aspect of life in Fairfield, including the Sherman Green Gazebo, the vibrant downtown, and the Fairfield Theatre Company.

Lily Phillips, a Ludlowe sophomore, worked on a banner depicting the town’s colonial history,

“It’s a long process,” said Phillips, who is in her second year learning graphic design. “First we need sort of an initial sketch we work with. Then we go on the computer and we work on that sketch. We don’t scan directly but we use it as a base reference. We start out with a black and white copy and once we’re satisfied we add color.”

Hermsen, McKay and Barnhart observed the results of the project and the quality of the posters produced by the students and decided to expand the project.

“At that point, after we saw that things were really looking good, we decided that Warde should also be involved,” Hermsen said.

It was decided that the Ludlowe banners, in addition to being hung at Central Office, where they can currently be viewed, would be displayed at the downtown train station on the New York City-bound side.

Once complete, the banners designed by Warde students will hang on the opposite New Haven-bound side. But Barnhart hopes to spread their creations further.

“When I saw preliminary work from students I was really impressed with the quality and I thought it was a shame to limit exposure to a few banners at the downtown station. Wouldn’t it be nice to provide additional exposure by mounting a special banner exhibit downtown?” Barnhart said.

The timing of the exhibit has not been confirmed, but Barnhart is hoping for this summer.

“This is all a part of creating a sense of place for the downtown,” Barnhart said. “There’s a wealth of talent here and I think it’s a great opportunity to get that out there and show people what these young artists are capable of.”; @justinjpapp1; 203-842-2586