If you see the late Jerry Garcia hovering over Bradford, don’t worry; It’s not the 1960s coming back to haunt you.
The portrait of the Grateful Dead lead singer is a mural on the side of 177 Main St. The project is a collaborative effort between Bradford artists Rick Minard and Greg Souchik.
The pair has not collaborated on a project like this before, but Souchik said they have been talking about painting murals for several months. A few months ago they took a walking tour of the town and spotted plenty of spaces that would be good places for murals.
“Any large, unencumbered wall is a target,” said Souchik.
They are also considering resurrecting existing murals — mostly old advertisements — that have faded over the years.
“Some look pretty good once you put a new coat of paint on it,” Souchik said.
Minard noted the pair had been bouncing around the idea of a mural for years. But it was only recently they finally said, “OK, let’s do a mural,” Minard explained.
When picking a subject to paint, Minard suggested basing it off one of Souchik’s paintings.
This one of Garcia is one Souchik had done several times, so “I was pretty familiar with it,” he said, noting “Jerry had so much hair and he’s kind of an iconic picture himself.”
The timing of the mural is fitting, as the 50th anniversary of Woodstock is just over a week away. The music festival took place Aug. 15-18, 1969, in Bethel, N.Y. The Dead was one of a long list of performers at the festival.
Souchik said they plan to add more murals to the side of the large building, likely including other Woodstock performers such as Jimi Hendrix.
Minard said the image of Garcia is easily recognizable as a Souchik work, who is known — but not exclusively — for his black-and-white paintings of musicians from that era.
For his own work, Minard, an art professor at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, has been exploring the relationship of the elements of his painting through the use of a weaving technique he developed.
“The whole weaving thing is something I’ve been doing for quite some time,” he said, noting he keeps coming back to it because there are so many aspects of it he wants to explore.
Souchik described the positive impact murals can have on a community like Bradford.
Murals have a “tendency to brighten up the town and get people interested in it,” said Souchik, who also noted, “There are a lot of open walls in Bradford.”
Souchik talked about a place he visited in New Hampshire that hosted a mural show. People would travel there to tour the town.
“If you have really nice murals, people will come from a long distance to come and take a look at them,” he said.
That in turn helps the economy, as people “spend a little money” or even stay overnight, he explained. “It certainly doesn’t hurt to have the murals to help the aesthetics.”
For the Garcia mural, it was easy to get permission to use the space, as the building is owned by Allegheny Land & Development, in which Souchik is a principal. He also operates Allegheny Arsenal, located next door to 177 Main.
Souchik said 177 Main has “historical value, as it is the old Bovaird & Seyfang building that was built in the 1920s or 1930s and was the spot where oil field engines were made.”
They plan to restore and old Bovaird logo on the side of the building.
The most recent tenant was The CabineTree Woodshop, which announced its closure in 2016. The building is currently empty.
Souchik explained the biggest obstacles to putting up new murals are getting permission, finding funding and finding time to complete the projects.
Minard noted, “We can do murals of anything, actually, especially if somebody wants to commission us.”
Anyone interested in donating time or money to future mural projects can email Souchik at firstname.lastname@example.org, message Souchik or Minard on Facebook or reach out to the McKean County Arts Council.
While Minard and Souchik are both board members for the McKean County Arts Council, the Garcia mural was not a council project, but rather something the pair completed on their own as artists.
There is a link between the 177 Main St. and the Arts Council: It is one of multiple buildings to which the organization is considering moving. No final decision on a move has been made.
Souchik confirmed that the Arts Council, currently located in the old Bradford post office at 80 E. Corydon St., is looking for a larger space. The organization wants space to hold classes and to open an art gallery.