Artist Adam Niklewicz’s Pearl Street Replication Of Historic Tree On Side Of Former Hartford Synagogue

There’s a new mural in downtown Hartford, on the side of a building on Pearl Street. Just go to Bin 228 Winebar, cross the street and walk through the alley between TheaterWorks and the now-vacant former synagogue. Turn to your left and look up at the old brick surface of the synagogue.

That faded thing is brand new? Yes: Just wait until you see it wet.

Adam Niklewicz’s installation, to be formally dedicated on Thursday, Sept. 20, is a water-activated mural of Hartford’s historic Charter Oak. The brick around the tree is weather-treated. The area of the tree drawing is not. When the wall gets wet, the bricks in the tree-drawing area become soaked and dark and the treated bricks do not, causing the image to appear sharply on the wall.

Niklewicz’s tree is the capitol city’s contribution to a statewide City Canvas public art program, which includes artworks in New London, Waterbury, New Britain, Torrington, Bridgeport and Stamford. All of the muralists for all of the projects live in Connecticut.

“We decided we didn’t want a traditional mural. That would be the most obvious direction,” Niklewicz, of North Haven, said in an interview at the mural site. “We want something less than typical.”

The “we” Niklewicz refers to is the committee who chose him and approved of the installation, which included Will Wilkins and John O’Donnell of Real Art Ways, Susan Talbott and Patricia Hickson of the Wadsworth Atheneum, city publicist Mary Coursey and Christina Newman Scott, director of marketing and cultural affairs for the city.

Niklewicz ran by the committee an idea he had a few years ago, in 2009, when he was playing with tree images. “I was arranging concrete blocks covered with translucent sealant and bricks not covered. The unsealed blocks were unaffected until soaked with water, and the image of a tree came out,” he said. (To see a video of this, go to

The committee recommended he apply this method to a rendering of the Charter Oak. “We took this generic tree idea and turned it into something of historical significance,” he said. “It gave it gravitas and a completed vision.”

The image of the Charter Oak comes from painting in the Atheneum’s collection, Charles DeWolf Brownell’s “The Charter Oak,” from 1857.

Hickson said for Nicklewicz’s work is appealing because it brings nature more into the city. “It’s in a downtown setting, where there is a park, but then around the park there are all of these empty buildings, not so enlivened by trees,” she said.

Newman Scott said of the mural, “In such a wonderful way it challenges those preconceived notions of what a mural can do and what a mural looks like what purpose it serves.”