A new face for Benson Park


PHOTO BY NICK ZACHARIAS

Mexican artist Rolando De la Peña puts the finishing touches on a mural on a building in Hudson’s Benson Park, a work he ended up contributing to by chance on a visit to see friends in Saint-Lazare.

If you haven’t been by Benson Park on Yacht Club Road in Hudson for a while, it has had an inspired facelift. Through the hard work and generosity of spirit of Mexican artist and teacher Rolando De la Peña, in just a couple of short weeks the old green buildings in the park (that serve as changing facilities for summer and winter sports) have taken on an astonishing new look.

The project wasn’t something that came from an official movement but rather was born organically through fortunate circumstances and a lot of good will from many contributors. It began in the late summer when Julia Schroeder, owner of Pop Culture in Hudson just across from the park, mobilized local artists with the co-operation of Hudson Hardware to beautify a storage container in the back of their lot that was seen as a bit of an eyesore. Many amateur and professional artists showed up to contribute to that project, one of whom was De la Peña.

“I am just here visiting some friends in Saint-Lazare for a month,” said De la Peña. “When I heard about the mural on the container I came to help, and when it was finished I offered to donate a mural for the buildings in the park.”

Permission was hastily obtained from the Town of Hudson, supplies procured, and De la Peña got to work.

His amazing project was inspired by local nature, which is a lot different from his surroundings in Mexico City.

PHOTO BY NICK ZACHARIAS

This colourful scene, that was once a drab container next to Pop Culture in Hudson, was realized by an enthusiastic volunteer team of amateur and professional artists, and provided the spark that led to the dramatic facelift on two buildings in Benson Park.

“I always try to think how I can contribute to living and healing and making life better. Here we are surrounded by leaves and seeds and nature – for you it is normal, but I am like a child in awe seeing this for the first time.” That sense of childlike reverence comes through magically in his mural. “I wanted to explore the wonder of the fox, seeing things from a different perspective than other animals.”

Another element he explores is the energy of the female Cardinal – when he got started the bird began life as a bright and flashy male Blue Jay, but underwent a transformation along the way. Says De la Peña, “I started thinking about how we are so often drawn to the brightest colours, how it makes me almost think of commercialization, and I wanted to bring forward a different, a more female energy about love and nurturing and growth; the colours are not as brilliant on the outside, but there’s a world of colours inside if we look closely.”

That kind of nurturing attitude can carry through more than just art. Says Schroeder of the project, “It’s like the broken window theory – if you have a building with one broken window, people are more likely to break other windows, while if you beautify your surroundings, people will tend to respect that and care for it and keep the area inviting for everyone’s benefit.”

As of press day, De la Peña will be on his way back to Mexico, but he leaves behind a gift that the town can cherish, and be inspired by, for years to come. And with any luck, he may visit again someday.

“I want to be like the seed in the painting, that flies in the wind to spread ideas and love,” said De la Peña, “to travel the world and to paint, that is my passion in life.”

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