Submitted by Donna Brinckerhoff.
(Nov. 5, 2020) — Bathrooms and coat racks are unlikely spots to find splashes of color or whimsy, but the newly renovated Brainerd Library will prove that art can pop up anywhere.
Two talented local residents, Ted Esselstyn and Gail Christie teamed up do just that to a pair of life’s most routine activities, hanging up coats and visiting a public bathroom.
The new children’s bathroom features a whimsical mural of frogs enjoying a good summer read at Higganum’s Girl Scout Point, while around the corner, the wall behind the coat rack depicts the transformation of the monarch from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly.
Ted drew both pieces of art and painted the delightfully bold lower lobby piece, and Gail added the color to the bathroom mural. Both are professional artists. Gail taught drawing, painting, pottery making and other artistic subjects for years in Durham before changing her focus to gardening and floral arrangements. When asked how she felt about being a part of the project Gail said, “Ted is such an amazing artist, I just want to do it justice.”
Ted is a medical doctor who shifted gears to become a woodworker and mural maker. The owner of City Bench, Ted repurposes wood that might otherwise find its way into landfills, by turning it into beautiful and creative works of art. “I have been doing a mix of painted murals, furniture commissions and public works in such places as libraries, schools, hospitals and children’s museums. This mix keeps the work diverse and satisfying” he said.
The Friends of Brainerd Memorial Library have donated one of Ted’s benches that will sit beneath the coat rack.
“I thought of the monarchs as an abstraction that parallels what young readers can discover at the library,” Ted said. “The monarch transforms itself through life stages before beginning its long migration, and so do readers who embark on similar journeys of discovery and transformation.”
The froggy scene derives from the many visits Ted made to Girl Scout Point on Higganum Reservoir over the years with his family. Ted and his wife, Dr. Anne Bingham, an OB-GYN and Gail and her husband, Mark Stephens, are neighbors in the Maple/Hull Avenue area.
Haddam, and Brainerd Memorial Library are fortunate to be beneficiaries of such generosity and talent.