Arts & Leisure

Covered in Clovers: Matt Heywood’s County Tire mural

MATT HEYWOOD IS the artist behind the new mural on the backside of County Tire in Middlebury. Business owners Lisa and Steve Dupoise funded the project, which was completed this month. Independent photo/Steve James

Have you noticed the new blooms on the back of the County Tire building in Middlebury? Yeah, it’s hard to miss the almost 16-foot red clovers now painted on the Seymour Street building’s large backside.

We have Matt Heywood to thank for this new mural, and business owners Steve and Lisa Dupoise for funding the project.

A few years ago all the trees were removed for the rail project, and the owners decided they needed to make it “something better to look at than a large, blue, industrial building.”

“Matt is a customer here, and we originally connected with him for logo work,” Steve and Lisa said, trying to remember how exactly the mural project got started. “We just got to talking and we learned he did large murals too.”

The project started pre-pandemic, took a pause and Heywood just recently completed the mural this month. 

Sponsoring a mural project like this was a first for the Dupoises — and a huge success. 

“You’ve got to give back to the community,” Steve noted. 

And this sure does. A beautiful painting that covers 1,250 square feet across the 140-foot-long wall.

Heywood, a designer, artist and cofounder of The Image Farm based in Middlebury, recently shared more about his process creating this piece.

MATT HEYWOOD SIGNS his name on the mural.
Independent photo/Steve James

How and why did you choose the red clover?

I chose red clover for several reasons. It can be easily overlooked, but holds extraordinary value for other plants, animals and people. It has naturalized so successfully in the Americas that we see it as belonging to our region while it’s actually native to parts of Europe, Asia and Africa. It has the incredible ability to fixate nitrogen, which helps build healthy soils and creates protein-rich growth for wildlife like deer and turkey. It’s edible. It’s medicinal. It’s the Vermont state flower. Red clover is an important food source for pollinators, especially bumblebees.

So red clover was perfect to symbolize a strong community with oodles of resilience and resourcefulness. And of course it’s a pretty little flower with delightful coloring, a simple form and distinctive leaf markings. I could see it working well in my graphic approach to the artwork.

What goes into painting a mural that size?

This wall is only about 16 feet high with a level grassy surface below, so logistics for the wall weren’t much more than basic staging and ladders. Working with the County Tire Center owners Steve and Lisa Dupoise to make sure everyone was cool with 24/7 access was also essential. We even gave the police department a heads up that I would be there at odd hours.

Have you done a mural like this before? 

Yes. I painted the campfire mural inside American Flatbread Middlebury Hearth in Marble Works. In the Cabot/Agri-Mark plant I covered a wall with sign painting and a background for large-format employee family photos. And supported by an Animating Infrastructure grant I’m in the final stages of approval for an installation on multiple walls of the Interstate 91 underpass in Fairlee, Vt.

THE NEW MURAL features Vermont’s state flower, the red clover.
Independent photo/Steve James

What is special or unique about this piece? 

The wall itself turned out to be a constant challenge. Initially I thought that passenger and freight trains thundering by just eight feet away would be an issue. That was no big deal and became enjoyable to see and feel each day. But hand-painting across the ribbed steel obstacle course, while evading extreme heat, soaking rains and a quick turn to frosty mornings was quite something. In the sun, even into cooler days, I could only paint until around noon until the metal was nearly scalding and my paint became a sticky mess. Then long drying times and heavy condensation complicated the process as temps dropped further.

But as I was out there sweating and freezing, I always appreciated the friendly nods, horn honks and heartwarming support that I heard from people of all ages and all walks of life. It felt great to be creating something to brighten things up a bit.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’d like to thank the small crew of fellow local artists that volunteered their precious time (you know who you are). Most importantly, I’d like to express my deep gratitude to owners Steve and Lisa Dupoise for investing in their property by commissioning this artwork. While this mural is not public art by definition, it serves the same important purpose. Steve and Lisa chose to beautify their space and give back to their community — just like that humble red clover.

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Follow Matt Heywood @iammattheywood on Instagram.

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