ITHACA, NY – If you look at the Water & Sewer Workshop on First Street in Ithaca, you might see a drab, maybe even ugly white building. Or, you might see a canvas to create something uniquely Ithacan.

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The city is aiming for the latter vision. On Wednesday, the city’s Planning and Economic Development Committee voted to move forward with a proposal that will replace the plain white wall with a colorful mural intended to invoke the spirit of Ithaca.

The project is part of the city’s Public Art Commission mural and street art program. This new mural, a piece by artist Danielle Hodgins called “Beyond the Dust,” is just one of several such projects the commission hopes to bring to Tompkins County in 2016.

The Water & Sewer Workshop as it is today. (Image: Google Maps)
mural 1
The mural design. (Image: City Planning Documents)
mural 2
The proposed final form. (Image: City Planning Documents)

In her proposal, Hodgins wrote that she wants to replace the ‘depressingly drab’ building face with an abstract design that connects natural forms with geometric shapes, representing the links between vital elements of Ithaca: science and technology and nature. 

“This linear design represents a link between science and technology, nature, and the great beyond. The abstract design compliments the precarious, windowed wall and tells a colorful story of the relationship between nature, man, time, and space,” Hodgins wrote.

The mural has a practical function in addition to adding some color, according to Ithaca Planning Director JoAnn Cornish. An advantage of the public art program is that it cuts down on graffiti. The Water & Sewer building has been a regular target of.graffiti artists, she said.

The mural will be funded through the Community Arts Partnership’s Public Art Grant.

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Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.