Colrain artist makes her mark on Greenfield building with ‘Inquisitive Crow’ mural

  • Colrain artist Whitney Robbins spent Tuesday painting a crow on the side of the Salvation Army Family Store and Donation Center on Hope Street in Greenfield. Robbins says she is pleased with the mural and the way it captures the attention of passersby. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Colrain artist Whitney Robbins paints a crow on the side of the Salvation Army Family Store and Donation Center on Hope Street in Greenfield on Tuesday. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 9/29/2020 7:00:24 PM

GREENFIELD — Walking by the Salvation Army Family Store and Donation Center on Hope Street, one may catch the eye of an “Inquisitive Crow” peeking out from the foliage next to the building.

Local artist and retired middle school art teacher Whitney Robbins painted the 14-foot-by-10-foot mural on the white exterior wall of the store Tuesday morning. A Colrain resident, Robbins has lived in the area since 2013 and has a studio in Greenfield.

The building at 56 Hope St. is owned by Olive Street Development LLC, which is co-owned by Barbara and Mark Zaccheo, from whom Robbins previously rented an apartment at 51 Allen St. She recalled she had a drawing of the “Inquisitive Crow” hanging in the hallway of the Allen Street building, and that Mark Zaccheo always admired it. The piece is based on a photo Robbins took on her iPhone while in Paris in 2011.

“For years we talked about putting it on the side of the building,” Robbins said of the “Inquisitive Crow.”

According to Barbara Zaccheo, Olive Street Development LLC approved funding for the mural, and Mark Zaccheo assisted with project management as Olive Street Development staff helped prepare the site for Robbins.

Speaking Tuesday, Robbins said she is pleased with the mural and the way it captures the attention of passersby.

“It’s going to be staring, like ‘What do you want?’” Robbins joked. “It’s up to no good, that bird. Some people think birds are somber, but I think this one’s up to something, and we all need some high jinks these days.”

Recently, Robbins has been working on a “Loved Ones Series” of portraits, which can be viewed on her website, whitneyrobbins.com. But while portraits are a new project, birds are a frequent focus of her art.

Robbins believes her attraction to birds as an art subject may come from familial influence. Her father and grandmother were fairly avid birdwatchers, but she didn’t pick up the hobby until she was an adult.

“I couldn’t care less growing up,” she said. “Then in my 30s, it’s like a latent gene kicked in and I became a birder, too.”

Using birds as the focus of her art, she said, allows her to work with stark shapes and play with the composition of negative space.

Robbins said she normally enjoys using charcoal on paper because she can press hard into the paper and prevent any white of the page from coming through, increasing the “richness of tone” for the deep black color. While creating the mural, she said she had to really press her paint brush into the wall to make sure she was getting into the cracks and indents of the concrete, to recreate that depth of darkness.

“It translates to paint pretty well,” Robbins said, admiring her work.

Robbins said she likes to “chase ideas” and she wanted to take on the challenge of painting the large-scale mural. To prepare, Robbins created the drawing to scale on paper in her studio. Then, she taped it to the wall, traced the outline and started painting.

“It’s definitely the biggest thing I’ve done,” she said.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.



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