The Hippo


Jul 5, 2020








James Aponovich, Judy Carlson of City Arts Nashua and PRG Rugs of Nashua owner Fouad Mahfuz. Courtesy photo.

Mural Restoration Reception

What: Aponovich will sign the prints and greet the public; prints will also be available for sale, and anyone who purchased a print in advance can pick it up at this time and meet the artist. The reception will include a display of Yankee Flyer Diner memorabilia.
Where: PRG Rugs, 227 Main St., Nashua
When: Thursday, July 30, at 5:30 p.m.
Contact: You can learn more and buy prints at

Diner mural gets update
Former artist laureate to conduct restoration

By Kelly Sennott

About 20 years ago, Nashua’s public art scene was pretty bare. The city’s annual sculpture symposium wasn’t a thing yet, and neither were community art-centered nonprofits like City Arts Nashua and Positive Street Art.

Mayor Rob Wagner noticed this lack of color, and he voiced his opinion to community art connoisseur Meri Goyette during a meeting in his office in 1995. She was there to promote the idea of lighting the trees in downtown Nashua when he looked out his office window and pointed out a bare wall at 222-226 Main St. (today it’s next to Citizen’s Bank). It was, he told her, the perfect place for a downtown mural — which was all the encouragement Goyette needed to get started.
She headed a public committee that raised money and put out a call for artists interested in creating a depiction of the Yankee Flyer Diner, a staple business to see and be seen in the city from 1940 to 1965. In its time, it was the Red Arrow of Nashua, where political candidates and celebrities came and went (including, at one point, Walt Disney). 
Of the 12 entries and five finalists, they chose James Aponovich, who, about 10 years later, would serve a term as New Hampshire’s artist laureate. He painted the mural on wooden panels in what used to be the Nashua Center for the Arts in 1997.
Aponovich, who lives in Peterborough but grew up in Nashua, remembers the diner. Though he didn’t regularly eat there, he’d walk by on Fridays while buying produce in the downtown markets. During a phone interview, he recalled its smells — coffee, toast and cigarettes — and its metallic gleam.
“There would be motorcycles and fancy cars outside. It was the place you went to for coffee or lunch or a quick dinner,” he said.
Painting it to the 1965 likeness was no small feat; he referenced old photos and traveled to other New England diners and created sketches and color studies. He interviewed locals who were Yankee Diner regulars.
Part of the job included painting a collection of Nashua personalities on the diner’s front street, and for that, Aponovich also conducted interviews and collected photos. (He and his daughter Ana, 13 at the time, also made it in the painting; he’s the guy in the big white truck, and she’s the girl on the bicycle.)
“As far as I can remember, there wasn’t any other public art around,” Aponovich said. “There were some murals in Manchester. … But when the idea came up, it was sort of a blank canvas in terms of murals in Nashua.”
The mural still stands but with less valor; the paint is chipping away, and with the completion of last year’s Vivian’s Dream mural project, it was the perfect time for City Arts Nashua to tackle a new venture.
“From a distance it looks fine, but when we did inventory of all the murals around town last year — my grandson and I were taking photos to put on the city’s website — I looked at the mural close and noticed it was peeling,” said Judy Carlson, City Arts Nashua vice president. “This mural is so prominent — it’s right on Main Street, and it’s a beautiful piece of work and it’s the only outdoor mural in the United States depicting a classic American diner.”
Right now, City Arts Nashua is looking to raise restoration money by selling 100 numbered high-quality giclee prints of the original concept painting Aponovich submitted 20 years ago for $250 apiece. Each buyer’s number will go into a bowl, and the name Aponovich draws will win the original 12-inch by 25-inch oil on canvas painting, valued at $15,000. Assuming all these sell, it will raise about half of the $53,000 restoration budget. The rest will come from donations and grants.
Aponovich said he’ll take the panels and perform the restoration in his Peterborough studio with the help of a mural conservator. When exactly he’ll begin restoring is dependent on when the funds are raised, but he’d like to have it finished before next March. 
“I want to see the mural brought back to life, and since I’m the one who was responsible for it, I felt like I should be the one to bring it back,” Aponovich said. 
As seen in the July 9, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

®2020 Hippo Press. site by wedu