Emilia Johnson-Viola pictures the Berkshires as a living, thriving place to live. Her award-winning mural in downtown Lee does just that, depicting the county's natural beauty, literary and artistic history.
Before the Lee Middle and High School graduate left for her freshman year at the Albany [N.Y.] College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Johnson-Viola painted her wall art on the easterly side of Carr Hardware next to the 51 Park restaurant.
She chose to focus on Berkshire attractions that don't necessarily get a lot of publicity.
"I included Bash Bish Falls [in Mount Washington], a beautiful get-away that captures Berkshire County's deep involvement in nature and the outdoors," Johnson-Viola wrote. "The whale and boat show the literary and historic side of Berkshire County as Herman Melville wrote 'Moby Dick' here."
The mural also includes the Veterans War Memorial Tower atop Mount Greylock, the state's highest peak, the Norman Rockwell Museum, all surrounded by colorful fall foliage.
Johnson-Viola's written description accompanied her winning design submitted this past spring to the 51 Park Restaurant — Carr Hardware Art Appreciation Scholarship fund.
Restaurant owner Rob Trask created the $1,000 college scholarship for Lee seniors, with hopes next year to make seniors in neighboring high schools eligible for the scholarship. Carr Hardware provided the paint and tools necessary for the mural to be completed, with the building's new owner, Paul Aronofsky, agreeable to the mural. With plenty of bare wall left, Trask expects several other murals on the building in the years to come.
"I saw [the scholarship] as a way to support local high school students aspiring to attend college and a way to bring more art to the downtown district," Trask tells County Fare.
Interested students were asked provide an original design for the mural, with "Gateway to the Berkshires" the theme for the inaugural scholarship award.
With a wrap-around porch for al fresco dining at 51 Park, patrons were treated to dinner and an art show as the mural took shape.
"The customers would watch her paint and talk to her about the painting," Trask said. "People love to watch art in progress. It's fun to see the creativity come through."
County Fare, a weekly column featuring "tales from throughout the Berkshires," is compiled by Eagle staffers.