- Associated Press - Sunday, August 31, 2014

WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) - The wall was starting to resemble a map of wide rectangles of different colors. You could have called them building blocks, artistically speaking.

It was Monday afternoon, Aug. 4, on quite a hot afternoon and Day One for internationally acclaimed street artist Caleb Neelon of Cambridge getting to work on painting a mural on the Chatham Street side of the historic Denholm Building at 484 Main St.

“It looks like a county map of Nebraska, but that’s not it,” Neelon said while taking a break from his first-day endeavors. “All this changes. It’s just under-painting.” Some of the colors would show through a bit when the work was completed, he explained. Also, part of the first draft of color would be a lot of dots, Neelon said. As for what the finished mural was going to look like, Neelon wasn’t giving too much away that Monday. “It will be a playful image. As time goes by it will start to look like what it will actually look like. Let’s put it this way - my wife (Ellen) works two blocks down the street. My wife’s gonna see it every day, so it needs to be a good one.” The dots started to appear on the wall Tuesday, Aug. 5.

Jump forward to a cooler Friday morning, Aug. 15. Neelon, in a sort of artist’s signature, had just written the title of the finished mural on the Denholm wall, along with a list of the project’s sponsors, funders and supporters.

“The Block Player” is now on view for anyone who happens to be walking by the block at Main and Chatham streets.

Dominating the mural is a round, blue figure with large eyes and what look like long thin limbs reaching out either side to tall blocks that resemble skyscrapers. There are plenty of dots surrounding the scene, but the squares from Day One will live only in the memory of those who saw them. They’ve been blocked out.

The playful blue character - the block player of the title - has shown up in some of Neelon’s previous work and is inspired by the artist watching his young daughter play with building blocks and toys, he said. A brown bull in the mural is also a recurring Neelon image.

Neelon had taken a photo on his cellphone of a group of children and a couple of adults who had stopped at Chatham Street to view “The Block Player” painting. They were all talking and pointing.

“If that doesn’t make you feel good as an artist, there’s something wrong with you,” Neelon commented. As he said that, a man in a car driving down Chatham Street asked through his rolled-down car window if Neelon was the artist. “It’s awesome,” the driver said of the mural.

“It’s really been a pleasure,” Neelon said of the Denholm mural project. He comes to Worcester from Cambridge quite often because his wife works here. “I like Worcester a lot,” he said.

The mural project was sponsored by the City of Worcester and the Public Art Working Group of the Worcester Cultural Coalition, and it’s part of an expansive plan to infuse the downtown with public art.

“Great cities deserve great art,” said Worcester’s cultural development officer Erin I. Williams.

Neelon has created public artworks across the United States and in 25 countries. Earlier this summer, he worked on a mural on the side of The Arc of Opportunity of North Central Massachusetts building in Fitchburg.

The Denholm Building mural, at 44 feet tall and 120 feet wide, is the largest Neelon has painted, he said.

Williams was among the curious watching as the painting was getting underway Aug. 4. She observed how the colors were already being nicely reflected on the windows of buildings nearby.

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