There's a new face in downtown Springfield — grinning from the façade above that town's historic movie theater.
Last week workers installed Winooski artist Leslie Fry's concrete relief, featuring an art-deco mask with a wild smile, atop the Springfield Theater, which has been closed since a fire severely damaged it about two and half years ago.
Fry was commissioned to recreate the relief last summer, working only from a pair of faded photographs of the theater in 1950, right before its façade was covered up with a faux-brick wall.
We wrote about the $3.5 million restoration, which includes a renovation to accommodate three movie screens and the construction of nine low-rent apartments above and beside the theater, last December. At the time, Housing Vermont and the Springfield Housing Authority, which are spearheading the project, estimated work would be done by the end of April.
But the building is still very much under construction. Once workers got in there, the Springfield Housing Authority told Vermont Today, they uncovered structural problems they hadn't anticipated — the foundation needed serious work and the heating system had to be moved. Now they're saying the theater should be open for movies early this July — just in time for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II.
Fry, who is well known around Burlington for her sphinxes at Pomerleau Neighborhood Park and other public artworks, is working from scaffolding this week, creating two stylized owls in each corner of the façade by adhering material to the original 1930s cement. It's difficult work, she says, but if the sunny weather holds up, she should finish by the end of the week.