Alumnus Greg Orfanos Migrates to an Unexpected Canvas

August 4, 2010

Salem News
July 31, 2010
Unexpected art transforms unlikely downtown objects
By Stacie N. Galang Staff Writer

SALEM — The work of Greg Orfanos has migrated to an unexpected canvas.

As part of a movement to create public art around the city, the Beverly artist is transforming a silver utility box and a smaller sprinkler box outside the Gulu-Gulu Cafe.

“It’s not something I’m used to,” said Orfanos, who typically works in the studio. “It’s definitely a challenge.”

Downtown resident David Pelletier had seen examples of public art in places as diverse as Adelaide, Australia, and Stamford, Conn., and pitched the idea to Mayor Kim Driscoll.

“It’s nice that the mayor supported it,” Pelletier said. “If we can get eight or 10 in the next year or two, that would be kind of cool.”

In Salem, Orfanos may best be known for his art of the Gulu-Gulu mascots “Charlie Gulu,” “Jack Gulu” and “Max Gulu.”

“Basically, when we decided to do this project, he was the first guy I thought of,” Gulu-Gulu Cafe owner Steve Feldman said of Orfanos. “I really like his style. It’s quirky and whimsical and really kind of cool.”

Feldman agreed to pay $500 for the artist’s materials with the hope that others would be inspired by the idea. The cafe owner and artist took a mockup of the idea to the Salem Redevelopment Authority for approval.

Pelletier especially likes the idea of unexpected art.

“It seems to be pretty popular,” he said. “People walk by, and it puts a smile on their face.”

Walkers along Essex Street will see the larger utility box as a scene from Lewis Carroll’s poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” from his book “Through the Looking Glass.” Orfanos created a subtle collage around the piece using clippings from The Salem News and painted a stylized scene with the poem’s characters on stage.

The smaller piece also uses collage, and the artist made over the sprinkler box into a kind of circus pull-car with sundry colorful creatures.

When they’re both completed, the paintings will have taken Orfanos about two full weeks of work, he said.

His work will serve as a prototype for future pieces, Pelletier said.

“We hope to expand this to other boxes,” he said. “Hopefully, we can draw from the regional art colleges.”