Business Club brings colorful cat mural to local business

Roger Coda
students and faculty in front of mural

Gathering in front of the cat mural at 9 Lives Holistic are (from left): Lynda Sandoval, Niner Sandoval, Erin Ruffino, Molly Gibbs and Mark Nickerson.

The student-led Business Club at Fredonia has made a successful foray into the world of public art, coordinating the painting of an appropriately themed wall mural at 9 Lives Holistic, a local business.

“We love working with local businesses,” said Business Club President Molly Gibbs. “This project was especially fun and something we would enjoy doing again.”

The mural, on an outside wall of the business located at 69 W. Main St., Fredonia, is a bright, colorful design that relates to cats – of course – and promotes positivity for all people.

After extensive research, Erin Ruffino, a 2019 Fredonia graduate who specializes in large-scale paintings, created a design that features a cat’s face fit inside a lotus flower. The center petal serves as the center of the cat’s face. Two enveloping petals on either side transform into the cat’s ears and sides of the face. Two smaller petals added to the bottom of the flower bring the total number to nine, to match the business name and reflect the saying “cats have nine lives,” explained Ms. Ruffino, a freelance artist and co-founder/co-owner of 716 Murals who has a B.F.A. in Drawing and Painting.

As a nod to the business’ commitment to providing holistic remedies and to also activate the space behind the cat-lotus, Ruffino added large repeating patterns of catnip plants in silhouettes. Flat, graphic shapes ensure that the design would be bold and effective, thus standing out and drawing the attention of passersby from a distance.

The multi-phase project included the use of a projector to ensure accuracy of the lotus petals and that everything was to scale. Foam core attached to the wall to help create stencils. Painting that involved multiple coats was done over a three-day period.

“She finished her work in early June and everyone involved could not be happier with how it turned out,” said School of Business Lecturer Mark Nickerson.

And that goes double for the owners of 9 Lives Holistic, a luxury cat spa, hotel and boutique that carries handmade organic catnip toys, food, healthy treats and gifts.

“We just love it,” raved Lynda and Niner Sandoval. Ruffino created two designs for the owners to consider.

Public art has many benefits for a community that include increased levels of social cohesion and community engagement as well as improved mental and physical health, noted Mr. Nickerson, Business Club advisor. Moreover, the added foot traffic that follows has been shown to increase revenues for small businesses in a community.

“I think the most rewarding part about the project was the reaction from the owners of 9 Lives Holistic. They were so appreciative of the work that the Business Club and Erin put in,” Ms. Gibbs said. “We learned so much from this experience and we hope to do it again in the future.

One of the owners shared that she had received many positive comments from community members. Compliments have also been posted on social media, Gibbs added.

“With all that's going on in the world, this project couldn't have come at a better time,” Ruffino said. “The most exciting part was when people would walk by and take notice,” she noted. “I hope in some small way, this mural becomes a part of peoples’ lives or at least a pleasant surprise.”

“I will feel successful both as an artist and as a lifelong member of the community if the mural brings a little bit of playfulness to downtown Fredonia,” Ruffino said.

“I will feel successful both as an artist and as a lifelong member of the community if the mural brings a little bit of playfulness to downtown Fredonia.” - alumna Erin Ruffino.

The mural is the latest in a string of projects undertaken by the Business Club, which Nickerson said stayed busy this past year collaborating with local businesses and nonprofits on numerous projects.

“It feels good to volunteer and see how much one club can make a difference,” Gibbs added. “Seeing that there are over 170 clubs on campus, there are unlimited possibilities on ways we can give back to the community that we call home for four years.”

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