Gateway Mural Project


The Gateway Mural will mark the entrance to the Valley Arts District on Freeman Street and Scotland Road next to the Highland train station and depicts the spirit and vibrancy of the Valley Arts District in a way that is meaningful to residents and visitors.

Thank you to Adam Gustavson for sharing his talents with the district and creating this amazing image for the mural!

References to the Valley’s industrial past as an epicenter of hat making are to be found throughout our area. It is the intention of my mural design to take the nostalgia for our district’s manufacturing past and use it as a lens through which to view our current richness of cultural diversity. Proceeding from right to left as the dedicated wall space increases, a line of people appear, larger than life but as if descending the staircase from a sepia toned past to a full color present, using a plurality of headwear to tie the two together while highlighting their contrasts. In the background, the same sepia fades to a brilliant orange, overlaid with collaged imagery from early 20th century felt hat catalogs. 

By concentrating on the varied hats, scarves and wraps, we can detect hints at each person's ethnic or religious background, but each is a portrait of individuality that ultimately obscures any reference to socioeconomic status, profession, or place of origin. Each hat represents a link to a history that may even predate the fedoras and feathers of the past, while still holding onto its own modern relevance. 

Adam Gustavson is a professional artist, musician, and educator living in West Orange. He is the illustrator of over thirty books for children, and his paintings have been exhibited in galleries throughout the Valley Arts District. He is responsible for the creation of the 60-foot-long “Animals of the Valley” mural behind the Hazel Avenue School, a gift from the graduating 5th grade class of 2015. He pens a weekly comic, “Feral Town,” which appears every Monday on the Atticus Review (, and his books have been the recipients of numerous industry awards.


With a teaching resumé that includes Seton Hall University, as well as The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Adam is also the co-owner of Renaissance Art Studio in Millburn, with his wife, Denise. In addition to providing individual instruction in drawing, painting, and printmaking, he regularly conducts workshops and visiting artist lectures at the high school, college, professional and continuing education levels.