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Spotsylvania art teacher paints mural at River Rock Outfitter

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A new mural downtown celebrates the Rappahannock River, the city of Fredericksburg, the city’s relationship with Kathmandu, Nepal, and strong, independent women—all on two walls inside River Rock Outfitter.

“Everybody who comes in here has a story about the river,” said artist Jennifer Manfre, an art teacher at Wilderness Elementary in Spotsylvania. “I hope people coming in can see themselves in the mural.”

Manfre works on weekends at River Rock, which sells supplies and gear for outdoors and river-based adventuring and is celebrating eight years in business in downtown Fredericksburg.

Owner April Peterson wanted to do “something special” with two blank walls inside the shop and Manfre, who was looking for a way to get back into being an artist in addition to teaching art, broached the idea of a mural.

The two women collaborated on what the mural would look like. Peterson wanted it to be “an expression of the store” and to include the river, Virginia flora and fauna, the city of Fredericksburg and Nepal.

Peterson and her husband have traveled to Kathmandu, Nepal—which is one of Fredericksburg’s Sister Cities—several times to hike in the surrounding Annapurna mountain range. On their first visit, they formed a relationship with a school they encountered on one of their treks.

Since then, the Petersons have contributed funding to the maintenance and upkeep of the school, installing new flooring and solar panels and fixing the unpaved path to the school so students could get there safely.

“It’s a great mission for our customers,” Peterson said.

Manfre said she worried about being able to convey all of Peterson’s vision.

“I would draw and erase, draw and erase,” she said. “It was hard to get it all in there so it flowed.”

But Peterson said she “knew Jennifer would get my vision.”

“And it’s a million times better than I even thought it would be,” she said.

The mural, which Manfre started painting in July and which she hopes to finish early this month, takes viewers on a journey from the Blue Ridge mountains, where the Rappahannock rises near Front Royal, to Motts Run Reservoir, through Fredericksburg to City Dock and then to Kathmandu by airplane.

It depicts dogwood blossoms, a river otter, the railroad bridge and Gary the Goose. Since River Rock Outfitter is a dog-friendly store and most of the staff are dog owners, a dog features prominently.

The mural also includes figures kayaking and paddle-boarding on the river. Manfre chose to paint female figures—since the store is female-owned and female-staffed—and to show them from back, so viewers can imagine themselves enjoying the river.

“Women can get out and do things on their own on the river,” Manfre said.

Peterson said she hopes the mural will encourage viewers to explore the river and the recreational opportunities it has to offer, as well as ways they can preserve it and ways they can seek connection with other countries and cultures.

“I hope it inspires people,” she said.

Adele Uphaus–Conner:




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