PAWTUCKET, RI – The next time you’re at McCoy Stadium for a Pawtucket Red Sox game, check out Amica’s oil painting in left field. You can’t miss it: It’s the huge white sign that says “I love Amica” – with a heart-shaped baseball replacing the word love.
But this isn’t your traditional Amica sign. This 10-by-30 foot billboard is hand-painted by renowned Providence artist Johan Bjurman, who’s responsible for creating each of the nearly 30 wooden billboards that tower above the outfield walls of McCoy Stadium.
McCoy is one of few ballparks in the country that still use hand-painted wooden billboards, said Mike Gwynn, vice president of sales and marketing for the Pawtucket Red Sox.
“Everywhere else you go (the outfield signs) are new and flashy. This is old-time charm here. . . It’s kind of like a little bit of Americana,” Gwynn said.
Most modern ballparks use electronic signs or vinyl banners, especially to cover the padded walls of the outfield to protect the players from getting hurt while going for well-hit balls, Gwynn explained. McCoy has its shares of those, too. But when McCoy Stadium was renovated in 1999, team owner Ben Mondor and team president Mike Tamburro said they wanted hand-painted wooden billboards to give the stadium that old-time look and feel.
So they hired Bjurman, who’s been painting billboards around Rhode Island and Massachusetts – including at Fenway Park in Boston – for more than 35 years.
Bjurman, 62, who was born and raised in North Providence, RI, and now lives in Johnston, RI, said he’s been painting billboards since soon after graduating high school. He does everything from historical restorations inside buildings and trompe l’oeil, which creates the illusion of being three dimensional, to huge murals six to eight stories high on the outside of buildings.
Those familiar with Rhode Island have probably seen his work – including a giant mural on the Hanley Building in Providence, which is made to look as though the building has been peeled open. He’s also done everything from traditional paintings shown in galleries throughout the state to a 12-by-80 foot mural of a battlefield in Gettysburg, PA. He said he’s even worked on the sets of nearly every major movie made in the state in the past 20 years.
But the billboards, he said, are his “bread and butter.” He’s painted hundreds at McCoy alone.
The many companies that sponsor the PawSox present their ideas – which can be as simple as the company’s name spelled out in block letters against a colored background or as complex as a corporate logo or the product itself.
The Amica billboard is based on a design by Andres Sarmiento, a graphic designer in Amica’s corporate communications department. Bjurman showed Sarmiento how he took the design and broke it into quadrants that could be reproduced on the billboard itself.
He paints a white base coat on the wooden billboard, to create a clean backdrop against which to paint the design, and then sketches out the design on the billboard itself. He then painstakingly paints each picture with oil-based enamel paint – the same Chromatic paint he’s been using for years.
The results are vibrant advertisements that rival any photograph or computer-generated rendition. The Amica logo is one of the easier ones, he acknowledged, especially compared to an intricate Budweiser beer logo or the detailed background of a Taco Bell advertisement.
“I must have seen these a million times and never realized they were hand-painted,” said Matt Lazzareschi, sponsorship specialist with Amica. “It looks so good no one would even know.”
Gwynn said the assortment of handcrafted billboards add to the ambience of McCoy Stadium. “It’s really a special feeling. . . It’s a piece of old-time PawSox baseball here.”
Amica Mutual Insurance Company, the nation’s oldest mutual insurer of automobiles, was founded in 1907. The company offers auto, home, marine and personal umbrella liability insurance. Life insurance is available through Amica Life Insurance Company. Amica is based in Lincoln, RI, and employs more than 3,200 people in 40 offices across the country.
CONTACT: Vince Burks , Corporate Communications, 50 Amica Way,
Lincoln, RI 02865-1155, 800-652-6422, ext. 24563
Twitter: Amica Insurance
Facebook: Amica Mutual Insurance Co.