Hans de Castellane’s Dennis Port mural celebrates the area’s vibrant history, helps beautify the street and brings the community together.By Lisa Cavanaugh |Photography by Michael and Suz Karchmer
“Honestly, I never set foot in downtown Dennis Port growing up,” says muralist Hans de Castellane, who was born in Brewster and whose de Castellane Gallery has been open on Main Street in Dennis Port since 2012. “So it was nice to see how much personality it has, and how many great things are happening on the block.”
His gallery provides the perfect location for de Castellane to both ply his trade and exhibit his work, which now includes an epic, 100-foot-long mural celebrating the area’s vibrant history, just a few stores away from his, on the side of the building that houses the Main Street Antique Center.
Commissioned by the Dennis Port Revitalization Committee, this project is the third mural de Castellane has undertaken as part of a public art initiative to help beautify Cape Cod downtowns and engage visitors. (His other murals can be seen inside the Chatham Orpheum Theater and Chatham Wayside Inn.)
“The mural is paying homage to the Dennis Port of the past,” says de Castellane, who has been impressed by the contributions of artifacts sent to assist him as he represents favorite features of the town from previous decades. “The committee sent old postcards, photos and links to reference materials,” he says. His design itself looks like a vintage postcard, with large letters spelling out Dennis Port and each letter containing a scene of a certain era within it.
While much of what he is depicting is long gone, certain more recent remembrances have made it into his design. “People were so upset when Benny’s shut down,” he says, referencing the recent closure of the popular home, yard and auto goods store farther west on Route 28, “so I’ve included that now, too.”
After graduating from Nauset Regional High School, de Castellane, whose grandmother had made sure he had art lessons growing up, moved to New York to attend Pratt Institute. After getting a degree in graphic design, the young artist assumed he’d stay in New York City. But an interior house painting gig during a summer back on the Cape eventually morphed into a commission to paint a mural inside Chatham’s Wayside Inn.
“It was a scene of the town itself,” he says. “It got some good press, so I’ve continued on with murals.” A brief stint back in Brooklyn to run a “pop-up” gallery notwithstanding, de Castellane has been here ever since, keeping busy with commissions as well as creating original work.
The Dennis Port wall mural is nearing completion and de Castellane has a good sense of what it will mean to the town. “Cape Codders love this place and painting a portrait of it here resonates with people,” he says. “It really surprises me, in a good way, how much a piece of art can really mean something to a community.”