Colebrook artist recreates interior of Torrington Gymnasium

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TORRINGTON — What happens when a self-taught muralist with spray paint and a graffiti pen walks into a gym with hundreds of square feet of blank walls?

A reconstruction of the training space, what is it.

Colebrook residents Marina Diaz and her partner Jason Mikolajcik joined Nautilus Plus Fitness at 789 Winsted Road last winter. Dan Bergeron, the facility’s personal trainer, learned that Diaz had painted murals at big box stores and elsewhere. He approached Bruce Kasenetz, co-owner of the establishment, with the idea that Diaz paint murals there.

Next, Kasenetz met Diaz. “We started talking and kind of collaborated on some of the ideas that she thought could improve the facility,” he said. “We were just looking to create a better atmosphere.”

They agreed that she would paint a mural on a wall in the hall. If Kasenetz liked it, she would come up with more designs for a bigger wall.

He asked what the entrance fresco would look like. She asked him to trust her.

“She didn’t tell me anything. She said to me: ‘I’m going to make one’. Is it okay if I do?’ I said, ‘Do you think maybe I should know what it is?’ She said, “No, it’s a surprise,” recalls Kasenetz — known to most as “Coach” because of his years teaching physical education at Torrington High School. So he tried his luck.

The completed 125-square-foot mural features a 16-foot-wide American flag with the words “Nautilus Plus Fitness” and a barbell bent by its own weight. “Est. 1975” is in a small oval.

“I came up with this design in secret without Coach knowing about it,” Diaz said. “The logo is in the middle, but it’s a family, like a good old American family.”

Kasenetz liked it, of course. It’s the logo he created years ago, the one he wears on a blue and white T-shirt. As agreed, they met to discuss another mural for the largest wall in the gymnasium.

Diaz took photos of the wall with her iPad. Using a design program, she was able to create a virtual design of her idea to show Kasenetz.

“The first two didn’t fit his image of what this business is, and then I said, ‘Let me go home and get some ideas. ‘” she said. She also spoke to other clients, who suggested showing images of a strong arm with a fist, a woman lifting dumbbells, a man lifting dumbbells, and a runner.

“When we talked about what Nautilus is, it’s not your traditional corporate gym,” Diaz said. “It’s a real home that caters to customers. You have your moms; you have your old people trying to keep fit; you have your young children coming out of high school; and you have us, who are middle-aged. They really are for everyone.

The finished mural, with a spray-painted black and electric blue background, represents all of these themes, she said. The four main images and hundreds of pointed triangles are made with bright white graffiti pen in a sort of concept of connecting the dots, reminiscent of constellations on a sky map. It completely covers a long wall just inside the gymnasium, an area of ​​nearly 400 square feet.

Diaz and Mikolajcik worked night after night, working more than 50 hours, moving the machines out of the way and then pushing them back before the sun came up.

“We picked them up and dropped them off,” she said. “It’s a good thing that we come to the gym.”

Diaz has no formal artistic training. She worked 14 years in senior management of big-box stores, working 70 hours a week.

“I was very good at my job and loved my job, but I wasn’t passionate about it,” she said.

With Mikolajcik’s encouragement, she left corporate America to pursue her art.

“I think the one positive thing that’s come out of COVID is that a lot of entrepreneurs and a lot of artists have given up their corporate jobs and pursued their dreams,” she said. “And having him (Mikolajcik) as a backstage cheerleader, he helped me make that final decision.”

Mikolajcik is a retired Navy veteran with a Purple Heart, she said. He served in Iraq and was wounded in Fallujah. They have two children.

He also helped with the logo in the entrance, she said. “We did it overnight after hours. He keeps me on point and on schedule.

Kasenetz opened Nautilus Plus with business partner Fran DuCotey in 1975 on Lower East Main Street, he said. They moved briefly to Water Street before moving to their current location about 25 years ago. The 10,000 square foot space includes a 2,000 square foot extension completed in 2008.

Kasenetz said: “”Despite the changing climate in the fitness industry due to the COVID situation, we continue to offer the same training environment that we started 47 years ago. We are proud of that, of course. We’ve bought new equipment and a lot of expansion, but we still offer that same hometown feel to people who are looking for that. Even today, we welcome new members.

When he taught at Torrington High School, he helped develop a fitness center there, he said. He was one of the first to open a Nautilus facility in Connecticut, he said.

For more images of Marina Diaz, see rawartists.com/twistedrootsart. For more information on Nautilus Plus Fitness, visit www.nautilusplusfitness.com/ or call 860-489-4929.

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