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Catskill fungi mural
Photos courtesy of John Michelotti

Catskill Fungi Finalizes Mushroom Mural in Ulster County


Mycologist and Catskill Fungi founder John Michelotti’s vision for a magnificent mushroom mural is realized at his commercial kitchen in Big Indian.

Ulster County-based business Catskill Fungi is intent on helping people and improving the planet through its work with fungi, and its latest project is a culmination of these ideals. Spanning the entire length of its commercial kitchen on Route 28 in Big Indian, a new mushroom mural has been erected to educate and bring together the community. Featuring a wide array of native mushrooms, the mural has the potential to become a hallmark attraction for the area.

Courtesy of John Michelotti

The completed mural on Catskill Fungi’s commercial kitchen.

The Story Behind the Mural

John Michelotti is the founder of Catskill Fungi and the main motivator behind the massive mural. After originally purchasing the building to serve as his father’s woodworking shop, Michelotti built his kitchen off the back to create his mushroom extracts, powders, and other products from Catskills-foraged mushrooms. It was from these beginnings that Michelotti and his father determined that the big, white brick building would serve as the perfect canvas for a mural. 

So, the two of them got to researching in search of inspiration. Michelotti and his father both really enjoyed the work of muralist Lady Pink – formerly a New York City-based graffiti artist who now resides in New Paltz. After pitching her their idea, Lady Pink accepted the job, along with her two assistants Chloe Moss and Matt O’Connor, and she and Michelotti were in communication all winter long with the design plans until they finally settled on the mural that exists today. 

Courtesy of John Michelotti

Artists Chloe Moss and Matt O’Connor at work on the mural.

Painting Begins 

The decided-upon design of the mural tells a story of Catskills mushrooms throughout the seasons. From left to right, the mural begins its journey in winter, ends in fall, and depicts various mushrooms that are common and native to the Catskills region in vibrant colors in their respective seasons. One mushroom in particular stands out: Lactarius Peckii, or “Peck’s Lactarius” – the proposed New York State mushroom that is distinguished by an orange color and milky white gills. Named by Gertrude Burlingham, the mycologist who identified it, Lactarius Peckii holds special ties to New York, and adopting it as the state mushroom could encourage conversation around the importance of fungi to our ecosystems and women in science. 

Michelotti notes that the artists were extremely patient with him while they started the painting process on June 29 and worked with him until they put the final touches on the project on July 27 to make his vision of a true-to-life mural become reality. To celebrate the artists’ amazing work as well as the new façade of his commercial kitchen, Catskill Fungi threw a launch party during which it invited friends and community members to come out and show appreciation for the large-scale work as a new addition to the town of Big Indian. Michelotti affirms that the community support has been remarkable and emphasizes how grateful he is to be at the center of something so incredible. In fact, the launch party shed so much light on this project that it has inspired the creation of other murals in the area.  

Courtesy of John Michelotti

John Michelotti with the artists in front of the mushroom mural.

What’s Next for Catskill Fungi 

The mushroom mural is just the beginning of an exciting new chapter for Michelotti and his business. As the frequent leader of mushroom walks through the Catskill forests, he plans to designate the mural as a meeting spot where he can use the artwork as a teaching tool before embarking on his informative and immersive walks. Additionally, he hopes to create a video documenting the mural’s creation as he goes into more detail about the function and importance of each fungus it features because he believes “each mushroom tells its own story.” The mushroom mural is more than a wonderful piece of art, but also a landmark of learning for the locals and for those who visit it in search of something inspiring. 

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