Hidden down Bieber Alley in Kutztown lies a resource packed community center known as the Kutztown Community Library. Since 2000, it has sported a mural on the wall facing Constitution Boulevard to help draw attention to its location and invite you to the library. Renovations, weather and time took its toll and the search for a new design was launched.
The first challenge was to find a design that was eye catching, meaningful to the community and lent itself to be painted on a wall. Fortunately, the library was selected to participate in 8th Kutztown University Annual Designathon for non-profit organizations. In April 2013, Janet Yost, Lisa Schnell, and Mary Jo Johnson presented KU Communication Design students with the task of creating a new mural that was inviting and created interest.
The students, with guidance from several professors, had twenty-four hours (non-stop, no sleep) to complete the design which included some very specific requests on our part. This was all done with no fee to our library. Their finished design was simply fantastic.
Wonderful as their work is though, we were even more impressed by the KU students themselves. They were polite and patient as they listened to our needs, enthusiastic about the process, and not the least bit daunted by the responsibility put before them. And worn out as those artists should have been at the twenty-four-hour deadline, they quite happily presented their finished products to us. They eagerly awaited our approval, which we gave them whole-heartedly. Some of them actually offered to help paint the mural for us this summer…..even though they will have already graduated.
In a world where there seems to be so much bad news, those KU students are the good news. They are well on their way to understanding how important it is to willingly donate time and energy to make a community a better place. Mary Jo Johnson said “I am happy to know that they, and so many just like them, will be an integral part of the future. Thanks to all of you dedicated parents and educators who have given them to us.”
The second challenge was to paint the mural on the back wall of the library. Lisa Schnell of Maxatawny Township coordinated the effort. During her time with the Peace Corps in Ghana, she worked with students to paint a world map mural.
In July, the wall was pressure washed and primed. Special mural paint that will remain bright through the years was ordered. An open invitation was extended to anyone in the community to help paint. Lisa Schnell said “I know this has been a long, drawn-out process for some of you, but it’s really going to happen!”
During August, community members young and old, Kutztown Area School District students, and Kutztown University students and professors joined together to paint a new mural.
During the second week of August, Lisa and Steven Schnell lead a team of local artists wielding black permanent markers to transfer the design to the wall. The wall is over nineteen feet high at the peak and forty-four feet long. Kevin McCloskey, Kate Claire, Margarita Melinda, and Diana Johansson were able to tweak the design slightly to fit the wall and add a few local elements not in the original design. There is a soaring hawk in a sky of blue, playful Keith Haring figures, books in a hex sign, a horse and buggy traveling to the sunset, cows contently grazing, corn growing in the field and distelfink surveying the scene.
In the afternoon of August 14, a small group of people started painting the first strokes of blue sky on the upper areas. Schnell was “excited about the design, the wonderful, vibrant colors of paint to work with, and terrific weather in the forecast. “
The beauty of the design is the many different colors of paint. Lisa custom blended paint swatches matching the colors in the Designathon student’s illustration and recorded how many drops of yellow, red, blue, black and white paint was used. From there, she made the calculations for larger quantities and stored the paint in carefully marked yogurt containers. All those colors only add up to about two gallons.
Two-hour shifts were set for Thursday through Saturday but it wasn’t known how long it would take to complete the painting. Those who didn’t care to paint but still wanted to help out in some way lent step ladders, brought over some healthy snacks, or even helped out with child care so that their parents could paint hands-free!
This mural unites the creators and adds pride in the community and we hope that this is the first of many in Kutztown. We hope to see you at the mural! The Library is located at 70 Bieber Alley in Kutztown.
Janet Yost is director of the Kutztown Community Library.