‘A nice day to be out’ working on Germantown’s soon-to-be newest mural

The Germantown-themed mural slated for a large blank wall at 310 W. Chelten Avenue has finally seen the light of day. Well, parts of it have.

After a string of damp and gloomy days, Saturday’s hot, sunny weather provided the perfect setting for the mural’s first outdoor community paint day.

Several large rolls of reddish parachute cloth — on which portions of the Germantown mural are painted before being mounted on the wall and sealed — were waiting on the sidewalk.

Meanwhile, residents gathered around three large tables in the parking lot, clutching cups of acrylic paint.

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The Mural Arts Project provided a speaker for some classic tunes and a raft of soft pretzels to sustain the painters.

“It’s a nice day to be out,” declared Jon Laidacker, muralist-in-chief.

A long process

Laidacker and assistant Charles Newman have already held seven community events in various locations, including the First United Methodist Church of Germantown and the Mt. Airy Art Garage.

At those get-togethers, locals have participated in the design and the color-by-numbers application of the mural’s under-painting.

On Saturday, three more sections of the mural were unfurled in the sun, with painting guidelines drawn and numbered in white chalk. The corresponding paints sat in piles under a table.

About 10 community painters lapsed into a warm reverie, carefully filling the shapes with the prescribed colors.

Sometimes, getting together to color in the lines is soothing, satisfying work, but things aren’t so easy for Laidacker and Newman.

They have been working long days in the studio, putting the finishing details on the under-paintings applied by Northwest Philadelphia residents.

Some sections of the mural are already finished on paper, including the one that will border the Chelten Avenue sidewalk, showing an electrical lift with a few figures working on it, a “trompe l’oeil” element that Laidacker enjoyed adding.

So far, Laidacker has used the real-life images of about a dozen Germantown volunteers for figures in the mural, men and women of all races and ages.

But there’s something about the figures on the lift that only viewers with a keen eye might notice: Laidacker admitted that Newman, who is also serving as a model for mural, is actually painted twice in the completed section.

“I’m going to concentrate on really rocking this thing in the next few weeks,” Laidacker said of the intense bout of work he has planned on the mural for early summer. “It’s time to get down and dirty.”

Upcoming schedule

At this point, he estimated that he will begin mounting the pieces of the 92-by-25 foot mural on the wall sometime in August.

Painters drawn to Saturday’s session included Roxborough residents Chris Peragine and Rosana Avina, who heard about the project from a friend.

The opportunity to work on a mural especially appealed to Abina, who is a scenic painter for theater productions.

Peragine, a graphic designer who recently moved to the area from State College, has appreciated the profusion of interactive arts events in the Northwest communities.

“It’s so much more enjoyable, because it’s collaborative,” he said of joining Germantown neighbors.

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