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Community chips in to bring upcoming Mt. Airy mural one step closer to reality

 The Kleiner family works on a portion of the mural. (Karl Biemuller/for NewsWorks)

The Kleiner family works on a portion of the mural. (Karl Biemuller/for NewsWorks)

Mt. Airy’s newest public artwork project came closer to completion on Saturday. It was “Community Painting Day” at the Mt. Airy Arts Garage (MAAG) for the mural that is set to cover the sides of the railroad trestle that carries the Chestnut Hill West Line over Mt. Pleasant Avenue.

 

When local residents dropped in at MAAG they saw dozens of jars of paint filled with colors mixed by muralist Jon Laidacker and his associates. The mural design, which received final approval at a community meeting in April, was drawn by Laidacker on 5 feet by 5 feet sections of cloth. Each portion of the design was labeled with the code for the color it needed.

That resulted in what Laidacker described as a “giant paint-by-numbers thing.” Community members of all ages dipped their brushes in the jars and put the paint to the cloth.

Michael Kleiner came by to take part with his wife Lisa and daughter Devra, 13.

The family lives near the intersection of Sedgwick Street and Cresheim Road, about a block from the mural site.

“Anything would be an improvement on that,” he said.

On Saturday, the painters finished about half the 13 square panels needed for one side of the mural,according to Linda Slodki, MAAG president and co-founder.

The Community Painting Day, she added, was designed to involve the community in creating the mural, not to accomplish the entire job.

The two sides of the mural have different designs. One is nature-themed, with elements of plants, trees, leaves and stone wall of Wissahickon schist. The other is urban, with scenes of street life along Germantown Avenue in Mt. Airy transitioning from the 1800s to the present day.

The community painters worked on the nature side on Saturday.

After the panels dried, they were taken by Laidacker to his studio where they joined the ones completed by his staff. The remaining panels will be finished in the next week to ten days by Laidacker and his staff.

The next step, he said, is to get SEPTA’s final permission to put up the mural on the trestle.

“Normally we can just go ahead and put [a mural] up,” he said, “but this is a little more complicated.”

Complications can arise because it the mural will be installed on an active train line.

To create a level surface for the mural, flat aluminum panels need to be fastened to the sides of the trestle. The painted cloth sections will be affixed to them. The process might require shutting down one of the two rail lines that cross over the trestle, which is why SEPTA must OK the move. 

Once the aluminum panels are ready, attaching the painted cloth sections won’t take long, said Laidacker, likening the process to putting up wallpaper.

Laidacker added the project should be completed by late July. 

The mural is estimated to cost $36,000, of which the Mural Arts Program is contributing $10,000. The project is an initiative of local developers Ken Weinstein and Dan Gordon, both of whom have agreed to contribute $5,000 toward the project, with the rest coming from community contributions.

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