Long-awaited Mt. Airy mural to be dedicated Saturday

Charles Newman and Thomas Walton have spent the last two weekends attaching pre-painted mural sections to both sides of the railroad trestle over Mt. Pleasant Avenue.

The trestle, which features a nature-themed mural on the south side and street scenes of Mt. Airy on the north side, will look a bit different from the designs that received final community approval at a public meeting in April.

As approved, the designs called for two murals, each five feet high and 65 feet long, to cover both sides of the trestle from end to end. The murals themselves were to be painted on 13 five-foot sections of parachute cloth designed to be attached to flat aluminum panels.

A surprise adjustment

When Newman and Walton began attaching the panels to the aluminum two weeks ago, they realized that while the complete murals were indeed 65 feet long, the total length of the aluminum panels was only 56 feet.

Cathy Harris, director of community murals for the Mural Arts Program, described it as the result of “miscommunication” between SEPTA, who owns the trestle, and the team behind the mural.

So Newman and Walton, both assistant artists on the project, had to do what Harris called “some re-cutting and reconfiguring” to fit the panels into the reduced space.

A unique location

Part of the mural process was a Community Painting Day held in late June at the Mt. Airy Art Garage, where local residents engaged in a large-scale “paint-by-numbers” as they applied various tints of paint to numbered sections of the mural.

At that time, lead mural artist and designer, Jon Laidecker, estimated that the murals would be up by the end of July.

It took several months longer to bring the project to conclusion, said Harris in an earlier interview, due to the location on a SEPTA trestle instead of the usual side of a building.

“SEPTA has quite a bit of processes,” she said. Issues that had to be dealt with included liability insurance, railroad insurance, approval of materials and safety precautions, plus scheduling the work to occur during off-peak hours.

Of the over 3,600 murals that Mural Arts has shepherded to completion throughout the city, only three are on trestles or bridges instead of buildings, said Harris.

The project was an initiative of local developers Ken Weinstein and Dan Gordon, who each agreed to contribute $5,000 toward its $36,000 cost. The Mural Arts Program contributed $10,000, with the balance coming from community donations.

The mural will be formally dedicated at the site on Saturday, Nov. 9 at 11 a.m.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.