Neighbors got a look at preliminary conceptual designs for the latest addition to outdoor artwork in Mt. Airy.
About 25 local residents gathered on Wednesday to see designs presented by muralist Jon Laidacker and director of community murals for the city’s Mural Arts Program, Cathy Harris.
The meeting was the second in a series of neighborhood get-togethers on the project. The first was held Jan. 9. Popular ideas presented then, according to Laidacker, included having “Mt. Airy” written out, and incorporating the Wissahickon.
Laidacker and Harris presented different designs for the two sides of the trestle. One went along with the Wissahickon/nature theme, with leaves, branches, old stone masonry, and a glowing light-colored area in the center. He showed two variations: One with “Mt. Airy” written in large letters in the center and one without.
The design for the other side Laidacker described as, “the opposite side of the spectrum, more urban and industrial,” with small pictures of houses, people and streetscapes.
“It’s sort of like a photo album, left to right getting more modern as you go,” he said. “I wanted to make it something that you could discover new things about each time you went by.”
Steve Stroiman, who lives in the neighborhood and works with the Mt. Airy-Nippon-Bryan-Cresheim Town Watch, said of the urban design, “Traffic won’t be able to take it all in. My preference would be to reduce it to just a few themes.”
He later commented that in his experience there was little foot traffic at the site, and that the design should be focused on being visible to those driving under it in cars.
While the nature-themed design appealed to many, a number of those present said the mural should also incorporate human figures reflecting the diverse nature of the community.
“It would be nice to have some smiling faces while you’re waiting there forever for the H bus,” said one woman.
John Stanchak, who grew up in Pittsburgh and was familiar with the WPA murals created there in the 1930s, said that many of them reflected the industrial aspect of the town then – brawny workers and busy factories.
“It’s what we did,” he said. “What do we do in Mt. Airy … it’s a center of culture and art. The idea would be great to have the greenery as a setting for people practicing their arts.”
Laidacker emphasized that the designs presented were intended to spark discussion and were far from final.
“I had absolutely no intention of people saying ‘It’s great, let’s do it,’ when I brought this here,” he said.
Other NW Philly murals
With the completion of the trestle mural and one currently in progress on Chelten Avenue in Germantown, the area will be closer to reaching a longtime goal of having enough murals in Northwest Philadelphia to run mural arts tours.
“We’re right at the critical mass of murals … and we expect to start running [mural arts tours] on a monthly basis this spring,” said area developer, Ken Weinstein, in a later interview.
Harris said that the estimated cost of the project is $36,000.
After funding from the Mural Arts Program, Weinstein and his associate, Dan Gordan, and community fundraising, the project seeks $10,000 in additional funds.
When the money has been raised and the design is finalized, the Mt. Airy Art Garage plans to hold “painting days” so members of the community can participate in the making of the mural.
Weinstein said that those interested in participating in or donating to the project can contact him at email@example.com.