Despite the rain, about 50 people turned out for Building a Better Boyertown’s celebration of the borough’s new unity mural on Saturday, Oct. 14.
“I dedicate this unity mural to the community and to all of you,” Mayor Lori Carnes said before she cut the ceremonial ribbon.
The painting replaces the “No Place for Hate” mural, which was vandalized in October of 2021. The new mural is titled “A Better Bear” and spans the Franklin Street facing wall of Rita’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard. The mural is coated with an anti-graffiti and UV protectant.
“I am so glad to have our mural back,” Carnes said. “It is not the original but it is representative of Boyertown. In true Boyertown fashion, we grow, we get better and we move forward. We are Boyertown strong!”
The project was two years in the making.
The mural committee — consisting of BaBB staff and board members, community members, high school students and community group representatives such as the Pottstown NAACP, Pottstown Health & Wellness Foundation, Boyertown Area YMCA and Boyertown Area United Way — was formed in 2022.
A contest in spring 2023 requested designs expressing an overall positive message and encouraged the use of these themes: unity, peace, hope, love, kindness, community and that Boyertown is a welcoming place for all people.
“(The committee) decided that it was time to refresh the design, focusing that Boyertown is a welcoming community for all people,” said BaBB Main Street Manager Ellen Martignetti, who credited her predecessor, Jillian Magee, for being instrumental in raising funds to repaint the mural.
BaBB chose three design finalists from 20 submissions. The community voted and selected Philadelphia commercial artist Chris B. Murray’s design as the winner.
“The message is unity and love. Empathy and understanding,” said Murray, who submitted two designs after friends and family from Boyertown notified him of the competition.
“I feel that Chris’ design used elements that tie the community together such as the Boyertown Area School District mascot, the bear, front and center, as well as some notable Boyertown architecture,” Martignetti said.
The original design showed the bear wearing a yellow shirt with blue details. After receiving social media suggestions from the community, the artist changed the shirt to Boyertown’s school colors of red and black.
Featured architecture includes an original Boyer Family home (still standing on East Philadelphia Avenue), the Good Shepherd UCC clock tower, the State Theatre built in 1912, and the high school’s main entrance.
“The vibrant colors, flowers, collections of animals coexisting together and the sun’s rays with positive affirmations give the viewer a happy, uplifting feeling,” Martignetti said. “I hope that it is a piece of public art that the community embraces and will last for generations to come.”
During the painting project, Murray, his wife, Emily, and their daughter Vivienne, 2, stayed with his in-laws, Valerie Jensen and Matt Vojtasek in Gilbertsville.
The mural painting took a little over two weeks and an estimated 60 cans of spray paint to complete. He used traditional acrylic paint and spray paint.
“Spray paint is way more fun, less messy and quicker to the finish line,” Murray said. “The initial scribbles everyone saw in the beginning was essentially my way of gridding out the wall. I used those markings as reference points to lay down the design sketch. Once sketched out, I start to block in color. Then add details, highlights, shading etc.”
Local businesses donated services that helped the artist complete the mural. PA Industrial Equipment of Boyertown provided the scissor lift. Willow House Paints of Gilbertsville donated the primer and anti-graffiti/UV coating. Martignetti Construction provided time and material for priming the wall, adding a plywood platform so the lift could operate safely. Blick Art Materials of Allentown offered a discount on the specialty artist spray paint.
“I wouldn’t describe myself as a mural artist but more so a well-rounded artist comfortable using a variety of mediums,” said Murray, who has been working commercially for himself since 2011. “Painting large scale murals is something I’ve been wanting to do more of since 2020 so here I am now ready to paint!
His previous mural projects include one in Center City Philadelphia in July.
“As a kid, I was enamored with graffiti art and the culture that surrounds it. I’d look at it constantly and study the beautiful color palettes, the crisp linework and the creative concepts,” he said. “I use those very same teachings by applying them to my current artworks.”
For more about the artist, visit chrisbmurray.com.
Source: Berkshire mont