As visitors drive through the wooded lane leading into the Rentschler Arboretum, they are greeted by a new window into the landscape – a mural depicting an Appalachian Trail hiker stepping into the scene and approaching the Blue Mountain beyond, framed by a monarch butterfly sipping nectar in a pollinator garden.
The mural, dedicated this month by the members of the Blue Mountain Eagle Climbing Club, represents a collaboration between the club and the Total Learning Experience Class at Albright College, which completed its first year with artist-in-residence Michael Miller.
The mural was the third created by the class, which consists of 50 fifth-grade students chosen equally from the Reading School District’s Central and Northeast middle schools.
Miller was enthusiastic when members of the club approached him about creating the artwork.
“I thought this would be perfect to have this group work with them,” Miller said following the dedication. “The goal of this academy is to really give kids project-based learning, so everything connects — math, English, social studies. One of their big themes this year was nature, and they were doing a lot of things in their studies related to national parks and camping.”
The students partnered with adult volunteers from the community and from the club and parents to paint the mural at the academy’s center at Albright.
The mural project was coordinated by Dennis and Kathy Burkhart, who raised funds through grant writer Wendy Kershner.
Club volunteers power-washed and applied four coats of paint to the back wall of a storage building at the Penn Township arboretum in preparation for the mural’s application.
Club President Howard Reid noted the charter of the club, founded in 1916 by Reading physician Dr. Harry Rentschler, states that the arboretum should be a place for children to learn about nature.
Although they were unable to attend the dedication, it was still important that the Reading students in the academy worked on the project, Reid said.
“It was a combination of creative outdoor art celebrating the Blue Mountain as well as getting young people involved,” he said.
The design of the mural highlights Rentschler’s contribution to the Appalachian Trail, which traverses the top of the Blue Mountain. In the 1920s, Rentschler and members of the climbing club laid out 102 miles of the trail from the Delaware River to the Susquehanna River.
For his pioneering efforts on the trail, Rentschler will be inducted into the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame on Sept. 10. Rentschler died in 1942 at age 72.
“What we’re really all about is fellowship through nature,” Reid said. “So we’re trying to get more people of different ages to all have an experience. And this art program was a good way to do that.”
Source: Berkshire mont