An 18-year-old mural in Reading’s Riverfront Park has received a face-lift.
Community artists from Albright College’s Total Experience Learning center restored the work titled “Looking Forward, Facing Back.”
The artists were recruited for the project by Michael Miller, Albright’s artist in residence.
“It was one of the first murals I did,” said the retired Wyomissing School District art instructor and well-known muralist.
Miller and fellow artist Edward Terrell facilitated the original project, installed in 2005 on the panels of a disused railroad bridge in the park.
Several of the panel designs were based on historical photographs of the city and incorporated portraits of children from the Olivet Boys and Girls Club.
Members of the club worked with Miller and Terrell to paint and install the fabric panels.
“Naysayers doubted this artwork would survive a month in such a remote spot in the city,” Miller said, referring to the park sandwiched between the Schuylkill River and Riverfront Drive, south of Penn Street.
Many suggested a graffiti-proof coating for the mural, he noted, but a coating would have tripled the cost of the mural.
“I always said the graffiti-proofing is in our process,” Miller said, “as we invited hundreds of youths from all over the city to be a part of this mural.”
For nearly two decades, Miller kept an eye on the work, checking on it occasionally when using the walking and biking trail that runs through the park. He was pleased to find that the panels on the side of the bridge fronting Riverfront Drive remained untouched, but he recently noticed some spray-paint tagging on the river side.
“It didn’t really cover that much of the painting,” he said. “I thought, ‘We can organize some people to go down and just basically cover up the vandalism.’ ”
The project was completed in conjunction with a recent indigenous wellness celebration held in the park by the Widoktadwen Center for Native Knowledge.
The wellness event June 3 served as a kickoff for a larger environmental awareness event, Rally for the River, which was cohosted by Widoktadwen and three other nonprofits — American Rivers, Barrio Alegrίa and Berks Nature — in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and Reading Public Works Department.
“I believe this project stands as evidence of the power and value of collaborative public art,” Miller said.
Source: Berkshire mont