Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Murals fight crime across the Lehigh Valley

A handful of walls in Allentown are being transformed into large, colorful murals, gaining attention as artistic works of hope in neighborhoods in the midst of a comeback. This is part of the Lehigh Valley Community Mural Projects.

In Bethlehem, a mural is planned for the side of the Wildflower Cafe and Gallery, 316 S. New St., and four are planned throughout Easton. Last month, the Arts Community of Easton completed a mural on the side of a meatpacking warehouse in the 1200 block of Northampton Street that had been the target of graffiti.

In Philadelphia, which has one of the most established mural programs in the country, murals have not only helped beautify empty lots in beleaguered neighborhoods, but also helped spur recovery in areas and create tourist destinations.

"What happens with a mural is it's the 'broken window theory' in reverse,'' said Brian Campbell, assistant to the director of the Philadelphia Mural Arts Project.

''Good things can lead to good things. Especially when the community has a voice in the mural process. They have a hand in it being created and they embrace it,'' he said.

Using the Philadelphia Mural Arts Project as a template, artist Norberto Dominguez created the nonprofit Lehigh Valley Community Mural Project in 2004, cobbling together funding and partnerships with numerous nonprofit agencies and civic-minded foundations.

''The goal was to bring a mural project that would truly involve the community from the inception, but the work that would be created would have to be of the highest standard,'' Dominguez said.

Although Allentown's Weed & Seed program gave a small amount of money, the city's tight financial situation makes it unlikely it can fund mural projects anytime soon, said Betsy Levin, director of community development.

But, she added, it's one of the top 10 items on her department's budget ''wish list,'' Levin said.

''I think they're fantastic. They transform a space,'' said Levin, who can see the Symphony Hall mural from her office. ''I love to see grass-roots action. It's wonderful when everything isn't initiated by the city.''

This is a summary of an article that can be found at mcall.com.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The first things on your "Wish List" should be a weedwacker and someone to run it up and down the "greenway."
Then some bright lights to make sleeping in the cracks and crevices along the greenway very uncomfortable for crack and heroine addicts/ thiefs, on the Southside there.
A couple extra garbage cans wouldn't hurt. I'm sure this is all in the works though.
Thanks for thinking about improving the South Side of Bethlehem!