Where Art Blossoms

    It wasn't uncommon for strangers to approach her as she painted, and it wasn't any particular type of person- it seemed like all types of people of all ages and from all walks of life. She attributes it to the affect murals have on people.
    "When people see you working to improve their environment, they seem compelled to show their appreciation," said Pawling. "When there's an outward sign of caring, it seems to have an energizing affect on people. It also has a halo effect with the decline of vandalism and graffiti."
    The area that is getting the attention is South Main Street. She has just completed her second mural on the Bell Furniture building. The first is next to Marquis Art and Frame. The goal is to have additional murals concentrated throughout the length of South Main.
    The City of Wilkes-Barre and Mayor Leighton have been very supportive. Dave Lewis of the Department of Public Works has also been instrumental in providing resources such as a scissor lift.
    What draws Pawling to mural painting?
    "I love being outdoors- the air, all the sounds of a busy city," she said. "I enjoy painting on a large scale- both the physical and mental challenges- as well as interacting with people. People can experience art in a lot of different places: a person's home, a gallery, or a museum. The difference with a mural is that it becomes part of the landscape and part of a person's daily life. It's something that can be enjoyed by the whole community. Murals have a way of bringing life back into an area that may otherwise have fallen into a state of decay. People begin to retake pride in their city."
    Pawling's passion for art began as a young girl growing up in the Back Mountain when her mother noticed that she spent most her time in her room painting and creating. From there, the seeds of a talent were nurtured under the tutelage of local artist Sue Hand and eventually led to an art degree from Wittenberg University.    
    After four and a half years of studying, drawing, and painting at New York City’s Art Students League, she returned locally to open her own art studio in Kingston.
    "I’ve been fortunate to live in a big city and travel a bit," she said. "I believe art isn’t limited by geography, only imagination. You just need the vision and desire. Art can blossom anywhere." 
    One city that has blossomed with such a program as Wilkes-Barre's is Philadelphia. Philly boasts having more than 2,800 murals. When the city was bidding on hosting the Olympics, it was challenged by the lack of international appeal. Its Mural Arts Program became its draw. Although it didn't get the bid, Philadelphia tourism is on the rise due to the attraction of the murals.
    Pawling was fortunate to meet with Jane Golden, executive director of the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.
    “In Philly, many times the artist and the people who live in the area will work together to come up with a concept for the mural,” said Pawling. “The people will request an idea and the artist will interpret. In one example, there's a local painting of a woman on a rocking chair. You can drive down the street and see the same woman depicted in the painting.”
    The production of the Philly murals has an additional unifying effect by involving many layers of society including prisons and nursing homes. The artists do the designs, which are transferred to parachute cloth. People then join together to do a sort of giant paint by numbers. Other cities throughout the country are using Philadelphia as a model.
    "There's no reason it can't happen in Wilkes-Barre," said Pawling. "There are so many amazing artists in the area. All the ingredients are here."

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