Norristown residents and arts groups joined members of council, a representative from the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and state Sen Daylin Leach last night at to brainstorm about the mural planned for Lafayette and DeKalb streets – a project funded by a state grant secured by Leach's office.
Norristown has looked to the arts in recent years to help with revitalization efforts in the municipality, so it's no surprise that many members of Norristown Municipal Council were on hand to support the project.
"The beauty of the arts district and the arts council is that this is the kind of redevelopment that happens from the ground up," said Councilman William Caldwell. "This is truly a community taking hold of its self and saying 'We're not going to wait for anybody to do these things... we're going to make this happen on our own.' When you do that you get people like Senator Leach who start take notice."
Leach noted that while this project is somewhat unique in Montgomery County, he hoped it would grow and bring more mural art to area communities.
Deborah Zuchman, a representative from the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and the project manager for Norristown's planned mural was on hand to talk about the mural process and show examples of different styles of murals to give folks an idea of what could be created. After the presentation, the floor was opened up for a public brainstorming session to get community input on what should be represented in the mural.
Zuchman stressed the importance of this sort of community involvement in the process.
"We have community meetings, we ask for your input, we definitely consider it seriously and we work together," said Zuchman. "This is why many of our murals stay so beautiful in Philadelphia, because people are directly involved and they're proud of it."
After some questions about the artist selection process and the actual logistics of creating the mural, residents launched into ideas for the content of the piece ranging from including celebrities from Norristown, making sure depictions of Norristown's history are a key element and ensuring that Norristown's diversity be represented prominently. Concerns were raised about the lighting of the area, the longevity of the piece and costs of long-term upkeep for the mural.
More community meetings are planned and Zuchman hopes the 40 or so people at Wednesday's meeting will continue to be a part of the process and bring in even more members of the community, especially young people.
While the artist who will create the piece has already been chosen, the actual design for the piece has not been created, so community input will play a key role in the finished project. The mural is expected to be completed in June of this year.
Check back with Norristown Patch for more updates on the mural project.