When The Heritage Mural Education Program and the Slate Belt Community Partnership (SBCP) set out to create a mural in Pen Argyl, PA in the winter of 2013, Clint Black, the owner of #2 Pennsylvania Avenue stepped forward. He offered not just the facade of the building, but a significant financial contribution as well. Concept meetings were held at Pies to Die For Cafe with community members, students and program director Jim Gloria. Through these discussions, it was decided to highlight the history of rail service in Pen Argyl
Research followed with students visiting the Slate Belt Heritage Center and the Slate Belt Museum to pour over memorabilia looking for specifics. Two photos caught the attention of students that documented troop trains that had stopped on Robinson Ave during WWII. The students were drawn to these photos and to their source, “Homefront” a one-of-a-kind magazine produced in the Slate Belt during World War II. The magazine was shipped overseas to active duty troops, and is credited with boosting morale by providing a connection to life at home throughout the war.
Once the subject was set, measurements were taken of the site wall to which plaster was applied in June by the students. While the stucco cured, students assembled at Totts Gap Arts Institute to work on the design. After 2 weeks of daily classes, a one-third scale rendering was produced along with full-scale cartoons for each of the 38 figures to be depicted. With drawings and measurements in hand, students then set to work on laying out the design on the 34’ x 16’ wall.
Meanwhile, Totts Gap’s Young Film Maker’s Program documented the entire process from design to execution. A short film will be produced adding another dimension to this community project. As with “Old Home Week” and “The Soda Shop” murals, the work site of the “Homefront” mural became the focus of attention as the community watched the progress unfold. Residents made it a point to stop by daily to commend the students on their work, and to provide lunches and refreshments. Visitors from as far as Indiana and California popped by for a look, and to share stories. Some recalled seeing the trains in their youth, telling stories of passing drinks and magazines to the troops. Some brought photos and letters of their fathers and mothers who were then added to the image. Others still actually fought in the war, and spoke directly to the students of their experiences. In this way, the mural grew organically, as an expression of the community itself.