Through mural, young city artists continue to shine

Darkness to Light creators to be honored at Penn State reception

By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times

Teens show off the finished Darkness to Light mural at an unveiling ceremony at the Bridge Academy and Community Center in Coatesville.

Teens show off the finished Darkness to Light mural at an unveiling ceremony at the Bridge Academy and Community Center in Coatesville.

The glow generated by the Darkness to Light mural project continues, and its youthful creators will be recognized on Thursday, Nov. 21, at the Penn State Great Valley Conference Center, where the work is on display until Dec. 13.

The public is invited to join the artists at a reception that will be held from 6:30 to 7 p.m. at the campus. It will be followed by a lecture from Jane Golden of the renowned Mural Arts Program in Philadelphia from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Sponsored by the Art Partners Studio and Bridge Academy and Community Center in Coatesville, the Darkness to Light mural represents a collaboration that brought more than 20 teens into a world of brainstorming, sketching, and painting.  As conceived by the young artists – some of whom picked up a paintbrush for the first time during the project – the five-panel mural depicts the city’s past, present, and their dreams for a better future.

Students worked on the mural at the Bridge Academy and Community Center on Olive Street in Coatesville for nine months.

Students worked on the mural at the Bridge Academy and Community Center on Olive Street in Coatesville for nine months.

Shawn Wanner, a muralist and painter from Lancaster who works with Art Partners, said he supervised the ambitious project with a hands-off philosophy. “My whole goal in working with the teens was to have them direct as much as possible,” Wanner said. “I just had to ask the right questions: ‘How do we translate what Coatesville is to you in visual terms?’ The teens decided everything from dividing it into three layers to selecting the images.”

The bottom two panels depict dark events from Coatesville’s past, including the arsons and a newspaper headline about the 1911 Zachariah Walker lynching. The middle layer illustrates Coatesville as it is today, capturing familiar landmarks like Lukens Steel, the high bridge, Scott Middle School, and the high school logo. Finally, the top section features hands of different skin tones, signifying harmony. Two combine to make a heart, another set is joined as if in prayer, while others form a peace sign.

“Our teamwork actually ended up becoming a little version of what we want to see happen in Coatesville—we don’t want to just try to get by, we want to make an effort to make it good,” read a sign accompanying the piece.

Some of the creators of the Darkness to Light mural surround the five panels after their completion.

Some of the creators of the Darkness to Light mural surround the five panels after their completion.

Lindsay J. Brinton, executive director of Art Partners, said the collaboration with Penn State occurred because Craig Edelbrock, chancellor and associate dean of the graduate school at the Great Valley campus, is a proponent of offering the school’s expansive gallery space to local institutions such as the Wharton Esherick Museum, Historic Yellow Springs, and Chester County Art Association.

Brinton said Edelbrock had interest in Chester County’s industrial legacy so last spring she introduced him to Coatesville, where he saw the Graystone Society’s collection of works by German–born artist Klaus Guido Grutzka, who had a fascination for machinery, as well as the Bridge Academy mural. The exhibition at Penn State “developed from there,” she said.

Bridge Academy Executive Director Jordan Crans said the after-school project exceeded expectations. “Our kids fell in love with the idea of a mural. We asked them what they wanted to do, and they started listing all these things about Coatesville,” she said. “All the things you’ll see came from the kids: what they saw, and what they wanted to see.”

 

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