LUZERNE COUNTY, Pa. — In Luzerne County, it was an overall gray day on Sunday – but still, the area is popping with color, all thanks to a mural initiative covering a district in the county.
Muralist and fine artist, Amanda Lynn, is from Bedford, PA. Having painted around the world, she’s not too big time to come back to her home state for a cause.
“Pennsylvania holds a special place in my heart, so I really want to do a project here,” she said.
Through a previous project she was working on – and social media – she found out about a mural initiative that started in Luzerne County in 2018.
Jenna Casaldi is president of Street Art Society of NEPA: the nonprofit responsible for the murals you may have seen popping up across part of Luzerne County over the past couple of years.
“We're just trying to bring vibrance and beauty to our communities,” Casaldi said. “It does help the economy."
The initiative, funded mainly through a state gaming grant but also through fundraising and some private funding, is now working on two of three final murals as part of Phase 1.
Casaldi says Phase 2 will include more murals. But that will come after a celebration planned for springtime to wrap up the first group of murals.
“We’re not done yet,” Casaldi said.
On this wet and rainy Sunday, the weather cleared up just enough in the early afternoon for artists working on two of these final three murals to do more painting.
"When you can raise the level of art on such a massive scale, I think it allows people to be more comfortable with it,” Evan Lovett, an artist from Philadelphia, said.
Lovett painted the first of the 10 murals and helped train other first-time muralists. Now he's working on another one: it’s on the back of the Hotel Sterling Annex in Wilkes-Barre. Casaldi says it’s within the same group as the 10 murals in Phase 1 – but it’s actually an “extra” mural since the building owner decided to fund it privately.
“He wanted to kind of give something back to the city that would look over the city and be nice,” Lovett said.
The nonprofit is also helping fundraise by selling t-shirts.
Lovett calls one mural "Lady of the Valley.”
"An embodiment of the spirit of this area,” he said.
The large drawing has a woman with a diamond at her heart, after Wilkes-Barre’s nickname of “the Diamond City.” It also has 1769 on it: the date when Wilkes-Barre was founded.
All over the mural, you can still see odd symbols throughout. Lovett says those are called scribble grids: a way for him to “connect the dots” to help draw the final product – and they will go away when it’s finished.
“We use it as a grid, but with it being a little more random, it's easier for us to figure out where the lines would go without having to draw straight lines on a 65-foot scale,” Lovett said.
That makes Amanda Lynn's mural, entitled "Nature of Things,” mural number 9 out of the 10.
"It's a wall representing Pennsylvania wildlife, flora, fauna. So it's a celebration of the local nature,” she said.
Lynn is drawing this one on Kim Nail Salon in Kingston. She says there’s been a few wet weather hindrances.
"I mean, this is part of painting outdoors, there's always something, and it's usually weather. So I'm a weather app watcher,” Lynn said.
But organizers are marveling at how much these artists did in just the last 24 hours.
Casaldi says, weather permitting, the murals should at least mostly be done by the end of the week.
To find out more about the murals or donate, click here.