Making a mural

Artist Randi Stewart works on the David L. Weber Community Garden mural in Titusville on Thursday. The mural is the first piece of art to come out of the Titusville Placemaking Public Art Committee, and will be in the WWII print style, an homage to one of Weber’s favorite time periods.

Only an artist can take a blank wall and transform it into a centerpiece of a community.

Titusville is a town that has its fair share of vacant lots, blank walls and open space, in need of beautifying. One of those walls and vacant lots took it’s first step toward becoming a bright spot in the community, as the mural for the David L. Weber Memorial Community Garden was started on Thursday.

David Weber was a man who was a true asset for the Titusville community. Known as the town historian, Weber knew more about Titusville than most would ever care to know, and he had an iron sharp memory.

Weber loved all things historical and all things related to the Oil Region. To remember his dedication to the region, and the work he did to promote Titusville, the community knew something had to be done.

Of all the periods of history that Weber studied, he always had a soft spot for the WWII era.

Terri Wig, Chief Professional Officer of the Titusville Area United Way, remembers Weber coming into her office saying how in times of crisis, communities would come together to play in the dirt, growing food for each other.

These “Victory Gardens” are spaces that Weber felt could bring people of all walks of life together, having them work towards a common goal. Unfortunately, Weber passed before Wig and the United Way could ever make that dream a reality.

“Community gardens brought communities together in difficult times,” said Wig. “And we are currently living through a very difficult time.”

With his love of WWII and Victory Gardens in mind, the City of Titusville, the United Way, the Titusville Placemaking Public Art Committee and Titusville Council on the Arts came together to make his dream into reality in the form of a dedicated  garden.

The City of Titusville donated the land, Middleton Chiropractic donated the wall, and the arts groups coordinated the mural to be painted. The United Way is coordinating the efforts, and will manage the garden once it has been completed.

With the teamwork of the organizations, a dream from a town historian is becoming a public space that will be a focal point of downtown Titusville.

The community aspect of the garden won’t just stop at it’s creation, it is a theme that will continue to shape the space. This is a place where students will come to learn about gardening, where businesses will sponsor and manage a garden bed, and where volunteers and those who care about the community can donate their time to creating a green space in the middle of the City.

When it came to the mural, the arts committee had a theme in mind, but needed to find the right artist. Enter Randi Stewart, a Pittsburgh resident and muralist who has completed murals all over this part of the state, and has a mural in Oil City.

Stewart said that one of her favorite aspects of being a mural artist is bringing people’s ideas to fruition.

“When people appreciate art in their area, being a part of that gives me a purpose,” said Stewart. She also loves how murals foster community interaction.

Blue on brick

Artist Randi Stewart works on painting the David L. Weber Community Garden mural.

Unlike a painting in a museum, people will be looking at her mural while working hard in the garden.

For the garden mural, the idea was to create a mural in the print style of the WWII era. The final design shows a community garden in Titusville back in the day, and as an homage to Weber, includes the old Titusville Iron Works buildings. Not only does the mural fit in with the historical time period, it was also where Weber’s parents first met, as employees.

Besides the key aspects, Stewart does have liberty to add artistic elements. Creating an artistic piece that will represent the legacy of a great man is difficult to do. Painting a mural outside can be equally as challenging.

Stewart said creating a mural is “highly challenging.” Not only do you have to deal with the immense scale of the canvas, one of her favorite parts of making the art, you have to climb scaffolding, deal with the weather and the heat. Luckily, the wall had been primed for her arrival. “You can’t paint on crumbling brick,” she said.

Stewart will be working on the mural for the next couple of days, weather permitting. High school students will be coming out at times to help with the work, because everything in the garden should be done together.

“This garden symbolizes David’s commitment to the community,” said Wig. The community is now showing their commitment to honoring his legacy, creating a space that will help Titusville come together in this difficult time, just as they did 80 years ago.

The United Way is still accepting donations to help pay for materials for the garden. Still needed are benches, fencing and soil among other materials. If you want to donate, the United Way has set up a text service. Text davidgarden to 41444 to donate.

The garden is also in need of volunteers. If you would like to volunteer, or want more information on the garden, contact the United Way. The United Way has a Facebook page — United Way of the Titusville Region — and can also be reached by phone at (814) 827-1322.

Dvorkin can be reached by email at Gdvorkin@titusvilleherald.com.

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