BY LYLE T. GALLOWAY
Two local groups are working on transferring the mundane into something beautiful.
Valley in Motion and Northeast Art Project are combining forces to bring a mural to an old stone wall along the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail in Carbondale.
Gus Fahey, Valley in Motion’s president, was inspired by Mural Arts Philadelphia, which has brought more than 4,000 murals to the city.
“What drew me to it was just the scale of it. They figured out a process on how to get artists engaged and how to make use of all this empty wall space that was in Philadelphia,” said Fahey.
Engagement was their number one priority with the project, ranging from gathering public input on the mural to finding local artists, including Northeast Art Project’s Ryan Hnat, who is helping spearhead the project.
Discussions on the project started at the beginning of 2020 and were held via Facebook Live and Zoom because of the COVID-19 pandemic. During these virtual meetings, the public voted on different mural ideas. The finalized version will depict a silhouette of a coal miner and a train, harkening back to the Carbondale area’s rich history of anthracite mining and the railway transportation that made the city a boomtown.
“The projects that we do at Valley in Motion are both to affect the physical community, but then also including the community so that people have a sense of ‘this project is mine and I had some input into it,’” said Fahey.
Other design concepts for the mural included a book containing the history of Carbondale and a rendering of the local legend of the “fairy bush,” a tree brought from Ireland that once stood at the center of town.
Hnat, along with a team of four to six other artists, will complete the mural. Before they can start to paint, there is some prep work involved, including power washing the surface and painting over some of the areas of the wall that are deteriorating.
Hnat hopes the mural will become a popular destination for visitors in the area.
“Where this mural sits in Carbondale, you’re just going to see this abundance of people that just come to that park. That’s an awesome thing because the more tourism we can have in the community, the more opportunities there are for economic growth and more opportunities for other artists to do things,” said Hnat.
Fahey hopes that the mural will inspire the citizens of Carbondale to walk along the trail and enjoy the community and its beautiful scenery.
“This is right along the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail, so it encourages people to get out on the trail and exercise. It’s right in downtown Carbondale, so it attracts people to downtown Carbondale,” said Fahey.
Valley in Motion was able to compile a budget of $17,000 for the project. They received a $9,000 Lackawanna County Arts and Culture COVID-19 Creative Community Grant. They also received a $7,000 grant from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources through their Pocono Forests and Waters Conservation Landscape mini-grant program. Additionally, they were awarded a $1,000 grant from the Scranton Area Community Foundation.
The Carbondale Trailhead Mural will not be the only one of its kind. The nonprofit hopes to add unique wall paintings throughout the valley. On their website, they have compiled a map of the area’s current and forthcoming murals. They currently have another one planned for Forest City. The organization also plans to partner with Johnson College and Marywood University to redesign bus shelters. Fahey hopes that this endeavor will both beautify them and encourage people to use public transportation.
Work on the project is slated to begin in May and finish by the end of the month, weather permitting. To celebrate the opening of the mural, they will be holding an opening ceremony on June 5, from 10am to 11 am. The public is invited to attend.
To keep up with their many projects and community outreach, visit Valley in Motion’s website at Valleyinmotion.org. To check out Hnat’s organization, visit northeastartproject.com.