Mural artists reflect as landmark to be replaced
BERLIN—The artists involved in creating the first mural in Stephen Decatur Park took a few moments to reflect on their project as the 22-year-old images are about to be repainted during “Take Pride in Berlin Week” from April 19-26.
The repainting project was organized by the Berlin Parks Commission and was funded in part by the Worcester County Arts Council. The new mural will include elements from 10 art pieces submitted by Stephen Decatur Middle School students, who participated in a contest sponsored by the commission.
Patti Brumberg, a retired artist who now lives in Fenwick Island, was the art teacher at Berlin Middle School (now Berlin Intermediate School) when the first mural was created, which was dated June 4, 1992. She said she was the host for Monique Goss, who had been chosen as the school’s artist in residence, a position by which commissioned professional artists were provided with a project-based stipend to work with students on art projects in the schools.
She said Worcester County’s Supervisor of Art was Jane Pruitt, who worked in conjunction with the Maryland State Arts Council and town officials, choosing murals as the study project that year.
The state Arts Council had provided a grant for the project and the muralist, Goss, was one of their member artists in residence, according to Pruitt. “Everybody worked well together,” she said.
Berlin was seeking artists to create a mural to cover the bare wall that separated the racquetball courts and the tennis courts in Stephen Decatur Park.
She described how the project came together. The student participants were chosen based on talent and whether they could gain some benefit from the experience, she said.
Brumberg said the theme was to be based on the life of the 19th century Naval Commodore Stephen Decatur, who was born on the Eastern Shore. First, the students were assigned to research the naval hero, she said.
Kathy Mumford, who was an educational assistant and an art enthusiast, said in an e-mail recollection on the project, “I remember the kids worked hard on the research by looking things up in books—no Internet yet.” After that, she said, “Then they worked on drawings, then the artist combined the sketches and ideas into one drawing that was gridded onto the wall.”
Each student got one section of the gridded template and was responsible for drawing a reproduction of and painting it onto the wall, which had been marked with a corresponding scale of the grid. Scaffolding was used to access the upper sections on the wall and with half of the students on the bottom and the other on top of the scaffolding, diligently painting away, Brumberg said they had “an awesome time.”
From start to finish the project took three weeks, according to Brumberg. She said she remembered the students enjoyed the benefit of perfect weather for the project.
“Patti had a county vehicle which she drove the kids back and forth to the park in,” Mumford said, adding, “that would never go over well today!”
She said she enjoyed having the opportunity to hang out with the artist, teacher and students and the privilege to help with the mural. “It was fun, we got to leave the school during the school day and get outside in the sunshine which was a treat,” she said.
“I was pleased to see that it lasted as long as it did,” Pruitt said, when asked to comment on the project. “The image is still there even you can see that it is fading,” she said.
Gary and Lee McCabe, identical twins, were two of the students who participated on the mural project. Gary, who is now Pastor of Mobilization for Oak Ridge Baptist Church in Salisbury, estimated that he was an eighth-grader during the project and remembered painting the back of a ship, complete with mast, rudder and stern. He only uses his creative skills in the course of his ministry teaching missionaries for community and global outreach now, he said.
Viewing the wall, McCabe’s image is one of the larger images portrayed. A father of three sons, including an infant, he said over the years he has taken his children to view the wall when they return to Berlin and occasionally visit the park. With the Parks Commission’s upcoming mural project he anticipates taking his children to the wall so they can get one last look at what their dad did when he was a student. He said it could be a teachable moment, a way to illustrate to his own children how young people can make a lasting contribution to their communities.
McCabe had a message for the students who will participate in creating the park’s second mural this spring, hopefully lasting for the next decade of artistic enjoyment. “Have fun with your work and take pride in it, because it is going to be around for a long time,” he said.