By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(Oct. 4, 2018) Germantown was once “where we played, sang, we learned, we shared and we loved,” according to words written on a new mural installed at the Germantown School Community Heritage Center in Berlin.
The mural is the product of more than a year of work and planning, and a partnership between the center and the Berlin Arts and Entertainment Committee.
Talk of the collaboration began in spring 2017 and eventually included painting sessions during last year’s Peach Festival at the Calvin B. Taylor House in Berlin, and during a well attended Open Paint and Community Potluck event in Germantown last September.
“Last year, the idea was to work with the Taylor House Museum in town along with the Germantown School – both historic sites, both nonprofits – to connect kind of the two sides of the street,” Robin Tomaselli of the arts and entertainment committee said.
“Mural panels were taken to the Peach Festival last summer and the public, as well as volunteers for the Taylor House Museum, painted,” she continued. “And then, a couple of weeks later, the panels were moved to the Germantown School and, during a gospel revival and community potluck, the volunteers and board members of the Germantown School along with members of the public and arts and entertainment, and board members and volunteers from the Taylor House Museum, all came together as a community and completed the project.”
Muralist John Donato guided work during the painting sessions, Tomaselli said.
“At both locations, the intention was to include pieces of art that would stay at both the Taylor House Museum and the Germantown School,” she said.
A panel painted during the Peach Festival was presented to the Taylor House Museum during a business after hours event, and Donato installed the outdoor mural in the yard of the Germantown School earlier this month.
After talking with Germantown School board members, Tomaselli said the decision was made to install the panel outdoors in order to draw attention to the center.
“It’s a pretty large piece of artwork that was painted during the gospel revival and the community potluck, [installed outside] so it would be visible from the road and so that everybody could enjoy that piece of art,” she said. “A lot of people drive down that road and they pass the Germantown School and they may not know what it is or it’s significance.
“It’s very eye-catching. It’s very whimsical. It certainly tells a story, particularly about the Germantown School and its history,” Tomaselli continued. “Hopefully it draws the public’s eye and at every event at the Germantown School it can be enjoyed by everyone.”
Barbara Purnell, president of the committee that oversees the Germantown School, said the endeavor was truly “a community project where everybody could share in the painting.”
“It brought people together from various communities and it brought back memories of yesteryear at the school,” she said.
Purnell said the mural fit well into the mission statement of the school, “to provide a site for community activities, as well as an educational experience.”
“It was a great activity and I think, in painting it, people were learning about the school and what went on,” she said. “It gave them a good educational experience.”
The arts and entertainment committee has been working on a public art initiative for several years, also including three large mural panels installed on the outside of the Berlin Welcome Center on Main Street.
Tomaselli said the newest panel, at Germantown, is her favorite yet.
“It is absolutely amazing,” she said. “I would encourage anyone who hasn’t seen it, first of all to visit [the welcome center] on Main Street in Berlin to view the three panels that have been completed there, because they tell a story about the history of Berlin, and I would certainly encourage anyone to visit the Germantown School and to support the school and their various fundraisers.”
Purnell said there are no plans for an event similar to the Open Paint and Community Potluck this year, but she was hopeful something could be done next year.
“I was hoping that it would [return], but it was in September last year and now that it’s October it’s probably a little late to plan,” she said. “But, hopefully, next year we can do the same thing. Everyone brought a covered dish and there was singing, and it was just a great day of fellowship, fun, education and all.
“People really enjoyed it. Hopefully next year we can do the same thing,” Purnell continued. “I’m just very appreciative of Mr. Donato for offering the opportunity to come to the school.”
She said the next scheduled event at the Germantown School is a jazz and blues concert, set for January 19.
To view the mural, visit the Germantown School on 10223 Trappe Road in Berlin.
For more information on the Germantown School Community Heritage Center, visit www.thegermantownschool.org or search “Germantown School Community Heritage Center, Berlin, MD” on Facebook.
As for the Berlin Arts and Entertainment Committee, Tomaselli said additional public art is also in the works. She said Garry Moore of Anchor Wood Creations would soon install a bike rack doubling as public art near the Worcester County Arts Council Building on Jefferson Street.
“It will serve functionally as a bike rack, but also as a piece of public art that’s been crafted by a local craftsperson, which we at arts and entertainment feel very strongly about,” she said. “Anytime we do anything, we try to involve a local artist and to support them financially in their craft.”
Tomaselli said work on a forth panel for the welcome center would resume next spring.
Additionally, the committee is working to restore a mural painted by Patrick Henry more than two decades ago and formerly hung at Buckingham Elementary School. The hope is to have art students at Stephen Decatur High School help resurrect the mural and to eventually install it there. Henry formerly taught art at Decatur.
Plans are also underway for the next “Artists Giving Back, a Holiday Meal for those in need,” held each November.
“We will do that every, every year,” Tomaselli said. “Artists Giving Back will always be on what is considered ‘Giving Tuesday,’ which is the Tuesday immediately after Thanksgiving.”
Artists’ Holiday Studio Tours are scheduled in December.
For more information on the Berlin Arts and Entertainment Committee, visit www.artsinberlin.org.