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Residents enthusiastic about mural

February 29, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

"Exquisite."

"Superior."

"Special."

Judging from the more than 20 comments posted in the Boarman Arts Center over the past month, most residents of Martinsburg are enthusiastic when it comes to painting a mural on a downtown building.

Three mural proposals were submitted for consideration and anonymous or signed comments were accepted at the arts center, where the proposals were on display.

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In the next week or so, the eight members of Main Street Martinsburg's Design Committee will select a mural to be painted, secure the building owner's permission and then appear before the city's Historic Preservation Review Commission, said David Hartley, chairman of the design committee.

Martinsburg City Council members also will have a chance to weigh in on the proposal, Hartley said. If all goes well, painting is expected to begin in April and conclude in August.

In a notebook at the center, some used a whole page to convey their thoughts on the proposals. Others summed up their feelings in a sentence or two.

Many favored a mural titled "The Lonesome Touch," which will depict two violinists and a contractor. The design will be painted on concrete panels that will be placed in arched windows on the side of the city-owned Market House.

"("The Lonesome Touch") is superior in every way. The mural needs to be good art and good art should have a timeless quality," wrote one person.

"I think that this design is the most complete and the best conceived plan. I would be proud to have this mural in my town," wrote another.

Yet another wrote of the proposal: "Exquisite. Simple, striking and apt."

Others passionately declared "Martinsburg: Northern Gateway to the Shenandoah Valley" to be the best. The design would depict five figures that played a part in the area's history - a train engineer, coal miners, an orchard worker, a construction worker and a surveyor. The figures would be painted in five recessed areas above DeFluri's Fine Chocolate at 130 N. Queen St.

"It caught my imagination," wrote one person of the mural, which was designed by Chris Steffey, Steve Lana and Erik Van Horn.

"This artist seems to be depicting the forward look of Martinsburg. Its past shows the strength of the people of West Virginia and their willingness to grow," one reviewer wrote.

Another asked that the project not be awarded to an out-of-state artist. William Cochran, who submitted "The Lonesome Touch," and Henri Verdel, who submitted an untitled proposal, are both from Maryland, Hartley said.

"The artists for proposal No. 1 ("Martinsburg") understand West Virginia and the unique history and culture of Martinsburg. The artists from proposal No. 1 are from Martinsburg and Shepherdstown (W.Va.) and have ties to the area," one person wrote. "While the work for ("The Lonesome Touch") is impressive, it's impersonal and could exist in Any City, USA."

Two others said they were torn between "The Lonesome Touch" and "Martinsburg."

"Do both?" asked one.

One person who expressed disapproval of "Martinsburg" said it "is too reminiscent of Communist Man."

Nobody expressed wholehearted approval with Verdel's two designs - which depict camouflage-clad soldiers running toward and embracing loved ones - although one gracious person wrote, "Because of the National Guard units in the area they should be considered."

Another person called the work "boring and uninspired."

Both Hartley and Jeff Curtis, executive director of Main Street Martinsburg, said they prefer one of the murals, but neither would share his choice.

Hartley said they all have merits.

"I really liked them all. I thought they were all interesting themes," he said. "I don't have a favorite favorite."

Hartley said he was encouraged by a recent reception, when more than 50 people turned out to view the proposals and meet the until-then-anonymous artists. The artist selected to paint the mural will be paid to do his or her work through a grant.

If people's fears about a mural are soothed, Hartley said additional murals could be possible for the downtown area. A prior mural proposal drew vocal opposition and the idea eventually died after a building owner withdrew his permission to use his structure for the work.

Others also seem ready for more aesthetic improvements to the city.

"This (mural project) brings up another suggestion - why not dress up some other structures in Martinsburg with paint? I'm not talking about murals, but repainting of doors, trim and the like that have been neglected by some of what appear to be slumlords in this area," wrote one person.

Another added: "Now, when will the horrendous overhead lines get buried and how about some trees and new flower planters!"

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