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Mural brings new 'touch' to downtown Martinsburg

October 08, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The journey was long and sometimes divisive, but when the sheets were pulled off Thursday, a lifelike mural that some say has received nothing but praise was unveiled.

"This is a perfect example of perseverance," Mayor George Karos said shortly before the mural was uncovered during a 5 p.m. ceremony. Having the mural, a process that took two years or more, should prove to be a step forward in downtown revitalization, Karos said.

Artist William Cochran said the mural, which contains a sign for the fictional "American Folklife Society," is meant to demonstrate the value of everyday people.

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"There's no one here I could not have used as a model for the mural," he told a crowd of around 100.

The mural, called "The Lonesome Touch," was painted on two concrete panels, which were then mounted in recessed arches on the side of the Market House building at the corner of Queen and Burke streets.

"I just think it's incredible. It's just taken such a long time," said Mary Lewis, who in July became the chairwoman of Main Street Martinsburg's Design Committee. She said she has heard nothing but compliments and accolades since the mural was installed earlier this week.

Although a previous plan to paint a different mural on a different building drew vocal criticism, Lewis believes people who see Cochran's work likely will be more receptive to having more murals downtown.

"We would certainly entertain that," she said of having more murals. "This was not an easy road but you know what, we did it and we could probably do it again."

After the mural was revealed, several people praised Cochran and his work. He said he still needs to sign the mural and put on a final coat of varnish.

"It's been a great, positive experience. It's a beautiful city," Cochran said.

Cochran said he found it refreshing to work with people who are trying to make public art part of the streetscape.

He'd work with Martinsburg officials again "in a heartbeat," he said.

Margie Redmond, 80, of Martinsburg, was one of the first proponents of having a mural in the city. She was present for the unveiling and posed for photographs in front of the mural.

"I think it's lovely. I think it's outstanding," said Redmond, who is a volunteer on the design committee.

Her desire to see a mural in Martinsburg was sparked by a visit a few years ago to a small town in Ohio near Wheeling, W.Va. That town had 14 murals, she said.

There's one idea she'd especially like to see come to fruition.

"My dream is to have a big old train coming down the subway," she said, referring to the Queen Street railroad underpass tunnel.

Redmond moved to Martinsburg when she was a high school student.

"I want Martinsburg to get some of that beauty back that we used to have," she said. "I wouldn't want to live anywhere else."

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