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Paintings inspired by Appalachian Trail raise funds for Habitat

September 19, 2006|by ALICIA NOTARIANNI

Lou Murray began hiking the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as a resident of Knoxville, Tenn., in 1988. She was 44 years old.

"I had never hiked before," Murray said. "I was captivated."

So captivated, in fact, that she felt inspired to somehow capture what she saw around her, including rock formations, waterfalls, ponds, trees, sunrises and sunsets. Murray said she tried her hand at photography and then began painting.

Murray shared what has since become a sizable collection of oil paintings depicting scenes along the Appalachian Trail on Saturday afternoon at Presbyterian Church of Hagerstown.

"If you think all rocks and trees are the same, take a look around. I guarantee you they aren't," said Murray, 62, who has lived in Hagerstown for nearly a year. "From the start, I was going to be about authenticity - real places, real trees, things you can go and see for yourself."

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Asked what brought her to the area, Murray responded matter-of-factly, "The trail, of course."

Murray said she has hiked all of the southern end and most of the northern end of the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail, which extends from Georgia to Maine.

"I figured if I relocated here, then on my days off work I could hike a few miles here and there in the middle," she said.

Murray, who attends Presbyterian Church of Hagerstown, originally proposed the idea of an art show to the Rev. Jan Trammell-Savin, interim pastor at the church, as a way to raise funds for outreach ministries. Trammell-Savin suggested donating proceeds from the event to Habitat for Humanity of Washington County, which is housed at the church, and Murray agreed.

Former pastor of the church and portrait artist David Ross joined the effort, offering portrait sketches and caricatures at the event. Both artists agreed to donate half of their proceeds to Habitat.

Cheryl Winger of Hagerstown attended the show. Winger said a painting entitled "C&O Canal" caught her eye. She said she was considering buying the painting for her daughter, who graduated from Williamsport High School and now lives in suburban Howard County, Md.

"I like the contrast of pale greens and dark greens in the painting. And my daughter likes to recall her Washington County growing-up days," Winger said.

Murray acknowledged the popularity of the "C&O Canal" piece among locals who attended the show and said she would make prints of it available in the future.

Donald Shahan Jr., 49, of Hagerstown, said he went to the show because he has hiked parts of the Appalachian Trail locally and because he dabbles in watercolors. Shahan said his favorite painting illustrated a landmark along the trail in Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

"I recognized Jefferson's Rock immediately. Anyone who's been to any of these places would recognize them in the paintings like I did," Shahan said.

Murray said she did not officially track attendance but that she had hoped for a larger turnout for the show.

"I thought there would be a lot more hikers in Hagerstown," she said. "But we did manage to raise some money for Habitat."

Murray said she would be donating "a couple hundred" dollars to the organization.

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