Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Meet the Artist: Brandon Spicer-Crawley installs his first large-scale work during Harrisburg Mural Festival.

Artist Brandon Spicer-Crawley (far left), along with volunteers from Sprocket Mural Works, prepares his mural prior to installation.

Sandra Spicer-Sharp said it was one of her proudest moments as a mom.

Her son’s artwork, created on parachute cloth, was laid out on the grass aside the Stokes Millworks Lumber Storage Building on 4th Street near the Broad Street Market on Thursday evening, ready to be installed as part of the Harrisburg Mural Festival.

“My emotions are all over the place,” she said. “When it goes up on the wall, I’m going to lose it.”

While some muralists paint directly onto primed walls, live during the festival, others like Brandon Spicer-Crawley create their works ahead-of-time on the durable cloth that is then adhered to a wall’s surface and sealed, preserving it as mural art.

Spicer-Crawley is no ordinary artist. Within the diversity of the 2019 Harrisburg Mural Festival’s artist lineup, he is an intellectually disabled, African-American artist with a prolific ability for art.

“I knew he had artistic talent when he was 4 years old,” said Sandra Spicer-Sharp. “He was born with his own intrinsic drive to create art.”

Although the 38-year-old artist has had numerous gallery exhibits in his native Philadelphia area, this is his first mural and first large-scale work. Abstract in nature, it’s filled with patterns including repeating circles of bright colors. Like Spicer-Crawley himself, the work seems to radiate happiness and joy.

Brandon Spicer-Crawley’s mother, Sandra Spicer-Sharp, and his stepfather look at the mural installation site.

He created the mural over the past several months at the Wynnewood, Pa.-based studio, the Center for Creative Works, where he’s been a practicing artist since their opening in 2010. One tenet of the nonprofit Sprocket Mural Works is that artists creating murals for its Harrisburg Mural Festival are compensated for their talents; the rest of the festival is 100-percent volunteer-driven.

Thursday night’s installation means that festival attendees can view Spicer-Crawley’s mural during the entire 10 days of the festival, Aug. 30 to Sept. 8, and beyond. At the conclusion of the festival, 14 new murals will grace Harrisburg’s streetscape, bringing Sprocket’s grand total throughout the city to 40 murals.

Spicer-Sharp, who teaches special education at the Community College of Philadelphia, perched on a log bench set up by Millworks for the occasion and reflected on the significance of the moment.

“It’s poignant for me, because, in our special education textbooks, we note that, as a society, we talk about people’s exceptions before we talk about the person themselves,” she said. “But we also talk about people being capable—capable of anything with the right kind of exposure. I think today, with this mural, we’re moving the needle a little bit, creating a little change in the world.”

For more information on the Harrisburg Mural Festival, see TheBurg is the event’s media sponsor.

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