Last summer, Sprocket Mural Works sponsored the creation of five murals around Harrisburg over the course of two months.
The group, founded and run by city residents Jeff Copus and Meg Davis, received plenty of positive response to this inundation of public art, and they were eager to do more. That’s when they got the idea for a mural festival.
“We saw all the excitement of people watching new murals going up,” said Copus, whose day job is program director for the arts group, Jump Street. “So, that’s when we were like, ‘Let’s just really compact this—do a festival type thing.’”
Together with Davis, also known as TheBurg’s creative director, they’ve been planning just that since last summer.
Both Davis and Copus long have been interested in public art and community building. Several years ago, when a mutual friend introduced them, Sprocket was born. Its goals were, and still are, to beautify Harrisburg and instill pride in residents, Davis said.
“There’s a really amazing community here of people doing really great things,” she said. “So, part of it is inspiring civic pride through beautification and through art.”
Sprocket’s first project was at Recycle Bicycle at Emerald and Atlas streets in Uptown Harrisburg, a building that, at the time, was riddled with broken windows and spray-painted profanities. Using money she’d earned painting an earlier mural, Davis recruited local artist Ralphie Seguinot to transform Recycle Bicycle’s exterior.
Seguinot shared Davis and Copus’s view on the importance of public art in Harrisburg.
“I think it draws people into the city,” he said. “I think [for] people who are already in the city, it definitely can have a unifying effect.”
Drawing inspiration from other mural groups around the country, Davis and Copus want to reach the entire Harrisburg community with Sprocket’s projects. Employing a wide range of local talent, past murals have gone up all over the city—downtown, Midtown, Uptown and Allison Hill.
The early September mural festival will paint “10 murals in 10 days,” centered around a walkable route in Midtown and downtown. Copus said he envisions visitors taking the train into the city for the day and picking up the “mural trail.”
Community is a recurring theme for Sprocket, and the mural festival is no different. At this stage of fundraising and planning, the group is seeking out community partner sponsorships for the festival’s 10 murals.
“The amount of money that we have to raise for 10 murals is considerable versus just doing a one-off mural,” Davis said. “So, this season, we’ve been looking into more community partners because these businesses and organizations are just inherently interested in supporting the community. It makes a good fit. They’re larger, so they have the funds to do that.”
Hands on Deck
The process of making a mural is an expensive and extensive one. Sprocket prioritizes paying its artists and sourcing its equipment and supplies responsibly. Plus, before artists can even begin to paint, the wall for the mural must be prepped and cleaned. Sometimes, building codes must be considered, factors that also add time and effort.
As Copus and Davis, who run Sprocket on their own time aside from their careers, make plans to do 10 projects in 10 days, it’s no wonder they’re relying on the community so strongly, for both monetary and moral support.
Copus admitted that the $100,000 to $120,000 Sprocket will need to raise for the festival was nerve-wracking at first, but he’s confident about all the good it will do for Harrisburg.
Davis expressed gratitude for City House Bed & Breakfast’s in-kind donation of the lift it rented for its own renovations, an item that will come in handy as artists paint multi-story walls. With partnerships with other Harrisburg-area organizations like Leadership Harrisburg and Lawyers for the Arts, Sprocket has lots of hands on deck to ensure the festival runs smoothly.
“It’s really exciting to see the people who get it, who understand that this is a no-brainer,” Davis said.
That mentality includes artists. Since even before they put out the call for artists in late February, they’ve been getting inquiries from all over the world, Davis said.
“That’s a delicate balance because we want to bring in artists to elevate what we’re doing here, and, if you bring in artists, there will be more national and international eyes on it,” Copus said. “But we know there’s a great talent pool here locally, so we want to make sure local artists have the opportunity to get involved.”
The mural festival will kick off during Kipona weekend with an event featuring sponsor and artist meet-and-greets. Copus and Davis also plan to have events throughout the festival, such as public art talks at local businesses.
“At the end of the 10 days, fingers crossed, all the murals will be done and we’re going to have our celebration,” complete with food trucks, a pop-up HBG Flea and community art tents for families to make art together, Davis said.
“I’ll probably be smiling a lot,” Copus said when asked what he’ll be doing throughout the 10 days of the festival. Smiling, combined with lots of sweating, Davis added.
As Sprocket’s founders look to the coming months and years, they’re excited for what’s ahead.
“We want to get through this mural festival first before we really try to figure out what the next steps are, but I think we both are looking forward to making more murals after the festival,” Copus said.
The Harrisburg Mural Festival will run Sept. 1 to 10 at various locations in the city. To learn more, including how to become a sponsor, visit www.sprocketmuralworks.com.