Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

The Painted Word: Mural Festival, Gallery Walk open Harrisburg’s autumn art season

Early bird: A mural is already in progress across the street from the state Capitol, with many more coming soon during the 2019 Harrisburg Mural Festival.

All the lines from the 1950s TV show, “The Adventures of Superman,” apply: “faster than a speeding bullet” (14 murals in 10 days), “able to leap tall buildings” (artists on scaffolds)… “look up in the sky, it’s…” – the Harrisburg Mural Festival.

When you stop to think about it, Mural Fest is a super feat of artistic achievement, and like with Superman, the public is grateful for its vision. No kryptonite here, just Sprocket Mural Works in high gear (no pun intended).

The power of art speaks for itself. Started in 2014 as a valiant volunteer brigade, Sprocket Mural Works evolved from an idea to 2017’s initial Mural Fest that featured 18 new murals, with local, regional, national and international artists participating in the event.

The 2019 Harrisburg Mural Festival, which starts on Aug. 30, will yield 14 more grand works, as a select group of art-busting aficionados unleash their collective power, ready for the public to tour them by end of the festival, on Sept. 8.

On that day, a block party will set up near the state Capitol, along with mural tours, live music, food vendors, a pop-up biergarten and more, including an artist’s market sponsored by the Harrisburg Flea.

Harrisburg photographer Dani Lucas perhaps put it best when, speaking about the 2017 Mural Festival, she said, “It is one thing to say that murals are tools for civic engagement. It is another to witness it on such a grand scale.”

As just mentioned, the mural festival wraps up on Sept. 8, which happens to coincide with another artistic blockbuster, the 31st citywide Gallery Walk.

The Gallery Walk lineup this year totals 19 sites, fitting for 2019, if only in that the stars are aligned. It begs the question, did Carrie Wissler-Thomas, founder and coordinator of the art walk, plan it that way?

No matter, as the venues are as eclectic as they come. Starting with the catalyst for art in Harrisburg is the Art Association’s 93rd anniversary. The Pennsylvania State Museum and the Susquehanna Art Museum round out three main art institutions in the city, all taking part. At the outside perimeter of Gallery Walk lies the Latino Hispanic American Community Center across the Mulberry Street Bridge and, also pushing the boundary, is the Olewine Nature Center at Wildwood Park. Four churches feature art: St. Stephen’s Riverfront Gallery, Zion Lutheran Church, Pine Street Presbyterian Church and Salem United Church of Christ.

Wissler-Thomas shared that Riverfront Gallery’s exhibit, “Icons in Transformation,” by artist Ludmilia Pawlowska, is a must-see for its depiction of contemporary religious iconography.

Young artists abound at the Capital Area School for the Arts (CASA). Midtown Scholar Bookstore, the Dauphin County Historical Society and the Historic Harrisburg Resource Center all bring their own unique dimensions to the event. And City House Bed & Breakfast doesn’t take its art lying down either.

As is its tendency, The Millworks offers food, fashion and an on-site brewery, in addition to its three-story artist’s enclave. The LGBT Center of Central PA creates a common ground for art and art lovers, welcoming the public to view the world through cultural and social engagement. Penn National Insurance and Old City Hall, as well as the Sprocket Mural Works block party, bring the total to 18 venues.

Last, but certainly not least, is the sole independent gallery participating that puts the “V” in Verbeke. That’s shorthand for Vivi on Verbeke, home to Harrisburg’s hippy couple of Bohemian bonhomie, Vivian Sterste and Jackson (Jeb) Boyd. You will find them at 258 Verbeke, out on their “perfect for people watching” bench in front of their pottery/art gallery. They’ll be offering humble hospitality to all who enter their powerhouse palace of art apart.

So, plan to come downtown, Midtown and all around Harrisburg on Sunday, Sept. 8, and party till the cows come home (so 2007) at the Harrisburg Mural Festival block party and Gallery Walk. Be ready to walk and talk and also leap tall buildings. See you there.

The 2019 Harrisburg Mural Festival runs Aug. 30 to Sept. 8 at numerous venues around Harrisburg. For more information, see the brochure in TheBurg’s August issue, at select locations or visit TheBurg’s website or Sprocket Mural Works. The 31st annual Gallery Walk takes place Sept. 8 at many venues throughout Harrisburg. For more information, visit the Gallery Walk website.

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