LEWISTOWN - In a continued effort to revitalize downtown Lewistown, the Mifflin-Juniata Arts Council, Community Partnerships RC&D and Dwight Kirkland, along with others, have come together to capture a part of local history in a mural of the 16th United States President, Abraham Lincoln.
Though behind-the-scenes efforts for this project have been ongoing, painting began Wednesday and it is expected to be completed by the end of next week.
The mural is just yards from Monument Square, where a stone from Lincoln's tomb has rested since 1900.
Sentinel photo by JANE CANNON MORT
Dwight Kirkland, of Black Leaf Studio Murals, works on the Logan Guard Mural Friday on the side of a building on South Main Street in Lewistown. Kirkland is the same artist who painted the veterans mural at Victory Park.
The donation of the granite stone to the community is recognized as the catalyst that resulted in the erection of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument.
The stone was a gift from Robert B. Hoover, a Mifflin County native who served in the military as a member of the Logan Guard during the Civil War. After moving to Springfield, Ill., Hoover, through his connections with the Lincoln Memorial Association, acquired the granite block when officials in Springfield decided to reconstruct Lincoln's original tomb.
The Logan Guard was a militia unit organized in 1858 in Lewistown. It gained fame in 1861 when President Lincoln issued an urgent appeal for troops to protect Washington. Of the 106 members, most were new recruits, armed with only 34 muskets and no ammunition, they bluffed their way through hostile crowds in Baltimore on their way to protect President Lincoln. As the first to arrive at the nation's capital, they became known as the "First Defenders." While quartered in the barricaded capitol building, Lincoln personally greeted each man.
Stored behind the stone in the monument is a thick jar containing a number of mementoes, including the names of all the county's Civil War veterans as well as the county's military record in the Civil War and coins representing the five years of the war.
The Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts Program distributes grant money to regional organizations who can then give it out to artists, individuals or organizations who want to do community art projects for the benefit of the public.
Same Price, Executive Director of Community Partnerships RC&D, said, "We are really excited to see it become a part of the downtown landscape and I hope to see more art in public spaces."
He also commented that the arts have been a key contributor to revitalization in many towns. Price said that this is one of 30 projects they funded last year.
Muralist Dwight Kirkland is no stranger to civic involvement in Lewistown. Last year he completed an extensive mural at Victory Park to honor all veterans, past and present. The Victory Park project was headed by the Juniata River Valley Visitors Bureau and Chamber of Commerce. Kirkland now continues to give back to the community using his talents.
Price added that people drive around the monument everyday, but they don't know why it's there. Kirkland and Price agreed that the mural, most importantly, should serve as a reminder to people of how instrumental local soldiers such as the Logan Guard were during the Civil War.
Kirkland said that he started the concept last year and pursued a personal grant through Community Partnerships RC&D which he received in October. He then began designing the mural for the Logan Guard and scouting the area for the perfect building to place it on.
Kirkland said, "I wanted to do something educational as well as beautify the square."
Once the mural is complete he plans to have a panel that will give the history of the painting as well as a list of the soldiers who were in the Logan Guard. The Mifflin County Historical Society will be aiding him with this.
Angela Niman, President of the Mifflin-Juniata Arts Council, has also helped Kirkland with the mural. Kirkland and Niman came together last year for an arts in education program and she said she was happy to help him when he called asking for an extra set of hands. She has been available to help him block the grid and get basic lines of the mural in. The arts council is planning to have an unveiling ceremony upon completion of the project.
Local business owner and community leader, John Pannizzo, has found yet another way to assist in the growth and character development of downtown Lewistown. Pannizzo donated the building space on which the mural is being painting.
When asked what about the mural made him want to contribute, he replied, "A lot of people don't realize what Mifflin County meant to Lincoln during the Civil War. When given the opportunity to add something of historical value, I knew it was something I couldn't pass up."
Brian Rogers, Deputy Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, facilitated a discussion of the arts in Lewistown on Thursday. This meeting was sponsored by Community Partnerships RC&D and the local arts council.
Niman, president of the council, commented, "There are a lot of really great things going on culturally and arts wise and we hope to get everyone on the same page in order to have many organizations and individuals working together for the greater good."
If you are interested in becoming involved in community planning meetings contact the Mifflin-Juniata Arts Council.
Additionally, any artist, individual or organization interested in completing a community art project can apply for a personal grant through Community Partnerships RC&D. The deadline for this year is June 29.