Scranton hopes murals make city an arts destination

Jim Lockwood, The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.
·3 min read

Feb. 26—Scranton Tomorrow plans to paint the town with public art.

The nonprofit organization that leads economic development downtown recently began the Mural Arts Program to bring landmark, long-lasting public works of art, including murals and sculptures, downtown. Murals will begin before sculptures. The organization drew inspiration from vibrant local artists and businesses.

Already on the rise in Scranton in recent years, murals can transform streetscapes and spur tourism, said Scranton Tomorrow President and CEO Leslie Collins.

"Public art has transformative powers to increase economic development," Collins said.

Scranton Tomorrow tapped city resident Rose Randazzo-Pizzuto as murals chairwoman. An attorney in Pittston, she volunteered to lead efforts there that produced eight "magnificent" murals over eight years, Collins said.

"She brings a true love for public art. Rose is really bringing her expertise to the table," Collins said.

For Scranton Tomorrow, Randazzo-Pizzuto leads a committee that will develop guidelines for conservation and sustainability of murals downtown for a minimum of 40 years.

In Pittston, Randazzo-Pizzuto learned that creating lasting murals requires more than painting a wall.

"There's a trick to the trade in putting up murals that have longevity and complement their surroundings," Randazzo-Pizzuto said.

To that end, art meets science.

"It's chemistry. It's science," she said of longevity. That includes using certain primers and acrylic paints that withstand the elements, and coating a mural with several layers of archival nonyellowing varnish that further protects against weather and graffiti.

An easement or licensing agreement would be secured from a building owner to ensure a mural could not be altered or removed for the duration of the pact.

Ryan Hnat of Northeast Art Project, a consultant for the mural arts program, recalled starting to pitch a proliferation of murals to city officials about six years ago. A quirky mural with "SCRANTON" in detailed designs against a background of colorful, abstract shapes done in 2017 by Hnat and Eric Bussart in Dix Court at Linden Street has become a popular spot for photos.

Last year, On&On History Recycled Marketplace on Capouse Avenue had artist Mike Trovato paint a mural of the character Dwight Schrute from the former NBC sitcom "The Office," and Frank Dubas had Hnat and Bussart paint a mural of John Lennon on a side wall of 518 Lackawanna Ave. to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Lennon's death.

"I really want to create an art economy and this (murals) is one aspect of creating an art economy here. People go and travel and see murals — it's a big thing," Hnat said. "It's really nice when you see more people in the community getting excited about making something happen. With Scranton Tomorrow, it can be really beneficial for the city at large."

Scranton Tomorrow does not have a set number of murals to create. The organization has identified three unspecified spots for three different types of murals, but nothing is finalized. Collins hopes to announce plans by this summer.

"The more mural art that goes up, the better the opportunity for Scranton to become a public art destination," Randazzo-Pizzuto said. "There's no lack of talent out there. We have unbelievable artists and if we all get on the same page, we will be a destination for public art. It just changes the face of the city."

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