Borough to unveil mural during Etna Art Tour |

Borough to unveil mural during Etna Art Tour

About 50 Shaler Area High School students worked outside of their class periods on a mural celebrating Etna Borough’s history.

Shaler Area High School students and community leaders are giving Etna’s former Tippins Inc. steel mill a facelift in the form of a mural celebrating the borough’s history.

Officials will unveil the mural at 6 p.m. Sept. 22 at Butler and Bridge streets. The event will kick off the fourth annual Etna Art Tour, part of a weekend celebrating Etna’s 150th anniversary.

Artist Bernie Wilke, Etna Manager Mary Ellen Ramage and Cathy McCollom, founder of McCollom Development Strategies LLC, a firm specializing in community revitalization, embarked upon the project in February.

Wilke of East Liberty developed the initial concept that the partners showed Steve Mitnick, who owns the building and 448 Studios, located inside. He also owns STORExpress, with several Pittsburgh-area locations, including one at Hafner Avenue, in Etna.

“How I see history is not necessarily just being dormant in the past — it’s still impacting us today, and it’s still influencing us, and that’s partly why we titled the mural ‘History Walks With Us,’ ” Wilke said.

Wilke said the 25-foot-by-100-foot mural will contain a volcano as a focal point, highlighting Etna’s namesake of Mt. Etna in Sicily. Shaler Area art teacher David Boyles said the design also will incorporate people, architecture and industrial elements.

Around 50 students worked outside of their class periods on the mural. They either projected and traced images they found online or drew designs onto a special cloth with a wallpaper-type backing. During installation, the students will cut and arrange the images against the building. Wilke will add a graffiti- and ultraviolet-resistant seal to the design. “It will last for many decades,” he said.

“It has been a wonderful experience to have a voice in the community,” Boyles said. “The students have been diligent, resilient and adaptable during the process.”

Etna partnered with the ArtsPath program, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and administered through the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, to bring Wilke, as an artist-in-residence, to Shaler Area for the project. Social enterprise incubator New Sun Rising provided a $1,000 grant.

“Steve (Mitnick) offered us some funds, as well, which has been huge for us. I mean, his funding helped make this possible, really,” Wilke said.

“The fact that our students from our awesome high school are the ones who painted the mural, it just brings so much together — the past, the present, the school. And a private business owner financially contributed, it kind of just brings everybody together,” Ramage said.

The Etna Economic Development Corp. is sponsoring the Etna Art Tour from 6 to 10 p.m. Shaler Area students will display individual artwork along a walking path within the warehouse to 448 Studios. Additionally, Etna Studios, Reneski Replications and .5 Studios will admit guests throughout the tour.

Visitors will receive maps illustrating which galleries and businesses are participating in the tour. Porky’s Bar & Grill will have live painting, Etna Print Circus will sell silk-screen tour posters, and Etna Community Organization and EvolveEA will host an Etna Ecodistrict table.

Children can get creative at an art table geared toward youngsters. Everyone is invited to paint a portion of a community canvas.

Musical acts Zack Keim, Molly Alphabet and Meeting of Important People will perform starting at 6:20 p.m. The borough is closing Butler Street from the Bridge Street intersection to Freeport Street for the acts.

Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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