Mural project documents local history

TURBOTVILLE – Mural paintings historically have served as an important visual form of expression over the centuries.

Whether it be a political statement or simply to please the eye through beautiful imagery, murals can be seen in all forms all over the world and can be found just about anywhere a space exists for art to be displayed: Che Guevera’s face on the side of a brick building in Bangladesh, angels in the clouds on the ceiling of a cathedral in France … or a 6,875 square foot wall on the outer facade of the auditorium at Warrior Run Middle School.

Warrior Run’s mural, a large-scale project that has been in the works for a few years, focuses on communicating the importance of history in the area.

“There’s a lot of history in our area, ranging from Native Americans, 18th-century settlers, the Revolutionary War, canals, the agriculture of the region and goes all the way through to the present,” said Jonathan Laidacker, the chief artist working on the project and Warrior Run alumnus (2000).

“The idea for the project first came up years ago between Joel (Ryder, a teacher at the school) and I. I’d been working for the Philadelphia mural arts program for a while and had been drooling over this particular wall for years,” he said.

Laidacker now is very involved in the Philadelphia art scene. He has spent the last eight years in the area, participating in the mural arts program.

A long process of planning began to get a large-scale community mural project to happen at “our alma mater,” Laidacker said.They discussed the idea with the Perry County Council of the Arts, which is one of 13 Arts-in-Education Partners of Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

“It is our job, among other things, to place professional artists in classrooms so that students have the opportunity to learn from people and in environments that probably wouldn’t be a part of their regular school curriculum,” said Amy Reed, Perry County Council of the Arts communication and Arts-in-Education coordinator.

Laidacker is participating in the longest of the artist-in-residency programs: 75 days … though he presumes he will probably end up spending a lot more time than that on it.

“The mural is a sort of mash-up of various elements of that history. Think of it not as a ‘by the book’ timeline, but more as an artistically interpreted, historical collage in which the collaged elements interact with one another in a final, cohesive scene,” he said.

“This is an extraordinary amount of work to fit into such a timeline. On average, for something this size, it would be around six months to complete.”

It will depict the community through “time travel” beginning with early Lenepe or Delaware Indians and European settlers, through the Battle of Fort Freeland, through 20th century industrialization and transportation, to modern day Turbotville, according to Bernadette Boerckel, Warrior Run School District’s director of curriculum and instruction.

The project goes far beyond emphasizing basic art skills – according to Reed, the project “blurs the line between academic disciplines.”

“Officially under the umbrella of the art department, the students will be conducting historical research, which stresses accuracy and consultation of multiple sources; practicing math skills as they enlarge the original drawing to hundreds of 5(-foot)-by-5(-foot) blocks; not to mention honing skills that are important in the 21st century work place: effective communication, collaboration and problem solving,” she said.

Laidacker emphasized how important it is to work with the kids, staff, faculty and interested community members as much as possible.

“After all, it’s really their painting,” he said.

Laidacker said he and the others will be working on the mural until late November.

“Admittedly, I over-designed to a certain degree for the amount of time I have, but I wanted to do something big for my alma mater. I’ve been looking at this wall for years and imagining what it could be. So how often am I going to get the opportunity?” he said.

To see progress on the mural and to view Laidacker’s other artwork, visit .