Painting over the legacy of 30-year-old murals in Memorial Park is in the hands of the Lansdale Parks and Recreation Committee.
The Lansdale Mural Arts Program — coming off the success of a completed mural on the side of Chantilly Floral in the parking lot off West Main Street, and a soon-to-be-completed mural on the side of Wes Carver Electric at Jenkins Avenue and Broad Street — has its sights set on beautifying another part of Lansdale: Memorial Park.
Parks and Recreation Director Carl Saldutti said he had met with LMAP co-organizer Ellen Foulke last week about more murals in the borough, specifically painting over the existing ones along Line Street. LMAP is a beautification program sponsored by Lansdale Business Association and funded by donations. A May 8 fundraiser and meet and greet for the program will occur at Lansdale Tavern at 5:30 p.m., complete with food, soda, beer and wine.
"We have talked about that location (at Memorial Park), about ideas, but there is nothing that LMAP would 'do' without approval from the parks and recreation committee, just like last year," Foulke told TAP. "Just like last year, we are in the process of learning who has interest in the program as a 'host' for any work. We are scouting two locations on two installations this year."
Committee Chairwoman Mary Fuller said the committee originally thought the plan was for a refurbishment of the existing murals.
"Now, they are talking about doing an overhaul of everything, including getting a volunteer for stucco work and painting," she said. "We are not giving a go-ahead until we see a plan first. I'm not in a hurry to cover up what's already there. it has special meaning from several different angles, including the students that did it and the teacher that oversaw it."
In 1984-1985, this writer's aunt, the former Renee Bartol, and several students completed four murals behind the grandstand at Memorial Park in Lansdale along Line Street, depicting sports scenes of tennis, football, baseball and soccer.
"The community has felt, over the last 30 years, those muruals have served them quite well," said Saldutti. "By all means, nothing is forever. If something made sense, the parks and recreation committee would take another look at it."
Saldutti said LMAP has requested the parks committee consider painting over the murals.
"They asked if the committee would consider fresh images on all panels. If not, then would we consider putting images on the three panels that are bare right at the moment," Saldutti said.
Fuller said there could be a plan that appeals to the committee to have the entire grandstand refurbished.
"We wouldn’t want it to be obvious that some is refurbished and some is not, but I'm hesitant to cover up the old," she said. 'We could look at a compromise: Keep the four panels there and paint three new ones and not worry about refurbishment."
Saldutti said the existing murals depict sports that are played or were once played in the park. He said Memorial Park is the site of many activities, including the Festival of the Arts and the annual Memorial Day celebration.
He said LMAP could find a local mason to donate time and effort to restore the stucco on the grandstand, should the committee recommend an overhaul. There is also a local Sherwin Williams representative that may donate materials and time to put a fresh coat of paint on the grandstand, Saldutti said.
Saldutii said the existing four murals have been there for 30 years; many consider them a landmark in Lansdale.
"Renee worked with us on the mural, and she had art students from the school there and they did the work," he said. "They have sentimental value to some, and aside from football and soccer, those are activities that take place in the park. The community is sensitive to that."
Saldutti said the committee would continue to visit the requests, consider the most tasteful ideas and possibly take one for consideration and recommendation.
As with the first two murals, LMAP is not a success without the call for artists, Foulke said. The call for artists comes after the mural host sites are chosen, she said.
"It really helps the artists to look at the façade and its setting before producing their work, so we would like to have the actual site determined before we do so," she said. "Once ... we have done a call to artists, we can offer actual designs for owners or committees to consider. You may recall that the placement of the murals changed through the course of the season and that may happen again. It is exciting that new connections are being made and conversations are happening."
In their 30 years, the murals have never once been vandalized, Saldutti said. He said studies have shown that graffiti artists shy away from damaging such works of art.
"Graffiti artists have respect for that," he said. "Our history with the murals has been great. They have held up remarkably well. They are something that the community can identify with."