A handful of Philipsburg-Osceola students clustered Monday in a messy circle on the floor of the Philipsburg YMCA, with paintbrushes and dripping acrylics at the ready as they made the beginning brushstrokes of what would soon become a rendering of the twin towers onto the canvas. The painting will commemorate the 9/11 terrorist attacks as part of the “Honor Our Veterans” mural for the American Legion Post 437 in Philipsburg.
The mural will be designed and painted by Pamela Etters, the executive director of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, and will include 10 panels depicting major American wars, from the Revolutionary War up to the War on Terror. Lynn Herman, former state representative and Philipsburg native, helped organize and raise the funds needed for the nearly $13,000 project. The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau also awarded a $5,000 grant toward the mural, which will be installed outside the American Legion Post 437 building later this month.
Students from the Philipsburg-Osceola Area High School history and art classes were given the opportunity to help paint the sections representing the twin towers and the 9/11 attacks on the anniversary of the day that none of the students were alive to see. Throughout Monday, students painted the first panel of two panels, supervised by Etters and art teachers Barry Raker and Autumn Anderson, who serve as advisors for the school’s Illustrators Club. Junior Ella Wallace and several of her classmates described the honor and the impact of painting a commemorative mural on the 22nd anniversary of the attacks.
“We weren’t alive during 9/11 so it just feels good to have something to contribute, something to show that we care,” Wallace said. “Like it’s not dodging our generation, we’re still caring about this, which is still important.”
Paige Mittelbrunn, a senior, saw the mural not only as a way to honor veterans but also to serve her community.
“It’s an exciting opportunity to do art but to also be part of something in town like something we drive past every day,” Mittelbrunn said.
Using murals to help students connect with art and their communities is a key part of the work for Etters. Her foundation, Murals Talk, strives to use public murals to bridge the gap between communities and helps children and students of all ages to participate in creating public art.
“I like to work with kids because I want them to just learn about why murals are important,” Etters said. “Why the subject of the mural is important, why we picked it, what’s the relevance to their community or in their community on a larger scale.”
Johna McCormick, commander of post 437, said the mural will help bring attention back to the original purpose of the American Legion.
“The American Legion is for veterans, their families and the community,” McCormick said. “That got lost in the bar scene over the decades and it’s a shame because this is what we’re about. So to see this is phenomenal. We’re changing the face of the American Legion back to what it should be.”