Those who live and work in downtown Scranton may have noticed a new face on Penn Avenue as our Danseur de Corde (rope dancer) mural was recently installed by Joel Carson Jones. A tribute to Scranton’s Vaudeville era, this exquisite piece reminds us of the important role the arts play in our community. It’s the perfect way for us to honor our past as we build our future.

You can preview the design on our website at scrantontomorrow.org/danseurdecorde, but we also encourage everyone in the community to view the mural in person at 328 Penn Ave. to truly appreciate it. Jones, who brought our rope dancer to life. is an accomplished artist who specializes in trompe l’oeil, which is the French term for “to deceive the eye.” This technique creates an optical illusion to make our dancer appear to be three dimensional. Designated a living master by the International Art Renewal Center, Jones lives, teaches, and paints in Northeast Pennsylvania. We are honored to showcase his work in the downtown Scranton business district.

The project is a testament to the power of partnerships. Members of our mural arts program committee work in conjunction with city and Lackawanna County leaders, property and business owners, sponsors and volunteers in addition to collaborating with artists. Together, they are working diligently to bring more public art to the streets of downtown Scranton with a full mural series in the next two years.

In addition to the ongoing mural series, we were pleased to partner with the Scranton Jazz Festival in August to bring live music back to downtown Scranton. The festival was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, but it returned with a new format and fresh energy. For three days, venues throughout the business district hosted jazz, blues and world beat musicians. The free festival provided a much-needed economic boost to the area, generating significant foot traffic into our downtown shops and eateries. Many business owners reported their venues were filled to capacity, a scenario we haven’t witnessed since 2019. As we strive to recover from the setbacks we experienced during the height of the pandemic, events like this one will help our businesses weather the economic storm.

We will continue to support our partners in this way and uphold our commitment to the business community by organizing seasonal promotions for the business district, too. Our fall into downtown campaign kicks off in mid-September with the annual Scranton scarecrow display. Designed to encourage everyone to shop and dine in downtown Scranton, scarecrows will be displayed in planters and storefronts throughout the business district. A scavenger hunt will add an extra element of fun and interest to this year’s promotion. Be sure to follow Scranton Tomorrow on Instagram for details.

When scarecrows come down, holiday lights go up. Plans are underway to host our Light Up Downtown Scranton holiday campaign in November and December.

Leslie Collins is president and CEO of Scranton Tomorrow, a nonprofit economic development organization.