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Scranton public arts program advancing

The creative minds of Scranton are making the most of long winter days. With spring just around the corner, a Scranton Tomorrow committee is planting the seeds for a public arts program designed to enrich the landscape of the downtown Scranton business district through mural art.

Rose Randazzo, of Scranton, serves as committee chairperson under the direction of Steve Ward, team leader of Scranton Tomorrow’s safe, clean, green and design committee. Randazzo served as Main Street manager for the city of Pittston, and she was instrumental in developing Pittston’s mural arts program with city leaders and community partners. In eight years, they installed eight murals, including the Pittston Inspiration Mural, a well-known landmark. She witnessed firsthand the transformative power of public art, and she’s eager to share her experience with the Scranton community. “I drive down Main Street in Pittston every day. When I get to the Inspiration Mural, I ask myself, ‘Where am I? This is amazing!’ It just changed the whole look of the city.”

Positive change such as this can inspire a wonderful ripple effect. Public art can bolster the economy by increasing foot traffic to local businesses, enhance the aesthetic appeal of a downtown business district or Main Street and instill a sense of pride into local residents. “When you start creating public art, you change the attitudes of people,” Randazzo said. “They have pride in their community, and it makes such a huge difference.”

There’s an important educational component to public art, too. Although funding and designs are still in preliminary stages, the committee has established the content of Scranton’s murals will reflect the City’s history and qualities that make Scranton unique. “We want to expose community characteristics that may be hidden otherwise,” Randazzo said. Thought-provoking, but not political, subject matter may include everything from the city’s vaudevillian past to current environmental issues, such as the plight of the honeybee. QR barcodes will be posted at each mural site, allowing visitors to embark on a brief, self-guided tour while viewing the artwork. A simple scan of the code with a smartphone will link visitors to a page on Scranton Tomorrow’s website where they can learn more about the theme of the piece and the artist or artists who brought the piece to life.

The committee is developing guidelines for future public art installations to encourage conservation of each project and to increase the longevity of the city’s murals. When done properly, murals may last for decades, but it’s important to invest in the right materials and follow certain protocol. “You want to transform a blighted wall, but if you don’t do it properly, in less than five years, your art project could become a blighted wall again. The art could fail, fade, or crumble,” Randazzo said. “Conservation is important.” The new guidelines will serve as a valuable resource for the local art community, covering every phase of a mural project, from site selection to power washing and priming walls, painting, and protecting the piece with the proper varnish to increase its longevity.

It will take time, but with the support of community leaders, partners, and volunteers, downtown Scranton can be transformed into an open air gallery — one that could only be found in the Electric City. “Our goal is to make public art that is specific to us, highlighting our history, our characteristics, and our people,” Randazzo said.

Leslie Collins is the President and CEO of Scranton Tomorrow, a nonprofit economic development group.