WILLIAMSPORT – An impressive array of murals are scattered along the city’s streets, showing residents and visitors the region’s history while building an investment in community that is vital to its economic growth.
“The arts bring a sense of joy to people,” said Judy Olinsky, of the Lycoming Arts Council. “First Friday and the murals and the arts have had a positive impact on the community development of downtown.”
One of the city’s most prominent murals surrounds the parking lot next to Bullfrog on West Fourth Street. It was spearheaded by renowned artist Michael Pilato who also brought in a number of other local artists to help with the project.
When Leah Yeagle, innkeeper at the Herdic House, hears her guests talk about the beautiful art they’ve seen throughout the city, she has a unique sense of pride as she watches people “experience the arts through fresh eyes.”
In addition to being an innkeeper, Yeagle has the honor of being an artist for many of the city’s massive murals – working with Pilato on the Williamsport Mural and then tackling a piece of her own.
A historic mural depicting Williamsport as the birthplace of the Little League World Series welcomes travelers to the city. This was the first major mural project Yeagle worked on by herself. It’s one of the first murals travelers see as they enter the city from the Market Street bridge.
“It’s interesting when your painting in the studio and then in the public, it’s a totally different experience,” Yeagle said. “I really enjoyed the community aspect of painting outside … It’s just a really special thing to be able to share something with them.”
Investing in art is an investment in community, Olinsky said, adding that murals also make the city look wonderful. Using art as a way to build community investment is something known as Community Placement, she said. It’s a concept wherein the government realized that the arts enhance community.
“When you enhance community you create economic development,” Olinsky said. “This all works together.”
The art community has worked for the past 25 years to enhance the local arts, through the murals and the First Friday program.