Mural Making as Community Building | Westport Column

Anyone who’s walked through the halls at Westport Central School over the years has probably noticed the expressive murals that decorate many of the hallway walls. Painted by students, these colorful works of art tell stories, provide information, offer lessons, and—not least—demonstrate the strong sense of community that has always shaped the WCS experience. It’s fun and enlightening to pause and immerse yourself in them for a moment before you continue, and you carry on your journey feeling more connected than you did when you started.

If you’ve had this experience—and even if you haven’t—you won’t want to miss the next lecture at the Wadhams Free Library, “Mural Making as Community Building,” on Wednesday, Feb. 5, at 7:30 p.m. The presenters, Susan Shanley of Saratoga Springs and Linda Smyth of Port Henry, are both well-known muralists. Last spring they led a group of volunteers from around the country who went to a small fishing village in Mexico and enlisted 80 local children in creating a series of murals depicting the community’s cultural and natural history.

Susan and Linda will be joined by the other two volunteers from our region, Steven Engelhart and Lemon Healy. (You may know Steven, a Wadhamsite, as the executive director of AARCH, Adirondack Architectural Heritage in Keeseville.) They’ll talk about the project in Mexico and discuss the many ways in which mural painting can build community. If you’re curious ahead of time, all you have to do is drive through Port Henry, where you can see numerous examples of how Linda’s collaborations with students and others have helped transform the village.

Last week I mentioned the excellent online map of all the CATS trails at their web site, champlainareatrails.com. I’ve bookmarked it and now look at it regularly. Like I said, it’s now my favorite map of the area. One thing I noticed is I neglected to credit the mapmaker, Sheri Amsel, another fine local artist whose work helps build community. In addition to the CATS map, Sheri, a science illustrator and educator, also designed the outstanding Nature Trail at Black Kettle Farm, which is definitely worth visiting with your kids.

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