Barrow Civic Theatre Collaborates With Franklin Area Students on Mural Project

| June 27, 2022

FRANKLIN, Pa. (EYT) – The Barrow Civic Theatre recently teamed up with Franklin High School students and staff, local artists, and historians to curate a historical mural which culminated with the unveiling ceremony on Saturday.

(Photo:The members of The Sheepskin Band portrayed in the mural are (from left) Wes Law, Kale Law, John Lawson, and Ed Lawson. PHOTOS: Captured by Jacob Deemer/EYT.)

Franklin High School art teacher Rachelle Surrena spearheaded the months-long project that aimed to honor “The Sheepskin Band,” a Franklin-based black community band active from 1884 to 1935.

“Making a gigantic mural makes big dreams seem more achievable,” Surrena said. “Something like this, that’s so large and on display larger than life, it makes the dreams in our lives feel more achievable after completing this.”

(Pictured above: Franklin High School art teacher Rachelle Surerena speaks during Saturday’s ceremony.)

The Sheepskin Band, which was named simply after the material used for most of their instruments, was led by Wes Law. For nearly half a century, the band played for local celebrations, park concerts, and visiting dignitaries.

After the ceremony was kicked off by Franklin High School’s Cadence Collins’ rendition of the National Anthem, a pair of students spoke to thank all those who helped with the project.

According to Surrena, senior Kayleigh Beasley and sophomore Callista Judy were “leaders” in this project.

“It’s hard to fully express the gratitude I have right now,” Beasley said. “(Surrena) believed in our talent enough to pretty much let us loose and let this be our baby, but gave us guidance when needed. I’ll never be able to thank you enough for this.”

“Without (Mrs. Surrena), none of this would exist,” Judy said. “Under no obligation, she has taken her time and talent towards something so positive.”

Surrena said she was inspired to begin the project when she learned of a similar project in the Grove City School District.

It used the same mural process that is commonly used by artists all over the world.

The mural is painted on pieces of Polytab, a polyester fabric, which are later glued to the wall. The 48-piece layout was created with Adobe Illustrator before Surrena and students filled in a large ‘paint-by-number’ drawing.

The mural was made possible through grants from the Venango Area Community Foundation. Over 100 students, ranging from grades kindergarten to 12th, had a hand in the project, Surrena said.

Retired Franklin teacher and author, Peter Greene, was included in the ceremony to give an insight into the history of The Sheepskin Band.

“In 1910, a series of postcards showcased local celebrities drawn by Richard Clark,” Greene said. “One of those cards featured four members of the band. That’s the postcard image that this (mural) is based on.”

The theatre will be back under the lights at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, July 8 when it presents “Something Rotten.”


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