One of the benefits of working on the communications side of journalism is having the liberty to take your time.
I was able to collect b-roll and interviews with Frostburg State student Parris Ashley over the summer in order to time the release of the story with his main mural.
FSU Student’s Murals Gracing Walls Throughout the City of Frostburg
A Frostburg State University art student has become a one-man mural mogul, transforming surfaces in the city of Frostburg, with the latest being a large billboard on Broadway depicting some of Frostburg’s highlights. Two other students will soon join him in leaving their marks on the ’Burg.
Parris Ashley has transformed the Frostburg Community Pool building, spruced up a fence at Bar Monkey with a nature scene and is hard at work on a large billboard in a city-owned parking lot at 19 S. Broadway.
His Broadway mural design, the first major public art installation in Frostburg’s central business district, features church spires, Failinger’s Hotel Gunter, mountains, red-white-and-blue birds, a steam engine train, the FSU Clock Tower and other familiar scenes around the ’Burg.
“To add to the already beautiful background of Frostburg, it helps people to appreciate the natural beauty here,” Ashley said.
Ashley’s mural is one of three art projects in the works. The others will be figures representing different genres and themes in literature that will grace the Frostburg Public Library’s brick columns, designed by student Shea Crumbley and scheduled to be installed by spring 2016. Student Eric Groff designed robots that are expected to pop up in inconspicuous spots on several downtown buildings this fall.
Ashley overheard Jamison Odone, an assistant professor in the Department of Visual Arts, discussing plans to include students in a public mural project, kick-starting his competitiveness.
“It was a friendly competition,” said Ashley, who had Odone for drawing and illustration classes in a prior semester. “After I saw what his students were doing, I only pursued the Broadway mural.”
“It probably took me longer to create the sample than for me to paint it,” Ashley joked.
Odone and Ashley went in front of the Frostburg Historic District Commission in the spring to gain unanimous approval for the public art projects.
“It’s great for the students. They get to put their stamp on the city, and it brings the students and student body as a whole more in touch with downtown,” said City of Frostburg Community Development Director Elizabeth Stahlman. “It’s going to brighten the city up, and the downtown will be more happening.”
Students learned how to write a proposal, provide a cost analysis and develop a presentation and conceptual art to pitch their ideas, Odone said. Thirty proposals were whittled down to the Broadway mural, the library project and the robots.
Odone said projects like this could help Frostburg become more of an arts destination city. “We have two things going for us: We have a Visual Arts Department willing to do this and a town willing to do this.”
Ashley, a lifelong artist, credits Frostburg faculty for helping mature and refine his style and skills.
“They helped me get my drawing styles down perfectly where I could do photo-realistic drawings, then that helped me create my own style,” said Ashley, a fine arts major and art history minor. “I didn’t really have a style at all before I attended here.”
The Broadway mural should be on the billboard for at least seven years, which is the term of the city’s lease for the building.
“What a wonderful view of Frostburg,” said Frostburg Mayor W. Robert Flanigan. “It sometimes takes a second look to see the quality of life that we enjoy living in our city. I have enjoyed watching Parris do his magic, and he has certainly raised the level of the neighborhood on Broadway. His fine work brings a community together.”
Ashley’s murals at the Frostburg Community Pool and Bar Monkey are not part of the project, but they show his dedication to beautifying Frostburg. Ashley painted a beach and jungle scene on the Frostburg pool building this year, as a follow-up to a previously completed mural that swimmers can enjoy from the inside.
“It’s fun when you bring kids to a place and they’re searching for something,” Odone said. “If you know this thing exists, there’s a mystery of finding it. That’s the good thing about public art: it becomes an event.”
The library mural and the robots will be applied to brick buildings using a material similar to vehicle shrink wrap, applied and removed by heat. Students are designing the art using Adobe Photoshop, and the files will be sent to a printer to fix the image of the art on the material.
Situated in the mountains of Allegany County, Frostburg State University is one of the 12 institutions of the University System of Maryland. FSU is a comprehensive, residential regional university and serves as an educational and cultural center for Western Maryland. For more information, visit www.frostburg.edu or facebook.com/frostburgstateuniversity. Follow FSU on Twitter @frostburgstate.
– Charles Schelle