Arts Around Town

Arts Around Town: Freehand Murals draws pride in communities

What has eight hands and can make larger-than-life community statements throughout the Lehigh Valley? It's the female foursome, Freehand Murals, who recently painted two murals as part of the current exhibition, "The Steel Way of Life," at the 1810 Goundie House on Main Street in historic Bethlehem.

The scenes by Freehand Murals depict a south Bethlehem street serving to transport guests from the Goundie House to the south-side, and the Welfare Room or locker-like space where steel workers stored their personal belongings. The multimedia exhibit is made possible by the Historic Bethlehem Partnership and Steelworkers' Archives. It focuses on what life was like at Bethlehem Steel, and visitors can learn firsthand what workers experienced through life-size portraits, audio interviews and memorabilia.

Freehand Murals, based in Easton, includes Jenny Miller Leggett, of Martins Creek; Donna Thatcher and Kim Hogan, both of Easton; and Janet Hodick of Palmer Twp., Northampton Co. Their friendship formed some 20 years back, when they were community artists at the Easton Clayworks and mothers of students in the Easton Area School District. Collectively, they hold degrees in fine art, graphic design, art education, book illustration, and psychology. Each has been successful in her own career.

Miller Leggett is a former art teacher who taught in the Pocono Mountain and Stroudsburg school districts and at the Lehigh Valley Charter School. She and her husband own Integrated Automotive Services in Easton. Thatcher makes unique custom dancewear for men at Saut de Basque Dancewear. Hogan leads art workshops at the Banana Factory in Bethlehem and does student-assisted murals in the area. Hodick is a baker at Aunt Wendy's Kiffles in Nazareth and does home and animal portraits.

In 2002, the women decided to combine their education and experience to create work ranging from technical line art and lettering to individual sculptures, paintings, mosaics and large group endeavors. Those combined talents were brought together under Freehand Murals, which originated as Hodick's portrait base.

"We work very well together, and we have a lot of fun," Miller Leggett said.

There's nothing 'freehand' about the work of this friendly foursome.

"We're not taking art work from someone else," Miller Leggett explained. "We do what the client wants. We collaborate with them in interpreting interior custom projects, and we come back with a sketch and a price quote. It's the same with a community mural. Our client is very involved with the images. We are the interpreter for them."

Their first community project was a three-wall and ceiling mural in the dining room of the Alzheimer's Unit at the Easton Home. This past June, Easton's Main Street Design Committee unveiled a new mural of four colorful silhouettes depicting jazz musicians located on the exterior of the Lafayette Hotel at Fourth and Northampton streets. The mural was constructed of 17 individual panels, which were installed by the city of Easton's Department of Public Works. The work adds vibrancy to the area and complements the new trees and planters installed by the city of Easton.

"Murals reflect what's important, what our strengths are, in the community," Miller Leggett described. "My experience is that they create a better feeling of pride among us."

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Arts Roundup

In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, Reading's Genesius Theatre presents "Titanic: the Musical" in concert and soiree at Alvernia University's Francis Hall. Performances are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday. The concert is directed by Christopher Sperat; music director is Peter Bourey. Doors open one hour prior to show for soiree in the courtyard and lobby.

Genesius' artistic director, Larry Fecho, said his company presented the fully-staged musical back in 2006, and felt with the milestone anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, the time was right to re-stage the musical in concert form.

"The individual stories are what make this production so interesting to experience," Sperat said. "It has been a unique emotional opportunity for the cast to portray these real-life characters, many of whom did not survive the sinking."

A footnote here: The musical does not follow the same love story as the well-known 1997 film, "Titanic." It tells the story of the ill-fated voyage using the stories of dozens of real-life figures, from the Astors and Guggenheims to Murdoch, the ship's second in command, and Bruce Ismay, owner of the White Star Lines.

Featured concert performers include Jason Denlinger, Kirk Cremer, Katie Ott, Kira Apple, Michael and Madeline Corcoran, Peter Bourey, and Greg Harwell. The concert will have an 18-piece orchestra.

The production is rated PG, with adult situations, and recommended for ages 10 on up.

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Allentown's Museum of Indian Culture holds its 32nd annual Roasting Ears of Corn Festival, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., rain or shine, on Fish Hatchery Road. There will be guest drummers, dancers, recording artists, Native American cooking demonstrations, craft and jewelry vendors, and a children's area.

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Much is happening on the Jersey side in the arts. The Centenary Stage Company at the Little Theatre in Hackettstown has been presenting its Young Performers Workshop Summer Festival of Shows which runs through Sunday. Shows include "Over the Moon," "They're Playing Our Song," and "Pippin." The festival is produced by Carl Wallnau and Catherine Rust; Workshop program director/choreographer is Michael Blevins; music director is Kevin Lynch. "Over the Moon" is directed by Alycia M. Kunkle; choreographed by Nick Ardito-Martelli.

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