BANGOR, Pa. - As a reporter at 69 News, I've done a lot of stories in the Slate Belt. And sometimes when we come to places like Bangor, people get a little down on it, talking about what it used to be instead of what it currently is or what it could be. Seeing so many people in town inspired by murals and a community art project called Beautify Bangor, really made it my most memorable story of 2020.
I first met Faith Sarisky back in the fall, several months into the community art project that has become Beautify Bangor, local artists painting murals all over downtown.
Sarisky, a real estate broker, had commissioned just one mural to advertise her business downtown. But it quickly took off.
I couldn't believe how many murals big and small had been painted in places where you'd least expect them. To date, 34 are completed and more projects are underway for the spring.
Faith was also named Volunteer of the Year by the Slate Belt Chamber of Commerce.
"It's just such a positive up-beat thing. I've never really been a volunteer type person and it's just been so rewarding for me to do something positive for the community," Sarisky said.
The mural artists are either commissioned by local businesses or volunteer their services. Sponsors and donors cover the costs of supplies.
As word spread on social media, Faith Sarisky said other people started to see the potential of Bangor too.
During this year of the pandemic, I have, unfortunately, met many struggling business owners. To see the project has been helpful makes it that much better.
"It's amazing to see. Things are cleaner, people, people are walking around town, they're saying hi to each other," said Mike DeMasi, who's owned VS Eyewear on Broadway in Bangor for 7 years.
"Anything that can bring new biz into town is appreciated," said Don Andreas of Cover Girl Winery.
Don Andreas opened the business in the summer and said making it work hasn't been easy.
"The murals have helped. We do have people who have dropped in since the mural tour started. They say, 'oh, I came to look at the murals but I didn't realize there was a winery here,'" he said.
Faith said she's excited to see how much more beautiful Bangor gets in 2021 and I am too.
After a bleak, black year, who wouldn't want to end it with a little color.