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Tamaqua Arts Center adds new mural; sign spells out the town

The Tamaqua Arts Center’s latest mural project was designed to give people a sense of community.

Designed like a vintage postcard, “Greetings From Tamaqua,” the mural decorates the side of St. Luke’s Tamaqua Medical Plaza, which is next to St. John’s United Church of Christ, on the 100 block of Pine Street.

“We wanted to create something that reflects who we are and our attitude of what can be,” said Kyle Whitley, co-director of the Tamaqua Arts Center.

The 10-foot x 26-foot mural summarizes the culmination of the Tamaqua Area Community Partnership’s 2022 strategic plan. In 2020, the “Choose Happiness” theme emerged and became its own marketing brand that drove the process.

Elements of the mural

The piece connects all the themes of the Tamaqua Choose Happiness project and plan: food, arts and music, history, health and wellness, economic vitality, sports and recreation, and learning.

Micah Gursky, executive director of the Tamaqua Area Community Partnership, described the letters.

Spelling out Tamaqua, the first letter T, emphasizes food and drink.

“We could have selected Leiby’s, Padora’s, Citizens Fire Company for their bleenies,” Gursky said.

Donald R. Serfass, semiretired from the Times News, is featured with a colorful Heisler’s ice cream cone.

“A picture of someone connecting with the dairy represents buildings and places, but also the people of the community. People can see this is not a static community,” Gursky said.

Serfass, who frequently takes selfies at area eateries, said it was a surprise to see himself on the mural, but he’s “happy to show how Tamaqua can be savored.”

The first A, representing art and music, shows the Tamaqua Raider Band parading in Disney with the castle in the background.

Again, Gursky said there were plenty of choices to represent the town, but the “Pride of Tamaqua” Raider Marching Band is all encompassing.

Many people have been a part of the band through the years. “A lot of people will identify with it,” Gursky said.

The letter M, representing history, shows the train station.

The U.S. Postal Service recently announced a 2023 stamp will feature the train station.

Gursky said he can’t wait to put a train stamp on a postcard of the mural.

The next letter A, representing health and wellness in the community, features Dr. Joanne Calabrese of St. Luke’s, who leads walks with a doc throughout town.

“She is one of the most active physicians in the community,” Gursky said.

The Q depicts an artist’s rendering of a Tamaqua street scape project to fully develop all floors of the buildings in the commercial district. The photo from the 2001 community action report still holds true, Gursky said. The partnership has been buying properties to create a police station and community center and has been revitalizing areas of the community.

The letter U shows the Tamaqua Bungalow pool for the sports and recreation category. There were many choices, Gursky said. “Friday night is a holy night in the Coal Regions because of football.” There are Little League games, bike rides, but the Tamaqua bungalow is a community gathering place.

The final letter A promotes learning. Pharmacist Lee Shafer as he introduces his grandson Issac Brimmer to a copy of “A Hill to Climb,” a local history in hardback published by the late Ruth A. Steinert. The photo was taken at the library, carefully selected because of what it represents to the community, Gursky said.

The town’s identity

“The mural as a whole is the image and identity of our town, showing a bird’s-eye view of Tamaqua and the southern mountains,” Whitley, who designed the mural, said.

The arts center has mugs with the Tamaqua mural and Whitley said shirts and postcards will be coming.

Gursky said the design is planned as “creative place-making,” which means using art to create a sense of place and belonging.

The mural is located parallel to the highway. “It’s not a drive-by. You have to get out and interact with it,” Gursky said. “We are hoping people park their cars and get out and go to Hope & Coffee and the arts center.”

Whitley added, “In the end we plan on developing the space a little more to include benches and furniture to make the space look interactive.”

Residents and visitors are encouraged to stop by take a selfie and post it to their social media using the tags #GreetingsFromTamaqua #TamaquaArts #TamaquaChooseHappiness #myStLukes #RuralLISC.

The mural and its design were made possible through the support and partnership of Rural LISC, St. Luke’s Miner’s Campus, the Tamaqua Area Community Partnership, Tamaqua Choose Happiness, and The Genetti Family.

More information about the Tamaqua Arts Center can be found at TamaquaArts.org and Choose Happiness at choose-happiness.org

The new Tamaqua mural features people from the community. DONALD R. SERFASS/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Workers install the new Tamaqua mural. The mural shows the people of Tamaqua in a post card format. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO