(Posted October 6, 2014)

Bethany Benson and Sally Frehn pose next to the in-progress mural.
Bethany Benson and Sally Frehn pose next to the in-progress mural.

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Bethany Benson, associate professor of art at Juniata College and a noted ceramic artist, brought together several of her art students with Sally Frehn, an art teacher at Huntingdon Area High School and a group of dedicated high school artists to create a mosaic mural on the grounds of the high school.

The mural, which will have its unveiling at 10 a.m., Friday, Oct. 10, on the lawn between the front entrance and side entrance of Huntingdon Area High School, uses individually designed tiles to form a "Bearcat pawprint" in the Pop Art style similar to the prints of Andy Warhol or the sculpture of Robert Indiana.

"Juniata's art department has been looking for opportunities to create outreach opportunities in the Huntingdon community and we had thought about an after-school program, but this project brought together the college and the high school in a single project," Benson explains.

Benson said Frehn, who also is a 1995 Juniata graduate, reached out to Juniata to collaborate after Deborah Luffy, principal at the high school, broached the subject of adding more artworks to display at the school.

The creative roots of the resulting mural reach back to last September in 2013, when Benson assigned two 2014 senior artists, Kelsey Kohrs, now an intern at Walt Disney World, and Catherine "Kitty" Myers, now participating in Teach for America, to lead the high school students through the creative process of creating a public artwork.

"I'm really excited to work with the community as we see public art programs disappear due to budget cuts. It's up to institutions like Juniata fill the gaps that can occur in public school systems."

Bethany Benson, associate professor of art

Myers and Kohrs designed a template that required the Huntingdon students to create 144 tiles that would be fastened into place to form the final design.

"There were three final designs and the Huntingdon students voted on the paw print version," Benson says. "Each student was allowed to create their own design for each tile, but then the tile would be fired with a blue or red glaze applied by one of the Juniata College artists."

The Juniata students created a full-size pattern for the final tiles and then used ceramics tools to fit together the tiles into the final pattern. Each tile was taken back to Juniata so Benson and others could apply the glazes and fire the tiles in the college's electric kiln.

During the last week in August, Benson, Frehn and mason Kenny Evans built the concrete mosaic frame and installed the mural tiles. Benson, Evans and Frehn all donated their personal time to the installation.

"This was really a great baseline project for us so we could see how a collaborative project works," Benson says. "I'm really excited to work with the community as we see public art programs disappear due to budget cuts. It's up to institutions like Juniata fill the gaps that can occur in public school systems."

Contact Gabe Welsch at welschg@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.