Art education majors spread talent by painting mural in Princeton

You’ve heard the sirens. You’ve seen the trucks. Have you ever taken the time to thank a firefighter?

All 12 of the College’s junior art education majors gave the firefighters of the Princeton Fire Department a token of gratitude with a mural they completed as part of a community service project on Saturday, April 16, at the Princeton Firehouse.

“The firefighters were in great appreciation that we were doing this for their firehouse,” Jessica Barile, junior art education major, said. “Knowing that they were so happy and satisfied at the end was the greatest part of the project.”

The mural portrays a firefighter carrying a young girl out of a burning building as a crowd watches. An American flag waves majestically in the background.

“It felt good to do this mural for the firehouse because they really deserve it,” Christine Klockner, junior art education major, said.

The mural was part of an ungraded community service project assigned by Phyllis Busch, adjunct professor of art, for the Art Techniques in the Secondary School class. It took weeks of planning and four hours of painting to complete.

The first step was the students’ decision to do a mural as a team, instead of having individual projects. Barile, Klockner, Tara Aprilante, Mary Cichon, Natalie Disantis, David Salge, Lisa Schwichtenberg, Margot Shimkus, Jennifer Spoganetz, Christa Turek and Angelique Wurpel, the only 12 art education majors of the junior class, often have their education classes together and have become close friends throughout their stay at the College.

“We try to fancy ourselves a family, and that this was a joint effort typifies the way in which they have grown together,” Busch, who has been teaching off-and-on at the College since 1975 said. She retired from Willingboro School District in 2000 after 30 years.

Next came a week of brainstorming

about to whom to dedicate the mural. Truestar Urian, junior art education major, came up with the winning destination: the Princeton Fire Department.

“I decided it would be nice to do a mural project for our firehouse and everyone agreed,” Urian, a firefighter and lieutenant for the Princeton Fire Department, Mercer Engine Company No. 3, said.

The students then went out of the classroom to sketch what they thought would best embody the firehouse.

After a class vote, Schwichtenberg came up with winning sketch: a firefighter fearlessly carrying a little girl out of a burning building.

“We thought it was most representative of the fire department we would be donating it to,” Salge, junior art education major, said.

The project began in Holman Hall, where the students drew the design on a large canvas, which they all pitched in to purchase. Then, they outlined the bigger objects in black, acrylic paint. As they worked, alterations were made to Schwichtenberg’s original sketch, such as the addition of an American flag, Princeton fire truck and the company’s seal.

“The class all talked about the ideas and what we wanted to include and took into strong consideration of what the firefighters would want,” Barile said.

On April 16, the students met up at the firehouse to complete the mural with acrylic paints, courtesy of Busch, and their own personal brushes.

The students started at 10 a.m. by stretching the canvas over wood. By 2 p.m., the mural was finished.

“It was nice to collaborate together and make something so rewarding and worthwhile which people can appreciate,” Salge, who could not attend the event at the firehouse but played an active role in planning the mural, said. “My father is an EMT at my town’s fire department as well, so it was fulfilling to give back in this way.”

Busch left the service project completely up to her students. She did not get very involved in brainstorming or painting. In fact, Busch could not attend the final painting session at the Princeton Firehouse because of a back injury.

In the past, Busch required her students to participate in the Lawrenceville Arts Day program as teachers-for-a-day.

“When that program was eliminated, I felt it was important to still give back to the community, so I require the students to get involved in some way with educational or community efforts,” Busch said.