Written by Cathy McCollom, director, River Town Program; Lindsay Baxter, PA Environmental Council and Shelley Marini, River Town Action Team
A new piece of public art will serve as a visual reminder of Point Marion’s proud industrial past, as well as its bright future as an ideal destination for outdoor recreation.
The piece was designed by Debbie Palmer, an accomplished mosaic artist from West Virginia. Palmer’s vision depicts, through a large glass and ceramic mosaic landscape, Point Marion’s glass manufacturing/industrial heritage as well as its future as a recreational destination. The focal point of the piece is a tree with 300 individual glass leaves set on a background that highlights old and new buildings, the Cheat and Monongahela Rivers, two bridges, and recreational activities. The project includes glass shards left from the L.J. Houze Convenx Glass Co., the company that at one time employed hundreds of area residents.
Creation of the glass mosaic was funded by a Seed Award from the Sprout Fund and led by the Point Marion Public Art Committee, under the enthusiastic direction of Chairperson Beth Reseter. The piece is prominently located in the center of downtown and visible from both State Route 119 and 88. “Everybody will spot that when they come into Point Marion,’’ said resident Joyce Dills, her pride evident. “It shows we’re interested in our town.’’
The entire community helped produce the artwork, through the work of volunteers, including the Borough Council, Progress Club, Park Commission, Rotary, Friendship Hill Association, schools, church groups, former and present residents, and entire families. “Glass mosaic is a practical medium for public art”, says Palmer, “because it is durable and allows the entire community, regardless of artistic skill, to participate.” Palmer believes people have more ownership in a public work of art when they are involved in its creation. It also meets the one requirement of the project’s funding: a theme addressing Point Marion’s history in glass and ceramic production.
Point Marion’s community invested in the funding of the art as well as its creation. In addition to the initial $2,500 provided by the Sprout Fund, over $2,000 was raised by local businesses and residents. The business community has donated time, effort and facilities to complete the project. The Point Marion Fire Department power washed the 32’ X 110’ block and concrete wall where the mosaic will be installed. Paint, equipment from scaffolding to paintbrushes, electricity, water, and literally hundreds of hours of labor were all donated by local businesses as enthusiasm and pride in the project spread.
The art project is scheduled for completion in October 2012 and will be welcomed with a community open house in the late Fall.
Point Marion was once a town in decline and economic distress, but with the vision of its civic leaders and the help of The River Town Program, a program of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, Point Marion is being repositioned as an ideal destination for outdoor recreation tourism.
While this public art project is a very visible example of the revitalization efforts of Point Marion, it is just one piece of a more comprehensive plan which the Point Marion River Town Community Action team has called PASS – Parks, Art, Streetscape and Signage. The recently re-organized Point Marion Park Commission is rapidly rejuvenating Point Marion Community Park, a 14-acre riverfront park with boat docks, a kayak launch, playgrounds, a walking trail, and soccer and baseball fields. The community is also working to complete a trail connection, which will link Point Marion to the West Virginia Mon River Trail system, and eventually will serve as the gateway to the Great Allegheny Passage. With the assistance of the River Town Program and the Student Conservation Association-Outreach Corps (SCA), Point Marion has also received funding for streetscape and landscape designs, as well as funding for their signage program.
The new public art piece pays homage to the town’s proud industrial past, celebrates its present, and provides a visible symbol of the vibrant future Point Marion seeks as a visitor destination that will support the growth of existing business, entice new business investment, and encourage conservation of the community’s key resource, its river.
Learn more about the Mon River Town Program at www.monrivertowns.com.