By: Ron Wilshire/ExploreClarion.com

A 16 foot by 24-foot wall mural on a vacant building will soon grace an entrance to the town and resurrect the slogan “East Brady, Playground on the Allegheny.”

Toni Henry, chair of the Trail Town Initiative, a committee under the East Brady Development Corporation, said the group commissioned a colorful mural by Paul Means, of Butler, (pictured below) would include all four seasons and all types of activity along the river and the trail in East Brady.

“We are showcasing kayaking, motor boating, waterskiing, hiking, fishing, horseshoeing, and all sorts of outdoor activities on the river and the trail,” said Henry.

“We’re planning to have it installed in June and dedication on June 17.  We asked him to do it on panels, so that the installation could be made on the wall, so down the road if the building was sold or something, the mural could be moved and be placed elsewhere. The agreement with the owner of the building states that the mural is the property of the East Brady Development Corporation. The wall is being sandblasted this month, and in early June, we’ll get their furring strips up.”

EBDC advertised for a professional muralist, and Means responded and interviewed with a committee.  Means, who has concentrated on murals for the last 20 years, immediately bonded with the committee and offered many suggestions for the illustration.

His numerous residential and corporate commissions include such diverse topics as a 10 by 15 foot mural of a Mennonite Barn raising installed in a restaurant in the Pennsylvania Dutch countryside; two 23 foot long landscapes of Alaska; and Africa created as a backdrop for a big game hunters collection of trophies. A partial list of his clients include executives from H.J. Heinz Co., Alcoa, and U.P.M.C, as well as numerous attorneys, doctors, investment bankers, and some prominent Pittsburgh sports figures.

“We’re really pleased with the quality of his work, and his personality is very friendly he’s been good to work with,” said Henry. “The project is fully funded through donations, and Paul is kind of working on the design by committee, and the donors had input into the content and finished product.”

The finished mural is so large Means had to borrow space from a friend to complete the mural.  After mapping out initial designs on brown paper, he went to work.

“There’s a bowling alley here in Butler called Family Bowl Away, and I’m friends with the owners,” said Means. “They have space in the back by their laser tag area, and they let me use the wall space are back there to work on these things.”

“These are on aluminum panels made for exterior sign paint. There’s an acrylic paint called Gould, and their paints are rated to hold fast outside.  You have to do the painting and then put a latex varnish coating on it, and then I put two coats of a mineral spirits acrylic product to help it hold up outside and seal it.”

The project will have taken Means about two and a half months, a little longer than expected, but he is used to that.

“You can do it on a piece of paper, but once you get it at the full size, it becomes a different animal, and you have to be able to cope and adapt. I spent a fair amount of time in the beginning just getting the subject matter and everything in some type of format that I thought would work.  Instead of just doing squares, we’re just doing this almost like an organic division between the scenes, and it’s more reminiscent of the river as it bends around and winds around. One scene just flows into another, and I think it works,” continued Means.

“It is challenging working with a committee, but I can understand because everyone has a vested interest in how it’s presented. Some people paid to have their kids in the painting, and I would have to contact them for photographs so I would have something for reference. I give these people credit because they’re trying to help revitalize the town and gain some notoriety, and I applaud them for doing that.”

Means started as a sign painter in the Air Force, followed by studies at the Ivy School of Professional Art in Pittsburgh.  He then worked at a church decorating company where he first learned to glaze, marbleize, wood grain, gild, and set mosaic tile, followed by work with a commercial painting contractor.  He has worked on his own since 1983 concentrating on murals.

“I love the beginning of a mural project, standing in front of a large blank wall and envisioning how it will all come together,” said Means. “Even though you work from preliminary sketches, the first charcoal lines you apply give you a thrill. Then step-by-step, you guide the scene to completion.”

Henry hopes that once the mural is installed, it will be an incentive for the community.

“There are many small communities trying to stay alive and not a lot of visible positive things have occurred lately,” said Henry. “This is going to be visible and have a big impact aesthetically coming into town.  I’m really hoping that people see something is going on here, and that this is a cool town stop and look around.”

There are some negotiations going on now for another project, and there is support in the community.  Total costs of the mural and installation are about $13,000.00, including installation. Sandblasting is being donated.

“We also had a campaign called and ‘Face Me In’ where if you wanted your face in the mural you had to raise $1,000.00, and we got three or four people to do that,” said Henry.  “A major family donation came from the children of John and Carolyn Olszak to dedicate the mural to their parents.”

For more information about the artist, visit http://paulmeans.com.

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