This summer The Big Picture produced its first large-scale mural, Erie Industry, by artist Ehren Knapp. In the fall of 2015, The Big Picture issued a request for proposals for a mural on the east wall of the Skinner Engine Building, 357 West 12th Street, now owned by Logistics +. Knapp’s design celebrating Erie’s manufacturing legacy along 12th Street was selected because of its bold composition and its seamless melding of historic elements of Erie industry. Knapp painted the mural on polytab (a permanent woven material) in his studio during the winter and spring months of 2016, and installed it on the wall in late June. Knapp, a prolific and accomplished muralist, uses a style in this painting that is heavily indebted to the American mural painters of the 1930s and 1940s, who were themselves inspired by the Mexican muralist movement that began in the 1920s. At an unveiling event on July 14th, Ehren credited famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera as a major inspiration. He commented on his design:
“In research [for the design] I looked further and learned about more interesting things that were being made on 12th Street. [I was able to] Take these elements and get them all to blend together, and to lead you right into the center where you find the most important component of industry…, the skilled laborer.”
The Big Picture is a collaboration of the Erie Art Museum, Erie Arts & Culture, and the YMCA, with technical assistance from Tungsten Creative. Special thanks to our project partners—Logistics Plus, Erie Insurance and the sponsors of the 2012 Governor’s Arts Awards in Erie. To learn more about The Big Picture, visit The Big Picture Facebook page.
The Big Picture is a consortium of organizations (Erie Art Museum, Erie Arts & Culture, the YMCA and Tungsten Creative) motivated by the potential for public art to transform people and spaces in Erie County and enhance the quality of everyday life. The Big Picture aims to provide artists and community organizations with the resources and inspiration to create, support and sustain large-scale murals throughout the community.
Murals beautify public spaces, inspire community conversations, promote creativity and build pride among citizens. The Big Picture seeks to engage Erie youth, families, students, neighbors and leaders to participate, understand and connect with public art.
For more information, contact Ally Thomas at the Erie Art Museum, (814) 459-5477 x104.
Artist Ehren Knapp has installed a new public mural on the old Skinner Engine building at 337 West 12th Street. The mural entitled “Erie Industry” represents a sampling of Erie’s manufacturing legacy along 12th Street.
The mural, a project of The Big Picture, covers approximately 25’ x 44.75’ on the east wall of the Skinner building and 192 sq. ft. of surface area on retaining blocks. Knapp spent the winter months working in his studio painting on a polytab material.
The Big Picture project recently held a free paint day for the Erie Industry mural at the Erie Art Museum. Community members of all ages were invited to paint on polytab panels to be installed on the cement blocks in front of the Skinner Engine Building. Ehren Knapp led the workshop and provided the design, paints and instructions for the activity. The Downtown YMCA Teen Center has also been involved with the project; photographing existing murals, participating in the paint day and painting the cement block murals.
“The skyline in the mural represents facades of a few distinct buildings along 12th Street and the foreground depicts the Skinner plant as its façade may have looked in the 40s, the central structure is the skywalk west of Cherry street, and in the central left background is the ramped roof line of Erie Press. Starting at the left middle ground, Erie manufacturing is represented by a green hydraulic press from Erie Press, a locomotive represents GE, and foundry and casting images depict Urick Ductile Solutions. The central figure symbolizes the labor force. The Skinner Engine Company is represented with the Unaflow Steam Engine in the right of the composition. The sun in the center background will be subtlety symbolic of Griswold Cast Iron,” said Knapp in his response to The Big Picture’s request for proposals.
“Logistics Plus has been around for 20 years and has always tried to “spruce up” Erie—our home. We purchased and cleaned up historic Union Station in 2003 and placed 50 flags at the top of the building. At the time, we had about 35 employees in the station; now we have nearly 100, and have added many tenants. We painted the bridges over Peach and Sassafras Street and brightened up the gateways to/from downtown. We put a mural on the old Dana Brake building after buying that, and in 2014 we purchased the old Skinner Engine Building, turned it into a warehouse, and now, along with The Big Picture, we’re commemorating its proud history with another beautiful mural. We’re also supporters of the Erie Lightway Project being led by Erie Council Member, David Brennan. All of these projects have a common purpose – to improve Erie’s image, encourage development and create a stronger sense of pride in the local community,” said Jim Berlin, Founder & CEO, Logistics Plus Inc.
The Big Picture is a collaborative effort between the Erie Art Museum, Erie Arts & Culture, and the YMCA with support from Tungsten Creative Group. The goal is to provide resources and support to artists and property owners interested in the creation of murals. It’s an idea that was first considered in 2012 when Erie was chosen as the host city for the Governor’s Awards for the Arts.
The Big Picture leverages the power of visual storytelling to inspire and beautify neighborhoods by placing large-scale murals in public places. “Noticeably, there is an organic effort in many of our neighborhoods to use murals to beautify, brand a space, inspire community conversation and build pride,” says John Vanco, director of the Erie Art Museum. “The Big Pictureprovides the organizational framework to leverage human capital, financial resources and expand impact.”
The Governor’s Awards for the Arts organizers have designated $35,000 for The Big Picture. The seed money will fund project management, training and technical assistance for artists and property owners and support the creation of up to six new murals.