by GEOFF FOX
Last November, the City of Hagerstown started discussing ways to beautify the railroad overpasses on Franklin Street with murals created by students from Washington County Public Schools.
Hancock Middle-Senior High School was among the 10 schools chosen.
Hancock is joined by Barbara Ingram School for the Arts, Clear Spring High School, E.R. Hicks Middle School, Smithsburg Middle School, Marshall Street School, North Hagerstown High School, Smithsburg High School, South Hagerstown High School, and Springfield Middle School.
Three students from Hancock – sophomore Eddie Leach, freshman Charles Plummer, and freshman Zack Zirkle – came up with the idea and painted Hancock’s mural in Art Teacher Elissa Twigg’s classroom.
The mural from Hancock has the Sideling Hill cut in the background with orchards in front before giving way to the C&O Canal towpath and red metal bridge, the Western Maryland Rail Trail with a cyclist and jogger, and of course Main Street with the lone stoplight in town and three nondescript buildings.
A sign reading “Hancock Maryland Est. 1749” is also attached. Jason Hutzel, the school’s High Technology Education teacher, cut the sign.
The entire project has been a focus during the last semester of the school year, Twigg said.
Matt Wilson, Twigg’s supervisor at the county level, approached all the schools in the county about the project.
“You can’t get too many people in on a project like this, you’re just falling over each other,” Twigg said. She chose the three boys to work on the project.
“Once she told us about it, we were all extremely excited,” Plummer said.
He added it was “pretty cool” to draw something representing Hancock and have it displayed in Hagerstown.
Zirkle said to get inspiration for the drawings and mural itself, they used the internet and took pictures of the rail trail and other things.
The mural started with a blue background and worked out from there, a procedure Twigg tells her students to use when creating their art.
Plummer said from there, they all contributed.
“Everyone just had an idea and they all kind of connected and we just all had one big idea,” he said.
The mural itself is not yet finished as there are a few touches, such as a couple of church steeples, that need to be added.
Leach said the easiest thing on the project was adding the orchards and the towpath.
The sign was Zirkle’s idea.
Zirkle said if it hadn’t been for Hutzel cutting the sign, “I don’t know if we would have had as good as a concept as we did with that.”
It means a lot to the three boys that the mural will be on display in Hagerstown for a couple years.
“It feels good that we made something and we can put it somewhere else and show people what our town’s like,” Leach said.
The boys said Hancock is seen as “good old Hancock” and it’s hidden beside the river and valleys and forgotten about.
“Hopefully this will be one of those cool things that they’ll be driving by on their way to wherever running errands and go, ‘Whoa! Look at the artwork over there!’ kind of thing,” Twigg said.
“It’s nice to be able to see that kind of openness and willingness to give it a shot,” Twigg said of the artists.
“It’s really an integration of all the things that are present in Hancock and things that have been passed through Hancock,” Mayor Ralph Salvagno said. “It’s the kind of things that you would expect children who’ve grown up in this community would say, ‘this is what I recognize about my hometown.’”
The mayor also called it a really accurate representation of the town for people who may not be from Hancock.
Salvagno said the mural might help bring people to Hancock and see it for themselves.
“It tells us the people who live here are proud of who we are. We are not a big city, we’re a small city,” he said about what the mural means to Hancock. “We’ve got a long history in farming and on the canal and on the river and that means a lot.”
The project to beautify the railroad overpasses on Franklin Street in Hagerstown started with a discussion last November during the Hagerstown City meeting.
According to Rodney Tissue, City Engineer, the cost for the project would total $15,000 for the materials needed for the schools to paint the murals.
The sidewalks along West Franklin Street under the railroad overpass are 75-feet long and 10-feet wide.
Once completed, Hagerstown city staff will install the murals on a fence frame.
The murals, which are 4×8 Hardy board panels, will have a panel alongside acknowledging the schools and the partnership.
The city is also replacing the current wall lights with standard LED lights to brighten the overpass with a white clean light, Tissue said.
The project is anticipated to be completed by the end of this month.