Hiawatha Mural Dedication
An 11-year process to restore and reinstall 46 Hiawatha murals will be celebrated in a public dedication ceremony beginning at 5 p.m. on Oct. 1 at Curtin Intermediate School, 85 Eldred St., Williamsport, PA.
The murals will be open for viewing from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
For more than 50 years, the murals, which depict scenes from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Song of the Hiawatha,” surrounded the perimeter of the then-Curtin Middle School cafeteria, until they were removed and placed in storage for building renovations in 1985.
Now, after 29 years, the murals will once again be displayed in the building, thanks to a volunteer-led effort of former district and PTO officials who secured about $50,000 in private funds to carry out the project that began in 2003.
Former district art teacher Michelle Mapstone restored the paintings, which are now covered with protective tempered glass in aluminum framing clad in wood, and hang along the first-floor walls of the building.
The originals, which used brightly colored oil paints applied to homosote panels, were designed and painted by Rena Frankeberger and lettered and framed by John Swan, with assistance by art students, from 1932 to 1935.
Personal correspondence between Frankeberger and Principal A.L. Pepperman reveal that the slow economic situation of the time resulted in the work taking much longer than originally expected. Funds for the project came from cafeteria profits and the Faculty Play fund.
According to the committee, reinstalling the Hiawatha murals will enable future generations of district students and community members to develop a new appreciation for the valuable work of art.
As part of classroom instruction, students will have an opportunity to view the murals and learn about their historic, artistic and poetic worth, and because Curtin is a public facility, Williamsport’s cultural and artistic heritage will be accessible to the public at designated times.