By Amber Marra - email@example.com
STRASBURG -- When the Strasburg Museum began replacing its roof last fall, the board of directors had no idea they were stirring up a new medium for artistic expression.
Ever since Wells Roofing, of Woodstock, began stripping the old roof of more than 1,000 square and rectangular tiles in October of last year, local artists have lent a hand in turning the black slate into works of art.
"We're so proud of our museum, but our roof was leaking, so every time there was a threat of rain we'd be running around with buckets all over the place," said Gloria Stickley, president of the Strasburg Museum.
Now many of the tiles hang in the foyer of the building, adding color to the rustically historic surroundings of the old train station-turned-museum.
The history of the setting has inspired a few of the artists to make their tiles speak for the Strasburg area. Jeff Guenther, an art teacher at Strasburg High School, painted a detailed likeness of the old mill on King Street.
Guenther said he also extended the project to eight of his advanced pupils at the high school. Student artwork includes historic landmarks, like the Hupp Mansion, and examples of the natural beauty surrounding Strasburg, like the Shenandoah River and woodland scenes.
"We like to do some projects where we're helping different groups in the community," Guenther said.
Other tiles feature paintings of cardinals and dogwood flowers or tranquil farm scenes, like the one local artist Peggy Davison did featuring sheep and chickens across a sprawling green meadow.
Not all of the tiles are painted, as another local artist, Maggie Maloney, uses the decoupage method. Maloney describes decoupage as cutting pictures out of books and gluing them using mod podge onto her slate contributions, which feature hummingbirds, rabbits and moths.
"It's similar to painting because you're looking at color and balance and the composition," Maloney said.
Not all of the tiles, which date back to 1891, have gone to locals. Some have gone to artists in Cape Cod, Mass., and South Carolina.
"We have so many talented people in Strasburg, it's really surprising," said Sharon Smith, a member of the museum's board who came up with the idea to paint the tiles.
A blank tile can be purchased at the Strasburg Museum for $5, while the already painted artwork costs anywhere from $10 to $20.
"I didn't see the sense of throwing them away. It was just something that came to me one day, a light. I don't throw anything away," Smith said.