Mural unveiled in Strasburg

David and Desiree Guinn, of Philadelphia, work on completing a mural along Fort and King Streets, the former home of the Hi Neighbor Restaurant. Rich Cooley/Daily

STRASBURG–Strasburg residents, including Mayor Rich Orndorff and Town Manager Wyatt Pearson, gathered near the corner of King and Fort Streets Wednesday for the unveiling of the second mural this year in Strasburg.

David and Desiree Guinn, a couple from Philadelphia, spent the past six days painting the mural while staying in Maurertown.  Caroline Miller, a recent graduate of Strasburg High School, assisted in painting the mural.

This mural marks the first time the couple has collaborated on a painting.

“It’s something that we’ve wanted to do,” Desiree Guinn said.

But they’ve had difficulty getting a contract where they could collaborate, the two said. When businesses pay for a mural painter, David Guinn said, they typically have a strict set of requirements.

“It was a little bit of a different perspective (this time), than working for a coffee shop or a commercial enterprise,” David Guinn said.

This time, the couple had a lot more flexibility. David Guinn said that he and Desiree made updates to the design in the past two weeks, while they’ve been in the area. Desiree decided to add a fawn to the mural after seeing several in the region. David, meanwhile, changed some of the coloring and made the background parts of the painting less angular than he initially planned them to be.

He settled for the final curved design, he said, because he felt it was warmer than his initial, more angular designs.

That flexibility and artistic control is something that Staufferstadt Arts, the nonprofit organization that has commissioned murals in Strasburg, has emphasized. The group, Daniel Leftowitz, a co-founder of and the director of community outreach for Staufferstadt, said, chooses artists that they think will be able to paint murals that fit in within Strasburg. Once they’ve chosen the artist, the group lets the artists come up with their designs.

“What we’re doing is bringing the best of the best contemporary mural painters and giving them space,” Leftowitz said.

The group finds mural artists who make their murals fit into the places they’re painting and who have a significant amount of experience. Daniel Stover, the other co-founder of Staufferstadt, said the group looks for people with at least 10 years of experience painting murals.

“We want to put work up that will stay relevant into the future,” Stover said.

The mural at the corner of King and Fort Streets is the fifth that Staufferstadt Arts and the Town of Strasburg have had installed in the past two years. Leftowitz said that Staufferstadt plans to have three murals installed each year until there are around 20 murals throughout Strasburg.

“[Strasburg] will become a destination for people,” Leftowitz said.

Michelle Bixler, economic development and marketing manager for Strasburg, echoed Leftowitz’s sentiments, saying that the murals help distinguish Strasburg from nearby areas.

“You have to come here to see [the murals],” Bixler said. “It doesn’t get replicated.”

In order to pay for the murals, Staufferstadt Arts and Strasburg have applied for  several grants from the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Strasburg was awarded a matching grant from the Virginia Commission of the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts earlier in the week. The two arts organizations will pay a combined $2,500 and Strasburg will pay $2,500 in order to pay for future murals.

According to Leftowitz, artists have received a $1,500 stipend this year for their murals. In addition, the artists are paid for the cost of materials and the cost of travel. Leftowitz said that Staufferstadt budgets $1,000 for the cost of materials but said that no mural has cost that much to date.

The mural that was unveiled today had a materials cost of $660, Leftowitz said.