Artists add splash of color to area history

Four murals to celebrate Severna Park centennial


Four commercial buildings in the heart of Old Severna Park will receive fresh coats of paint in the next few weeks, but this will be no ordinary summertime sprucing-up.

As part of an ongoing celebration of Severna Park's centennial, professional artists Jane Caha, Kathy Gardiner, Cindy Fletcher-Holden and Phyllis Saroff have been hired to paint a series of murals that will tell the story of Severna Park's centurylong metamorphosis from rural farmland to dynamic suburb.

The murals will be painted on the exterior walls of buildings that face the Baltimore & Annapolis Trail Park: the Carr Building, the adjacent strip shopping center, the Rogge building that houses the Severna Park Veterinary Hospital, and the two-story Winkelmeyer building.

The segment of the 14-mile long B&A Trail that runs alongside the Severna Park shopping district is in constant use, said Elizabeth Wyble, who is president of Friends of Anne Arundel County Trails, a member of the Severna Park Centennial Committee and chairwoman of the mural project. The trail serves as a shortcut to schools and shopping and is a magnet for walkers, runners, bikers and lovers of the outdoors, she said. All of the murals will be visible from the trail.

"Like the trail," said Wyble, "the murals will be multifaceted. Not only is this art, it's also the history of Severna Park; it's education, and the children will learn from it."

The Centennial Committee and its co-planner, the Association for Severna Park Improvement, Renewal and Enhancement, or ASPIRE, estimate the mural project will cost $70,000. Some of the murals will incorporate explanatory words with the illustrations, but Wyble hopes to add storyboards at each location to further define the buildings. This would be an additional cost.

Cindy Fletcher-Holden, whose mural has received some financial backing, started work last week. The other artists will begin as money is raised.

The artists, all residents of Anne Arundel County, will interpret the elements that had the greatest impact on Severna Park's 100-year history - the railroad, the Severn and Magothy rivers, and the diverse population.

The project will have the artists stretching from ladders and applying paint to surfaces unaccustomed to artistic endeavor.

To ensure the paintings' longevity, a protective finish that makes potential damage by vandals easier to repair will be applied to the murals, Wyble said.

"A mural combines both fine art and illustrating," said Phyllis Saroff, a freelance illustrator and artist assigned to paint a likeness of the interior of the hardware store that once occupied the Winkelmeyer building. "Only the scale is different."

Saroff, 45, who lives in Annapolis with her husband, Michael, and their two sons, will draw on her experience as an illustrator of wildlife and scientific magazines, children's books and designs commissioned by state parks and forest services. She will seek to re-create the Winkelmeyer Hardware store as it looked in 1948 when its rural clientele shopped for seed, feed and farm implements. Saroff plans to include the store's longtime owners in the mural.

"Painting a mural is very similar to other projects," said Saroff. The project "ties in with fine art in the figure drawing and portraits of Mr. And Mrs. Winkelmeyer behind the counter."

Moisture in the cinder block that might prevent paint from adhering to the wall was the number one concern of Fletcher-Holden, 45, who is assigned the Carr building at the corner of Riggs Avenue and Baltimore Annapolis Blvd. To avoid adhering problems, Fletcher-Holden is using a highly specialized paint developed in Germany, Keim Mineral Paint. The silicone-based product is designed to chemically bond with surfaces such a concrete and brick. The paint cost $2,000.

"With what I paid for this paint," said the 1979 Severna Park High School graduate, "I could buy a car, an '88 Saab, to be exact."

Fletcher-Holden, who lives with her husband, Robert Holden, on a 45-foot sailboat on Back Creek in Annapolis, will depict a circa 1906 locomotive like those that helped transport early Severna Park passengers to and from Baltimore. She will also portray community life from several decades.

Muralist Jane Caha encourages her residential customers to personalize the art she paints for them.

"I like to incorporate a baby's name in its room or include a family's inside joke," said Caha, 45, who lives with her husband, Mike, and their two sons in Shipley's Choice.

"When I paint books in a design," she said, "I ask my clients to name the books as if they were the authors." Two of her most recent projects have been illustrating a boat and a racecar on the walls of a garage and an underwater theme for a child's bathroom.

Old photographs of Severna Park landmarks will be the inspiration for the series of old-fashioned black and white photo-type images that Caha will paint on the rear wall of the shopping center. The final decision about which landmarks will be included hasn't been made.

Kathy Gardiner, who sold her first paintings at the age of 18 at a Fourth of July Fair in her home state of New York, said, "My passions are teaching, art and the church."

She and her husband, Severna Park businessman Scott Gardiner, have three children and live in Twin Harbors in Arnold. Gardiner, 52, who holds degrees in education, art and social science, taught art at St. Mary's Elementary School and helped St. John the Evangelist School students design and paint murals to decorate their school.

"Murals are wonderful storytellers," said Gardiner. Describing her mural on the Rogge building, she said, "I plan to incorporate both rivers, natural wild life and some of the state symbols - black-eyed Susans and the Baltimore oriole.

"People will feel like they can walk off the trail [and] into the picture," she said. There will be "a feeling of community anchored by the river."

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