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Frostburg Mural Completion Gives FSU Public Arts Project a Broadway Debut

Frostburg Mural Completion Gives FSU Public Arts Project a Broadway Debut
Parris Ashley's mural features some favorite Frostburg sights.


A public art partnership between Frostburg State University and the City of Frostburg had its own ‘Burg Broadway debut Thursday, Oct. 15.

A mural at 19 S. Broadway painted and designed by FSU senior Parris Ashley was unveiled to the local community, becoming the first major public art installation in downtown.

The billboard-sized painting features the Frostburg Library, Failinger’s Hotel Gunter, a church spire, a bicyclist, red, white and blue birds and the Appalachian Mountains serving as the backdrop. Along the bottom, Frostburg’s ZIP code is spelled out – Two One Five Three Two.

Ashley spent nine weeks painting the mural, but said it’s his years in Frostburg that truly made the piece.

“This project was about 11 years in the making,” Ashley said. “There’s no way that I could have painted this without waking up here every morning for 11 years – hearing the birds, hearing the church bells and meeting the people.”

The mural became a partnership between the city, FSU and FrostburgFirst – the city’s Main Street Maryland program – and spearheaded two other FSU student art projects that will grace the walls of Frostburg over the next year. As students completed the art, the city provided funding for the art and guidance navigating city policies and ordinances.

Ashley was working by himself on a proposal for the billboard and later learned that FSU Assistant Professor Jamison Odone had assigned his advanced illustration students to form their own proposals. The two teamed up to further the partnership, connecting through FrostburgFirst manager Christine Werner.

“I said, ‘I know who Parris is. His work is very good,’ and I said absolutely,” Odone said. “He was thrown into the mix and was one of the finalists.”

The centerpiece of the mural is steam engine 734, also known as Mountain Thunder. The train travels along the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad from Cumberland to Frostburg. The 1916 Baldwin locomotive will be out of service for the next year thanks to a 15-year inspection cycle where the engine is dismantled, inspected and reassembled.

“It’s a memorial to 734 in a way most people don’t realize,” Frostburg Mayor W. Robert Flanigan.said. “734 is at the end of its life cycle this year. It’ll eventually go through a rebuild, but it will be years down the road.”

It will be replaced by what will become the largest operating steam engine in the nation, former C&O 1309, Flanigan said. The locomotive – about 40 percent larger than Engine 734 – spent the majority of its time at the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore, he said.

The railroad scene, as the train wraps its way out of Brush Tunnel, has a personal significance to the Frostburg mayor.

“When I was young, my dad and I would spend weeks and months walking railroad tracks together,” Flanigan said.

When Flanigan’s paternal great-grandfather came to America, he worked as Cumberland and Pennsylvania Railroad engineer, and his grandfather was a conductor for C&P. The WMSR follows part of the C&P’s route.

“What you did is very, very close to my heart, and I mean that,” Flanigan told Ashley.

The Broadway mural is expected to be on the billboard for at least seven years, which is the term of the city’s lease for the building.

Other FSU student art is in the works. Literature-themed art that will grace the Frostburg Public Library’s brick columns, designed by student Shea Crumbley, is scheduled to be installed by spring 2016. Student Eric Groff designed robots that are expected to pop up in inconspicuous spots on several downtown buildings this fall.

“Thanks to the town for supporting this public arts initiative,” Odone said.  “We hope to continue on and do this as a yearly project.”

For more information, contact FrostburgFirst at 301-689-6900 or the FSU Department of Visual Arts at 301-687-4797.

- Charles Schelle

For further information on this release, contact:

Office of News and Media Services
Frostburg State University
101 Braddock Road
Frostburg, MD  21532-2303

Telephone: 301-687-3171
Fax: 301-687-7589