Photo by Noah Burns
A second-year art student here at West Chester University created an amazing mural on the side of a large building in downtown West Chester this past summer. Noah Burns painted the impressive artwork on the Friend’s Association building on 113 W Chestnut St. The Homeless Shelter decided to commission the mural for the 200th anniversary of the Friends Association, and Burns’ design was chosen to commemorate the milestone and the important work they’ve done over the past two centuries.
The mural itself is a colorful combination of a large portrait as well as a representation of homes and families. I got to talk with Burns about his experience creating the design and then actually completing it. He first heard about the opportunity while he was in high school two years ago. The process of getting to the finished product has been one spanning nearly three years. Burns had different themes to work with when creating his design, saying the organization wanted something that represented “community, housing opportunities and family.”
The Friend Association does a variety of work to help in the community including preventing homelessness, providing emergency housing, partnering with families for stability and promoting systemic change. Their mission the past 200 years has been to ensure “the safety of a home for families in all their diverse shapes, sizes, creeds, and colors. Because we know that thriving, healthy families are at the core of thriving, healthy communities,” according to their website, friendsassoc.org. The branch here in West Chester has provided shelter or housing assistance to over 800 people this year.
Creating a mural to help encompass these values and achievements was a process with a lot of trial and error, according to Burns. There was a lot of feedback and collaboration between him and the staff at Friends Association to come up with a finished product. Burns said that the design of the mural is “really personal” for him as it includes representation of his own identity as well as the things that inspire him. He was able to combine this with the vision the organization had for their building, resulting in a piece of art that tells a story about community and family as well as shows off Burn’s impressive artistic talent.
The process of actually painting the mural took over three months. Painting on the 30 ft. building required a crate that moved up and down and “scaffolding towards the end,” according to Burns. He said he painted pretty much six days a week, sometimes with the help of family friends to “help fill in larger areas, but a lot of the details on the face and a lot of the line work is me.” Burns said there were always resources and people to help him and, regarding the staff at the Friends Association, he said, “they’re all great people.”
When I asked Burns about his plans for the future he shared that “if I could keep doing stuff like this it would be fun.” He hopes to keep doing public art and pieces related to social justice whenever he can. He’s interested in “doing art for others,” and creating art that supports communities.
You can see more of Burn’s work on his Instagram page, @n0ahburns, and you can find opportunities on how to help support the Friends Association on their website. The mural is not something you want to miss out on if you’re in the West Chester area. It is not only an outstanding piece of art, but also represents an incredible organization and message.
Monica Ziegler is a fourth-year communication studies major with a minor in journalism. MZ928023@wcupa.edu