Arcadia Art Students Partner with Glenside to Transform Blight to Beauty

By Purnell T. Cropper | February 17, 2012

On Wednesday, Feb. 15, eight Arcadia University students and three members of the Glenside community were recognized for resurrecting the Glenside Train Station’s welcoming character. Once a burned out, vacant commercial building hosting graffiti and scars from the past, the historic Robert Block building now displays masterful color and promotes a new message for Glenside: “We’re Urban, Edgy, Diverse, and Beautiful.”

The project first came to Community Service Coordinator Cindy Rubino, but it was more than the First Year Day of Service could manage. So she put the opportunity to revive the station in the hands of Kay Stauffer ’12. “Kay is great,” says Rubino. “I knew she had the energy and artistic talent to meet the challenge.

“I’m glad we all got to work on the mural,” says Stauffer. “It was fun to imagine what could be there, and then bring it to life. It’s great knowing that our work makes people smile.”

The Robert Block Station’s street-side walls made for a 13-segment mural, complete with a full-length multi-canvas train, textual art, silhouettes, a skyline of the city, and topographic map of Glenside.

Stauffer remembers learning about the project, excited for the canvas space. “We don’t get space that big at the university…working with that let our creative elements really flourish,” she says.

While their innovation took flight, so did their interest in the rich culture Glenside provides. Students gained sources for networking, a familiarity with local leaders and a deeper understanding for the community—one that contributed to the design, campaign and work ethic of the mural’s completion.

“We completed the design in three weeks,” says Stauffer. “Thanks to great weather, painting it only took us a day and a half.”

Students had entered the project aware of the importance of working with the community, building “town/gown” relationships. What they didn’t expect, however, was the enthusiastic reception they received from the community for their service.

“We made so many connections during the process, it was great,” says Stauffer.

“There would be 50, sometimes 60 people walking past us as we worked, talking about the mural and telling us how happy it made them,” says Kat Wagner ’13.

“A lot of these people thought Arcadia students were off by ourselves in our university enclave,” she continues. “They loved having us be part of the town.”

“We would talk to people and mention that we did the murals and they’d reply, ‘You did that?’ and it was exciting to be part of the transformation to say, ‘yes… yes I did this’ and know that changed their view on Arcadia students.”

Several community members thanked the students during the painting days, and Elsy’s Café has asked the students for help on future projects.

“Art gives us an opportunity to display what we’re doing beyond the campus walls,” says Stauffer.

This display was one deeper than mere art. Before the mural paintings, the sullen train station consumed Glenside’s suburbia hometown appeal and replaced it with inappropriate graffiti.

“People that passed could recite things that were graffiti-ed on the walls,” says Stauffer happy to beautify the space.

President Oxholm, who has an impressive resume of community service, reinforced the importance of the student’s participation in improving the quality of life in the community.

“When you go by that formerly burned out building and see the joyful colors and images that you established there, brightening the day of hundreds if not thousands of commuters and residents each and every day—that, that is what makes community service special—not just to them, or to it, but to you,” he says in a letter of appreciation to the students that participated.

“Glenside’s a nice place to live and work,” says Stauffer. “We wanted to make sure this project really reflected what’s its value is—historically, currently and going forward. We wanted the mural to reflect the energy and pride of Glenside.”

Mission accomplished.