A new mural adorning the side of the Kelly Miller Community Center in Clarksburg features the work of Fairmont State University Art Professor Joel Dugan and his students.
The mural, which honors the career and legacy of long-time Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation employee Mary Hunt, was unveiled at a community celebration hosted by the West Virginia Community Development Hub last month. Upon Hunt’s retirement, she and the Hub began seeking artist applications for the mural, which was supported through funding from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. Dugan’s portfolio of both personal and professional projects stood out among the candidates and earned him and his students selection for the mural.
Dugan said he was grateful to be commissioned to complete the project and that he views the opportunity to create public art as a symbiotic relationship between the community and his students.
“Public art creates an identity and a sense of place for the citizens of small communities while also creating the opportunity to transform a student’s understanding of how art can impact the regions in which they study and live,” said Dugan.
Dugan, alongside students Dylan Allum, Zara Harold and Hannah Sprout, began painting the mural in April, after holding focus group meetings with individuals in the Clarksburg community.
“We always want to make sure the public is active in helping to create the vision,” said Dugan, who is also the chair of Fairmont State’s Department of Architecture, Art and Design.
The mural is 28 feet tall and pays tribute to the Community Center’s original use as a Black school in Clarksburg’s predominantly African-American neighborhood of Monticello. The Center has since been converted to house a fitness center, a computer lab and various community programming and educational opportunities.
“We wanted to enrich the space and represent the amount of vibrancy we have heard in the stories about the building itself,” said Dugan. “We also wanted to immortalize some of the community servants who have given so much to the well-being of the members of that building and the youth who they serve.”
The WV Black Heritage Festival board of directors and M.O.R.E., a community leadership team in the Monticello neighborhood, partnered with the Hub to install the mural. Dugan and other groups of students will now turn their efforts to two more murals to be completed in the North Central West Virginia region before the end of the summer.
“West Virginia doesn’t really have galleries, so the open-air gallery route is the most attainable for us,” said Dugan. “It takes us out of the comfort zone of the classroom and into larger community spaces. I cannot speak enough about the transformation that takes place when students see the community come out and support them. There is so much excitement in seeing the walls of these spaces come to life.”