The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

August 12, 2010

Muralist works in public eye

By Cindy O. Herman
For The Daily Item

— How do you keep perspective when painting a mural on the side of a building?

"The first one I ever did, I actually gridded the entire wall," said muralist Pam Snyder-Etters, who is working on her third Milton mural, at the Stetler Hotel on the corner of Broadway and Arch Streets.

"Now, I just scale one section and after that, it's free drawing. And then it's just a matter of getting up and down and walking back and forth. It's a lot of footwork," the Altoona native laughed, adding, "It gets easier, though. The more you do, the more you understand."

Snyder-Etters did her first mural while working with the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art in Altoona, a town with several murals.

"I thought they were so beautiful," she said. "I think my natural tendencies were to create large works."

And one mural easily leads to another.

"A mural is a billboard for an artist. It's like a huge business card," she said.

It's also a good way to blend art and community involvement, two things Snyder-Etters values. Before starting her murals she researches the subject. She read every Milton history book she could find before creating a preliminary sketch for TIME (The Improved Milton Experience).

"I create a sketch and then we bounce it back and forth until we both come up with something we love," she said.

Though she has to battle the weather — the long hot spells this summer were not exactly ideal conditions for painting on a sunny brick wall — Snyder-Etters loves working out in the public view, not in a studio like some muralists, who then transfer their work to a building on a large "sticker." "I really love the public aspect of public art. For me, it's about the public. It has to be done so the public feels they can be part of the process," she said.

Working in Milton so much has made the town feel like a second home to her, and many residents know her well enough to stop and chat.

"I always get comments," she said. But it's not always directed toward her painting; sometimes people are more interested in Hounslow, her 2-year-old Great Dane and constant companion.

"I've actually had a ton of people stop their cars just because their dogs wanted to see Hounslow," she laughed. "He's stealing my thunder."

The Stetler Hotel mural is scheduled to be finished in mid-August, and after that Snyder-Etters plans on getting her proposed non-profit organization (B4Art, Breaking Boundaries, Building Bonds) jump started with a spring trip to Costa Rica. There she plans to paint four murals with children in four different towns, building self-esteem and community spirit.

"I believe that everybody's place in the world is to effect a positive change in whatever way they can," she said with a smile. "Art's the perfect way to do it. It's the universal language."

n Cindy O. Herman lives in Snyder County. Send e-mail comments to her at