Catonsville High students put finishing touches on mural

As it often does weekdays at around 3 p.m., traffic on Bloomsbury Avenue near its intersection with Frederick Road had about a dozen cars waiting at the red light.

Instead of fiddling with radio dials or staring at the traffic signal, many drivers stopped on the congested road studied the 100-foot wall to their left as they waited for the light to turn green.

Some even accelerated slowly after the light changed in order to get a few more glimpses of the mural on the side wall of the Catonsville branch of M&T Bank.

"I'm glad something's finally being done with that," one driver said out her passenger window before moving through the intersection.

Four days each week, four to five students from the Catonsville High School's National Art Honors Society spend several hours adding to the scene and accruing service hours.

The students are painting a scene depicting Catonsville's past, present and future on the wall under the direction of professional artist Edward Williams.

"You can't help but have a smile when you look at it," Williams said of the progress on the wall, that gets as high as 16 feet.

Williams likened the once-gray wall's transformation to the scene in The Wizard of Oz in which Dorothy's house lands and the screen fills with color.

Maria Androutsopoulos, a freshman at Catonsville High, sat on scaffolding painting leaves on a tree and marveled at the mural's design.

From left to right, the mural moves through time, beginning with a woman holding a parasol standing under a tree next to a black and white photograph of Frederick Road from the 19th century.

As the viewer pans to the right, the mural depicts a streetcar rolling down Frederick Road and then a group of Baltimore Colts cheerleaders.

The final scene features fireworks exploding in the background, a marching band performing and children sitting in lawn chairs as many do for Catonsville's annual Fourth of July Parade.

"It's really cool how it fades from before we were born to what it's going to look like in the future," Maria said of the scenes, which will be labeled "Reflect on the past", "Live in the present" and "Dream on the future".

"I think it's going to be a great memory to share with our kids," she said.

Sitting beside Maria, Sarah Arndt, also a freshman, said she liked how the mural will show viewers how Catonsville's spirit has stayed largely the same, despite the changes the area has gone through.

She said she looks forward to when she is "able to drive by a ton of years from now and say, 'I painted that.'"

Williams said the students are using paint donated from Sherwin Williams that should last between 25 and 30 years. A clear coat will be added to the mural, he added, to prevent graffiti.

Olivia Nicolaus, a senior at Catonsville High who will attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the fall, cited a love for the community as part of the reason she participated in the project.

"It's coming along," she said of the project, taking a break from painting a lady's white dress. "It'll look better every day."

Though her legs hurt from squatting to paint the lowest parts of the wall, Sydney Corbitt, a junior, agreed with Nicolaus that progress had been made.

"It's definitely coming along," she said, taking a break from painting the woman's parasol. "Even with us doing it today, you can tell."

Senior Molly Curry, who will head to James Madison University next year, said she felt proud that people will see her work even when she's in college in Virginia.

Curry's main focus in art is typically photography, she said as she painted a road along the bottom of the wall.

Asked why she chose to participate in the project, she said, "just to be able to get out and do something different."

Williams had planned to have the mural done by the end of May.

But rain washed out four days of painting and a freak accident eliminated another three.

On May 11, a driver turning into the parking lot hit the wall and accelerated into the rear of the House of Time shop on the corner.

Sections of the wall, coincidentally the part depicting a road, needed repainting and the donated scaffolding replacing after the accident.

Given the delays, Williams estimated that the students will place the final strokes on the mural by the second week of June.

Though the students have prepped and painted the wall for nearly a month, the idea actually began taking root in September.

That's when Catonsville resident Meg Tipper approached Williams about the mural.

They discussed several designs for the wall before setting their plan

"Murals are really uplifting. I think they celebrate the community in a really visible way," said Tipper, whose husband, Jim Himel, renovated the House of Time building near the mural last year. "It has already brought a lot of people to work together for the community good."

Tipper said numerous community organizations and businesses have donated to the project.

Williams noted local eateries have consistently provided food to the "starving artists" in the middle of their day.

The quality of the project has met Williams' expectations, something he credited to the fine artists in Catonsville High's student body.

Williams, a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art, provides instruction to the students as they work and will outline portions of the mural for the students to fill in.

"Part of my challenge is staying ahead of them, to give them enough to do at their skill level," Williams said.

Though this is Williams' first mural in his hometown, he said he has scouted four future locations in Catonsville to consider for future projects.

Williams declined to identify the locations.

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