Leechburg art students partner with community for planter beautification project
Leechburg Area High School art students took to the streets for a colorful project.
Eight students designed and painted 10 oversized flower planters positioned along Market and Main streets in the borough, part of a new, ongoing community project dubbed the Leechburg Partnership Beautification Project.
The school's art department partnered with the Leechburg Area Community Association with a goal of beautifying the borough.
The association is financing the project and provided the planters and art supplies.
Each planter features a bright, student-created design that reflects various aspects of Leechburg's business, historical or community interests.
Designs include a tribute to Leechburg's fire and police departments, breast cancer awareness, food themes, antique references and a planter outside of the post office showcases painted stamps depicting local recreational activities such as hiking and kayaking.
Community association President Gary Peterman approached Leechburg art teacher Shayle Prorok with the project, and she gave it the green light right away.
“This project is important because it gives the students real world art experience,” Prorok said. “They are building their portfolios, and this is an ‘out of the box' project. I want them to learn from this and come away with a sense of pride in their community.”
Students painted outside for three consecutive days.
Each planter is plastic terra-cotta styled, self-watering and large — measuring 30 inches wide and two feet high.
A planter costs from $170 to $200, Peterman said. They weigh 300 pounds when the water reservoir is full.
Six more planters are in the works, thanks to an anonymous donor. Peterman noted the 10 planters already painted are just the beginning.
“This is an ongoing project, and the students will paint more in the fall around the borough,” he said.
Sunny skies and temperatures soaring to almost 90 degrees helped the paint dry quickly last week, said Leechburg sophomore art student Karalyn Zeff.
Zeff painted an antique-themed design on her planter, featuring gears and clock faces, a reference to the numerous antique shops that dot Market Street.
“A man stopped and complimented my painting,” Zeff said. “He offered me a job painting his porch. We are decorating the town. People have been interested in what we are doing here.”
Leechburg Floral shop owner Patty Suveges was unaware of the project until she noticed the teens painting a flower-themed planter just steps from her storefront.
“Anything the kids do to beautify the town is great,” Suveges said.
CoCo Coffeehouse owner Nikki Saxion is thrilled with her coffee-inspired planter painted by art student Sam Hoover, a junior.
“This project is not only making our streets nicer and visually interesting, it is providing the students with a creative experience they wouldn't get in a classroom. I am happy to see the students out making a positive difference in Leechburg,” Saxion said.
The planters will receive a final waterproofing glaze and will be filled with flowers sometime this week, thanks to a donation by The Master Gardeners, a non-profit based in Kittanning.
Community association longtime volunteer and lifetime Leechburg resident Violet Stivason strolled Market Street recently but couldn't pick a favorite planter just yet, she said.
“The kids are doing great, and I will wait until they are all done to pick a favorite,” Stivason said.
Superintendent Tiffany Brzezinski-Nix stressed the importance of school and community relations.
“There is a misconception that the school and the community are two separate entities, but that is not true,” Brzezinski-Nix said. “We exist because of the community. It only makes sense that, as a school, we do anything possible to help contribute wherever we are needed. The art teachers and students are always searching for projects throughout the community. This is a great example of us all working together. Together, the school and community are a great team.”
Joyce Hanz is a freelance writer.