Menu
Blog RSS Feed

Berks County Muralist Brings His Students to Our House to Make a Meal—and Art



Posted on Tuesday, December 05, 2017
By: Opportunity House
Categories: Spotlights

Around here, where there's a wall, Mike Miller has probably considered painting it. The Wyomissing High School art teacher has been spearheading public art projects in and around the city and Berks County for almost 15 years, including here at the House.

Public art typically is displayed outside, for everyone to enjoy. It brings beauty and a human touch to what can be a cold, impersonal urban environment. The murals that Miller, his students, and the community create together make people stop in their tracks, marvel, and engage with the art and each other.

“Public art invigorates public spaces,” he says. "In a visually interesting environment, we feel and perform better.”

Miller’s interest in mural-making began in 2002, when friends took him on a mural tour in Philadelphia. He was struck by the way the murals became oases in neighborhood struggling with blight.  This was a quality his own personal art was not capable to doing.  Since then, he’s helped create dozens of public-art projects, including the mural corridor along West Reading’s Cherry Street from Fourth to Seventh Avenues, and partnered with other artists in producing murals and mosaic walls in and around the city. The goals of the Mural Corridor include: To beautify neglected public space that borders West Reading’s commercial and residential areas; To encourage healthy physical activity through walking; and To attract more visitors to Berks County and add their dollars to circulate in our local regional economy. Miller The goals of the Mural Corridor include: To beautify neglected public space that borders West Reading’s commercial and residential areas; To encourage healthy physical activity through walking; and To attract more visitors to Berks County and add their dollars to circulate in our local regional economy. The goals of the Mural Corridor include: To beautify neglected public space that borders West Reading’s commercial and residential areas; To encourage healthy physical activity through walking; and To attract more visitors to Berks County and add their dollars to circulate in our local regional economy.

Millealso founded Berks Community Murals, which informs the community about collaborative public art in the area and how to get involved in current projects.

While there are many incredibly talented artists making beautiful mural art in Berks County, Miller considers his skills are best used organizing community organizations to come together in making works of public art.  “I believe this beauty of collaboration can rival the beauty of the final work of art.”

Miller teaches an elective class called Public Art Workshop at Wyomissing Area High School. The students receive instruction on how public art pieces are designed and funded and how they help contribute to the stability of their own community. Inspired by a current project they are working on in class and a presentation about Opportunity House, the students pushed Miller to work together with the Opportunity House staff to organize a Day of Service.  Recently, he and 28 students in that class toured the city’s murals by bus. Afterwards, they had a service day here, bringing lunch for our residents and an art project for the children at the Second Street Learning Center, all organized by the students.

One group of students helped 30 preschoolers create handprint trees with paint on construction paper, while the other group prepped lunch. All of the students toured the House, which included a walking tour of the several Miller-led murals on our campus, some painted with the participation of our residents and children at the Learning Center.

For example, our kids contributed to the mural in the toddlers’ outdoor play area, painting the tiles at its base with bright butterflies, balls, and flowers. The well-known “Reach for the Stars” mural on Beech Street, completed in summer 2014, is Miller’s most recent work here, and Learning Center students served as models.

Miller’s collaboration with the House continues with our ongoing Legacy Project. “I was looking for a way to honor our donors that involved art, and immediately thought of Mike,” says Kate Alley, our VP of marketing and development. After some collaborative back-and-forth between the two, Miller sketched out an idea: three-dimensional houses of stained glass. A prototype was made this summer, and Miller and his students will soon complete their 80th hand-made house. The completed houses, inscribed with each donor’s name, will be installed in the shelter’s dayroom.

Over the years, Miller has worked with hundreds of people who want to engage with their community. “Everyone who picks up a brush to help paint a mural or glues down a piece of glass in a mosaic is personally vested in that work,” he says. “The work becomes theirs! I love giving people that opportunity.”

Tagged:Second Street Learning Center, Volunteer

Add a Comment
« Previous Post Next Post »
InstagramBlogLinkedInTwitterFacebook

Connect With Us

Opportunity House

430 North 2nd Street
Reading, PA 19601

Phone: (610) 374.4696
Fax: (610) 374.3165

Email: info@opphouse.org

Top