Artist takes up residency in middle school


McKenzie, Dingman

Currently a project is underway with middle school students and artist, Denise Hoke, working side by side to complete 8 large murals that are to be displayed at the Cumberland Valley Turnpike Plaza by November.

This project will incorporate the skills of all the middle school art students of the first quarter of the year for its completion.

As a traditional quilter for almost 4 decades, Hoke, is taking up residency at the Big Spring Middle School. Hoke said that she will be “creating quilt barn designs, based on the history of the turnpike and Cumberland Valley,” with the middle school students of Big Spring. Big Spring Middle School art teacher, Laura Shambaugh said, “The students will design their own patterns that are directly inspired by the culture and landscape of our Big Spring and surrounding Newville area.”

“There will be a celebratory unveiling ceremony at the Service Plaza in early November where students will be honored for their work,” Shambaugh said. Micheal McVitty, art teacher at the Big Spring High School, said that this project will, “bring the middle school artists into the light.”

To begin this project the Pennsylvania Art Council contacted Amy Beaver, the associate director of Jump Street, who then proceeded to contact the Big Spring School District administrators and Hoke. Beaver said, “We started planning for the project in late July. I started planning immediately by contacting administrators of Big Spring School District and potential artists.”

Each year, specific plaza locations are chosen to receive public art via the artist residency program. Beaver said, “This year, the Cumberland Valley Turnpike Plaza was chosen and since it is located in Cumberland County which Jump Street serves, we were asked to take on the project.”

Every artist has their favorite thing to do in the world of art, and Hoke’s is fabric art. Fabric art today is not quilts being used for comforts on beds but being hung on a wall to be seen and cherished.

She said that her favorite part of this project will be, “getting to know each of the student’s creativity and the possibilities to collaborate of this project,” and she realized that she was artistically inclined after, “many years of traditional piecing and hand quilting.” In 1998, Hoke was even named the Perry County Council of the Arts Artist of the year.

“This project is fully funded in partnership with Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, Jump Street, and the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts,” said Shambaugh.