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In our effort to create NEPA’s most comprehensive nonprofit directory, we came across hundreds of amazing organizations. Naturally, we wanted to share their inspiring stories.

In this series, we aim to highlight the hard-working organizations, the good people, the selfless volunteers, the helpers, the healers, the listeners, the comforters and all the great work they do. We hope that, through these stories, you too will be inspired to lend your time, your hands and your hearts. Follow along as we take a look beyond the mission statement.

Transforming Communities One Painting at a Time

Amy Bezek didn’t have to look further then her hometown of Edwardsville for inspiration on beautifying her community. As a founding member of the Street Art Society of NEPA (SAS NEPA) – a grassroots nonprofit with the goal of improving the aesthetic, cultural and investment value of communities across NEPA though public artwork – she wondered how she could revitalize the small, quiet downtown. The answer came in the form of colorful, vibrant and thought-provoking large-scale murals. And with that spark of an idea on how to uplift the place she calls home, the first official SAS NEPA mural was installed on Main St., Edwardsville in the spring of 2019.


The Power of Street Art


“Beneath the Surface” by Evan Lovett was the groups first official mural.

In only a few short years, the group has made a significant impact locally.

It all started thanks to a conversation between Amy and PA State Rep. Aaron Kaufer. She first approached him with the idea of creating an arts-based initiative to engage and connect people with their surroundings. At the same time, Jenna Casaldi, current SAS NEPA President and Laura Holbrook, the groups treasurer and grant writer, were also meeting with Kaufer. They were discussing similar ideas, albeit using sculptures, murals and gardens. The 120th District Rep. introduced the group of enterprising female artists to one another and the nonprofit was officially formed.

As a small group of volunteer-based members, including Kevin Harger-Blizzard and Lisa Murphy, the organization got to work. Their dream of harnessing the power of public art to engage the community, promote creativity and tell the story of our region quickly began to take shape.

From Edwardsville to Luzerne to Kingston to Forty Fort, their labor of love has brought color and life to the local landscape. They are promoting local talent and engaging the community by turning empty walls into public canvases. And the results of their work is likely to have a lasting effect on neighborhoods and residents.

“Mural art is super important because think about how many kids are growing up and they may never be exposed to art,” Kevin emphasizes. “And people in general. Where art in a museum is nice if you go to the museum, think about how many people walk or drive by a mural. They are all being exposed to art. So, it’s really a way to get it out to the public for free. And you could just have a big impact on people’s lives.”


Mural Magic


Board of Director members Amy Bezek and Kevin Harger-Blizzard stand beside “Hummingbird” created by Jenna Casaldi.

Murals are free art for people to enjoy every single day of their lives.

But to get off the ground, the group needed money. It came in the form of Local Share Account (LSA) grant dollars, which are accessible to municipalities in Luzerne County through casino gaming revenue funds. In order to begin, they needed the support of a sponsoring municipality and a government official. With Edwardsville and Rep. Kaufer on board, they received $50,000 to start Phase I. With ten buildings outlined in the grant and the first mural up in Edwardsville, they completed nine more murals in 2019. Themed “Pennsylvania Nature,” turtles, trout, amphibians, birds, deer and other creatures tell the story of our local ecosystem from Edwardsville to Luzerne to Kingston.

With backing from the town of Pringle, Phase II, themed “Show Us Your Creativity” is currently underway. The first mural can be seen on Wyoming Avenue in Kingston. Four more murals are expected in Pringle, Forty Fort, Exeter and West Pittston this summer.

Phase III, set for the summer of 2024, is already solidified. Kingston sponsored the LSA grant that will have the group splashing artwork on the water sump pump stations along the levee. The square concrete buildings along the waterfront will serve to tell our areas story through the theme of “Show Us Your History.”

Finally, planning and grant applications for Phase IIII, slated for the summer of 2025, is in the works.


Creating Careers and Boosting the Economy


“Jackson Hewitt Mural” by Jason Kresock

Murals encourage people to look at their surroundings with fresh eyes.

They create vibrant neighborhoods that people want to live in, visit and take care of. By adding color to walls that are otherwise unnoticeable, they attract new local businesses, bring customers to pre-existing locations and can even boost the local economy. Communities come alive with hope and pride in their neighborhood through murals. “There’s just so much potential,” states Kevin.

It also gives artists opportunity.

“We’ve basically been able to help artists have a career here in Northeastern, PA,” Kevin says.  “Getting them exposure and getting their art out in the public, we’ve been able to help several artists spring their careers and get recognition. You don’t need to move to New York or L.A. Right here in Northeastern, PA you could have a career in the arts.  Which is awesome.”


Support the Mission


“Adventure Awaits” by Eric Bussart

The behind-the-scenes work that goes into creating the murals is extensive.

The group is busy writing grants and securing funds. Finding artists and making connections with commercial property owners. Coordinating paint and supplies needed at mural sites. Attending city council meetings and organizing fundraising events.

Because while grant money helps cover the cost of the murals, artist fees and supplies, funding isn’t reimbursable until after the project is complete. Which means the group has to front the cash and wait to pay the artists until after the job is done.

So, they’ve turned to fun’raising, as Kevin likes to say, to raise money to partially pay the artists in advance. Their upcoming Color Fun Walk/Run will be held Friday, June 23 at Nesbitt Park in conjunction with the Riverfront Parks Committee’s Riverfest.

Their other fundraising event is a Mural Trolley Tour. The narrated Art in Motion tour gives riders an up-close experience with the groups 20+ murals.  They hope to make it an annual event.

And they’ve got more dreams. Bigger dreams. There’s a potential (read: secretive) regional collaboration brewing. A day/night mural that offers a different experience from daytime to evening. And talks of a  mural festival with live murals being painted on site.