June 1, 2022

Mural Unveiling: June 10 at BAPL

The humble Chimney Swift has already been named The City Bird of Bethlehem—now it’s being memorialized in a work of art. Bethlehem painter, Raisa Kochmaruk has been at work on a mural to be hung on the Walnut Street Parking Garage, where the public will be able to enjoy this beautiful work of art while strolling through the historic district.

The mural unveiling is scheduled for 3pm on June 10th. Note that the big reveal is being held at the Bethlehem Area Public Library, not at the mural’s future home on Walnut Street. That’s because unlike many other murals which are painted directly onto buildings, this one was created on lightweight aluminite panels which can then be hung outside.

“We weren’t sure where the murals were going to go,” said Library Director Josh Berk. “But we wanted to support their creation, so we said go ahead and make them here, and we’ll help find them a home.”

Several locations were debated before the Walnut Street Parking Garage was settled on, with the help of Barbara Fraust of the Lehigh Valley Arts Council and Alicia Karner of the Bethlehem Community & Economic Development Department.

The painting shows swifts spiraling into their summer home, a chimney at the former Bethlehem Masonic Lodge on Wyandotte Street. Developer John Noble is turning the site into a new restaurant and event center, but felt it was important to save the home of the swifts. It is a remarkable conservation effort. Mr. Noble has gone out of his way to support the birds and the local Audubon society, led by the efforts of Jennie Gilrain.

Jennie is an Audubon Society member and also a fourth grade teacher. She first spotted the small birds making a home in the chimney which was slated for demolition. Her Freemansburg Elementary School students helped convince the City to adopt a resolution recognizing the swifts as the official city bird by writing letters and speaking at a City Council meeting

A series of talks on the swifts and the conservation efforts were held via Zoom in 2021, hosted by the Bethlehem Area Public Library. This got Library Director Josh Berk interested in the topic and encouraged him to donate studio space for Raisa to work. “I love birds and I love art,” he said. “And the library loves being a resource to help our community create cool stuff.”

“It wasn’t a swift process to get it done,” he added. “But I’m so happy to see this project finally take flight.”

WHAT: The first public display of Raisa Kochmaruk‘s Chimney Swift mural

WHEN: Friday, June 10, 3pm

WHERE: Bethlehem Area Public Library, 11 W. Church St.

TICKETS: Not needed