Internship lets WVU student leave lasting impression with mural that celebrates river town's past, present
Daniel Jencks, of Falling Waters, W.Va., a design studies major in WVU’s Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, conceived and led the execution of a mural celebrating the heritage of Camden on Gauley and capturing its essence.
Over the summer, the Community Design Team (CDT) made a visit to the small town in Webster County. Jencks went along “primarily to observe and take a few notes,” he said.
“During the town council meeting we attended, the mayor expressed the town’s desire to have a mural painted on the side of a deteriorating brick building in the center of town,” Jencks said. “After the meeting, I told Jenny Selin, the CDT coordinator and the supervisor for my internship, that I like to paint and would definitely be available to design a mural for Camden on Gauley. Jenny loved the idea and I spent the rest of my internship creating and tweaking designs for the mural.”
“At our first community meeting with Camden City Council, Daniel took notes and listened,” Selin said. “By the next public meeting, he was presenting preliminary designs and wrangling with council members over which occupations and pursuits they wanted featured in the final work.
Jencks researched what Camden on Gauley is known for and how its people spent their time. A few weeks after his first visit, he presented about five different ideas for the mural to the town council.
“The council was great at telling me what they liked about a few different designs, and together we combined those concepts into one new idea for me to work on,” he said. I spent some more time refining this idea and took notes from Jenny about any new suggestions the town gave. Towards the end of my internship, the council approved the design.”
The design celebrates the most prominent industries of Camden-on-Gauley—mining, logging, and healthcare. It also highlights the recreational traditions of hunting and fishing. The Gauley River has had a vast impact on the history of the town and continues to hold importance today.
The project bled over into the current school year, but Jencks continued to work with the town to try to prepare the wall for painting, removing existing plaster with the help of local volunteers.
“The town council, mayor, chief of police, and myself could not get over how hard he worked and what great work ethic he has,” said Edna Martin, Camden on Gauley’s town recorder and one of the mural’s leading proponents. “Daniel worked so hard, and in many instances by himself.”
“On my last trip to Camden on Gauley, it seemed like everything was finally falling into place,” Jencks said. “We had a few committed volunteers, all of the paint and concrete sealer was purchased and delivered, and the weather was perfect.”
Volunteer assistance was provided by David Martin, Roger Frazer, David Boggess, Jr., Dan Seabolt, Charles Beckett, and Jamie Donahue. The group covered the wall with concrete sealer, put two coats of primer on the area for the mural, and then put two coats of white enamel on the mural area.
“The idea behind all that prep work was to prevent moisture from accumulating behind the mural and causing the mural paint to bubble and flake over time,” Jencks explained. “I was only planning on staying for the weekend, but because everything was going so well I decided to stay as long as it took to finish the painting. I knew that if we didn’t finish it before school picked up for me or before the cold weather set in, we’d be delayed for months.”
Just the act of painting became a cultural opportunity.
“The building is right next to a busy street, so I got a lot of supportive honks,” Jencks said. “A few cars even parked across the street to watch me like a drive in movie.”
Positive feedback was ongoing. “Every day people would stop to compliment my work or take pictures to show their friends,” Jencks said. “One high school student choked up a bit as he told me I had no idea how much Camden needed something like this. That really stands out in my mind and will probably be something I never forget about the experience.”
The Camden on Gauley community’s verdict on the mural seems to be unanimous. “Everyone that has commented has been more than pleased with it,” said Martin. “It has a made such a wonderful impact to our small town. The side of the building looked terrible to say the least. Now, it is something we can all be proud of.”
“Daniel’s vision, artistry, drive and ability to give back made this mural a reality,” Selin said. “Students like Daniel are a credit to WVU and West Virginia, I look forward to following his next endeavor.”
CONTACT: David Welsh, Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Design
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