By Kaylee Lindenmuth
KUTZTOWN, Berks County - Kutztown University Art Education Professor George Graf presented a set of photos Thursday morning from throughout the coal region, chronicling his observations of the region from Shamokin to Mahanoy City, and Tower City to Shenandoah.
Photos ranged from the churches of Mahanoy City, to the mining landscape of Gilberton and Cass Township, to the abandoned refuse left behind on and in abandoned properties.
Throughout, he spoke of the visible history, the changing landscape, and other observations based on how our properties and towns are decorated.
Graf began by speaking about the very nature of mining, the machinery used, and slightly touching on the topic of strip mining.
He noted a strip mine site in an unidentified part of our area which he had visited twice, in spring and in late summer, whose refuse pile had tripled in size.
With a photo of a Gilberton site as his backdrop, he said "These sites, as I said, are vast. If you look, you don't see any green stuff, anywhere the coal is, it's pretty rare.
Graf then added that many of the sites are now refuse reclamation sites, fueling regional co-generation facilities. He specifically photographed the John B. Rich Memorial Power Station in Morea, as seen from Mahanoy City, Gilberton, and Shenandoah Heights.
"There are actually 14 of these kinds of power plants in Pennsylvania," Graf said, showing a map and noting most are in the Schuylkill County area. "More than half of them are in this area."
Later, he showed photos of two draglines in the Cass Township area and described their use and design.
Graf then led into a profile of Shenandoah, beginning with a photo of the Coal Keeps The Lights On overpass with the Mahanoy City bus bound for Shenandoah.
"This is where my show theme comes from, this giant conveyor belt which goes across the road," said Graf. "Look at the background. Totally just scraped off."
Graf then showed photos of the former Shenandoah Abbatoir, the Capitol Theater, a blighted property at Lloyd and Bower Streets. He then touched on the changing racial landscape of the region and the aftermath of 2008, noting the A.P. Damato Post mural and it's depiction of a parade of nations.
Graf then moved into the churches of the area.
"Mahanoy City has, and so does Shenandoah, a church one every block, and look at how these churches are just part of the whole town," he said referring to a photo of a Mahanoy City church beginning a row.
He then spoke of the different mining scenes set up in the region, from Coal Township to Minersville to Turkey Run.
Referring to a scene in Turkey Run, Graf said, "When I see this, I just get welling pride here. You've got the stove, the big chunks, this scoop full of stuff, carefully painted, and note the devil over the garbage can."
He also spoke of acid mine water, the various issues with dumping in the region, the Saint Nicholas Breaker and "breaker boys," and a church in Cass Township which was vandalized days prior to his visit.
Graf also looked at some architectural details of the area, photographing former schools in Mahanoy City, Tremont, and Tower City.
The presentation was attended by roughly 20 KU professors and students.