WILKES-BARRE — Barnes & Noble Bookstore in downtown Wilkes-Barre is partnering with the Riverfront Parks Committee for a fifth time to give local children the opportunity to paint a mural for this year’s Riverfest.
Jan Lokuta, a Susquehanna River enthusiast and member of the Riverfest planning committee, has organized the mural for the last four years. Lokuta’s past murals have been inspired by the topics of notable artists such as Jasper Crospey, George Inness, Thomas Moran and Robert Henri, who have painted the landscapes of the Wyoming Valley and the Susquehanna.
This year’s mural was inspired by Henri Matisse’s “The Goldfish.” Lokuta, a Milford lawyer, said he was inspired by the oranges, blues and greens in the painting. Instead of having orange fish and blue and green water, Lokuta plans to have the children do the opposite so the mural reflects the river.
The children will paint the goldfish blue and green to represent brook trout, a species of fish native to Pennsylvania, and the water will be painted orange to represent the iron oxide-stained waters of the river, the same chemical that dyed the Redwall of the Grand Canyon. The zigzag pattern that is seen across the mural was inspired by an altar cloth that Matisse made for a church in Southern France.
Lokuta, a native of the Wyoming Valley, said he enjoys sharing his love for the Susquehanna River with others. And he thinks using visual arts is the perfect opportunity to teach children about the river in a different and fun way.
“I encourage the kids to look around and see the beauty in the natural world and appreciate it while creating something they can be proud of,” Lokuta said.
This year’s mural painting will be held this Saturday and Saturday, June 8, both from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the downtown Wilkes-Barre Barnes & Noble, 7 S. Main St. Children ages 3 and up can participate regardless of experience, skill or talent at no cost. Lokuta will supply the paint, brushes and panel.
“They supply the enthusiasm and the spontaneity,” Lokuta said.
The finished mural will be showcased at Riverfest, a festival that occurs on the Wilkes-Barre River Common and in Nesbitt Park along the bank of the Susquehanna River. Thousands of river enthusiasts come every year to paddle, kayak and canoe. In addition to recreational activities, Riverfest will feature food, entertainment and educational programming. It is held June 21-23.