Pasco-Hernando State College (PHSC) kicked off 2022 and the first celebration of PHSC’s 50th anniversary, with the unveiling of the college’s first commissioned artwork.
A reception and ribbon-cutting were held to showcase “Double Branch,” a 4 foot by 16 foot work, by artist S. Blake Harrison.
The program featured Dr. Timothy Beard, college president; Dr. Kevin O’ Farrell, provost at the Porter Campus at Wiregrass Ranch; Madonna Jervis Wise, a local historian and author; Dr. Lisa Richardson, executive director of the Pasco-Hernando State College Foundation; Andrew Beman-Cavallaro, associate director of libraries for the college; Janet Schalk, a PHSC librarian; and Harrison, the mural artist, who is based in Micanopy.
The college’s foundation paid for the mural, which honors the history and progress of Wesley Chapel, and commemorates PHSC’s golden anniversary.
The 4 foot by 16 foot mural is believed to the largest mural in Wesley Chapel, O’ Farrell said, in his opening remarks at the Jan. 5 ceremony. It is displayed on a wall in the fourth-floor lobby of Building D, on the Porter Campus at Wiregrass Ranch, at 2727 Mansfield Blvd.
The provost said much research and thought went into the creation of the mural, which includes elements inspired by “Images of America: Wesley Chapel,” a local history book written by Madonna Jervis Wise.
The author said that unlike Zephyrhills and Dade City — which both have city governments, historic buildings and established town centers — Wesley Chapel offered no clear place for her to begin her research.
So, she relied on her background in genealogy to help her find descendants of families with deep roots in Wesley Chapel.
She began her quest by tracking down Marco Edward Stanley, of Gainesville, who arranged for Wise to interview his mother, 95-year-old Lillie Sapp Stanley.
That interview led to others, and ultimately Wise was able to tell the story of the community. Her book chronicles the various names the community has been known by through the years; its turpentine, lumber, moonshine and ranching industries; where the residents attended church, where they went to school and what they did for fun.
“We relied so heavily on Madonna’s work and her historical research, and that really inspired Blake to take those images and take those concepts and put together something that is as beautiful as this large, 4-by-16, piece of commissioned art,” O’ Farrell said.
Andrew Beman-Cavallaro, associate director of libraries, credited librarian Janet Schalk for working closely with Harrison on the project.
The artist expressed gratitude to Schalk for her guidance and to Wise for her work to preserve local history.
He said the mural’s panels reflect a narrative through art, featuring the area’s natural beauty, including trees and wildlife; its industry, including moonshine and trains; and its educational history, including the Porter campus and the college’s new Instructional Performing Arts Center, known as IPAC.
The college president was enthusiastic about the result of Harrison’s work.
“This is just an awesome piece of art,” Beard said, marveling at its size, vibrant colors and ingenuity.
“This event is the very first event associated with our 50th anniversary, to be celebrated officially July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023,” Beard said.
“Certainly we’ve come a long way,” the college president continued, “from having classes in backrooms, storefronts and churches.
“At PHSC, we promote and support many innovative, worthwhile programs that advance health, science and technology. But most recently, we have also embraced the arts, as never before,” Beard said.
He pointed to the college’s newly opened IPAC, as an example, of that new commitment.
The facility is dedicated to instruction in the performing arts, including music, theater and dance, as well as instruction in the digital arts.
It, too, is located in Wesley Chapel — next to Cypress Creek High School and Cypress Creek Middle School — at 8657 Old Pasco Road.
Published January 19, 2022