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York College Fine Art Students Create Mural for Stauffer Biscuit Co.

One of three photos from the Stauffer's Mural competition
James O'Shea (left) and Paige Johnson (right)
Fine Art students participated in a mural contest to help celebrate the 150th anniversary of Stauffer Biscuit Co. Although three student designs were chosen as winners, all of the participants painted the mural in the Cookie Outlet.

The Stauffer Biscuit Co. began in 1871 when D. F. Stauffer bought a small bakery in York, Pennsylvania. His small company would grow over the next 150 years until it consisted of numerous multistory buildings that produced crackers and cookies.

During the Fall 2021 Semester, the Center for Community Engagement (CCE) was approached by the Stauffer’s Cookie Company to create a mural in Marketview Arts to celebrate the company’s 150th anniversary.

Designing the mural

The mural contest began in September 2021 when students were invited to submit designs to Stauffer’s staff. Those staff members selected three winning murals; the student artists then created a 10-by 5-foot mural at Marketview Arts, with all material costs covered by Stauffer’s.

While the experience was a good opportunity for students to share their work, it also provided them with a glimpse into what work in the field could look like, according to Appell Fellow Jeannine Dabb ’20, who helped mentor the students throughout the process.

“This is a huge opportunity for York College students and alumni, because this creates a real-life working simulation,” says Dabb. “It also gives the students a chance to work with me, someone who has successfully created work for Penn State Health Hampden Medical Center and understands how to process work from design to finished product and delivery. I am able to mentor the students through a real design process situation.”

The three winners, all Fine Arts major, were Brittany Dao ’23, Taste for All; Jessilet Antonio ’24, Circus in the Park; and Rhiannon Harbold ’22, Sweet Universe. While these students had their designs selected, all participating students were included in the mural creation process.

An experience like no other

For many students, a large mural project like this might be intimidating, but Rhiannon looked forward to the challenge and says, “I like painting large and have previous experience painting a mural, so I felt it would be a great opportunity to pursue. I like painting large because it allows me to put in more detail and give love to some smaller areas that usually get missed in small paintings. Additionally, I was encouraged to join the contest because Stauffer's has been a large part of my childhood. I mean, who doesn't love animal crackers?”

Thinking about the process as a whole Jessilet says, “Working to get my degree has been a challenge, as I’m sure it’s been for everyone these past two years. Getting to work in-person, in the studio, working with my friends and professional artists, it feels almost surreal. It’s the first step of my career being an artist, and it’s just a great privilege to get to work with all these talented people. It gets me excited to see where these artists are going in their future and what creations are coming our way.”

Jessilet also credits Assistant Professor of Art M. Ry Fryar for his encouragement. “I would say a professor that has impacted me the most to keep creating would be Professor Fryar,” he says. “Once I completed the design for the mural, I asked if I could get his thoughts on what I could add or improve. His encouragement helped me feel more confident in my ability to create pieces like these.”

The experience has also made Rhiannon reflect back on her time as a York College student. “The entirety of my studies as a Fine Art major at YCP has made me a more flexible and multidisciplinary artist. Recently, I've been really interested in printmaking, and my love for it has furthered because of my experiences in Printmaking I,” she says. “It's amazing to learn new techniques of artmaking and push my practice and style to their limits, and make me a more open-minded creative.”

Seeing work come to life

Although their experiences have been different throughout the process, both students agree that the most excitement comes from the idea of people finally coming into the space and seeing their work.

Jessilet says, “What I’m most excited about is seeing the reaction of everyone once it’s done. Sometimes even I can’t believe that we are working for a company who saw potential in us as art students.”

While Rhiannon expresses a similar sentiment, she says, “I'm so excited to see the mural hung inside of the cookie outlet. I toured the location before I started painting and am ready to see those white walls be full of art and whimsy. Seeing the mural hung in its intended location will be rewarding because the project will not only have come full circle, but will be providing even more fun for Stauffer's visitors and employees.”

The mural is now on display for all visitors to see at the Stauffer’s Cookie Outlet located at 375 South Belmont Street in York, Pennsylvania.

Watch the artists bring their murals to life here: https://youtu.be/2gwUVt5eZ1k