Public Art


Edinboro is fortunate to have many incredible assets for both residents and visitors alike; a thriving downtown with retail and restaurants, year round recreational activities and events, a rich history, an excellent school system, and a renowned University.

Additionally, the borough already has the most important asset of all; leadership. Among city government as well as residents and local workforce, it’s clear people are deeply invested in their community and ready to take action to continue to improve.

In 2018 Edinboro business owners and community leaders founded the Economic Community & Economic Development (ECED) – a non-profit organization committed to the continued growth and development of the community.

Through a community input process the ECED board formed four strategic committees to focus on overarching needs and the development of opportunities within their area of interest; Arts, Business and Branding, Parks and Recreation, and Social Needs.

This plan aims to complement the existing work of the ECED Arts committee and help achieve the long term vision of an artistic and culturally thriving community by identifying catalytic opportunities to get there.

With existing high quality of life, leadership, and a vision already in place, Edinboro is on track to be a year round destination not only for recreation but for arts and culture as well


This plan has three components: 

  1. Public art installations
  2. Events and engagement opportunities
  3. Art as information – wayfinding

The overall goals of this public art plan are:

  • Beautification – Improve public perception
  • Define space, create a sense of place
  • Give direction and guide visitors to and through the community
  • Create public engagement opportunities through events
  • Tell a story – past, present, future
  • Become an attractor – invites exploration


When asked “What’s missing?” and “What would you like to see in downtown Edinboro?” during the public visioning sessions and the survey, responses consistently included art and beautification efforts. 

What's missing downtown? Top consistent results included:

  • Beautification
  • Signage - Wayfinding
  • Arts and cultural amenities and events

What would you like most like to see in a public art plan?

  • Live music + performances
  • Public Events
  • Murals/ sculptures + art installations in unexpected places
  • Stronger connection to the University Arts Program

From the public survey – what's unique?

“It’s a small town with an appreciation for diversity, music and art and is fun and quirky!“

“Mount Pleasant Ski Resort. College Town with an arts feel.“

“Edinboro Lake, eclectic community, arts & music scene, friendly, caring and helpful community.“

See more responses

Shared specific ideas:

  • Featured artists
  • More impact at the entrances to town
  • Events on the lake
  • Walking path with interactive art
  • Sculptures along Erie St.
  • Interactive Art that gets people moving
  • Art on the lake
  • Live music and performance areas
  • Artistic signage
  • Installations at entrance and exit points
  • Art walk around the downtown district

What do you want Edinboro to be known for in 10 years? (highlighted answers)

  • A great small town with beautiful art and great parks and trails
  • A vibrant economy
  • Creativity
  • Hip, cool university town with a resort lake feel. Boating, skiing, the arts. Lake Tahoe meets academia.
  • Destination
    Arts community
  • Hometown feel but innovative
  • Beautiful
  • Festivals
  • Welcoming
  • University/Community partnership
  • Arts and culture
  • Friendly
  • Charming
  • Great place to live or visit
  • Activities

Public Art

Creating a vibrant and inviting Community

A public art strategy has many benefits for a community including creating interesting and inviting places that encourage engagement and exploration. Public art serves as a direct reflection of, and increases the overall quality of life in a community. To visitors and residents alike, it visually represents a community that invests in itself, values the arts and is a great place to be.  

Edinboro is already a destination with year round visitors for events and recreational opportunities but unlike many small communities across the country downtown Edinboro has very few, if any vacant buildings. A built in audience combined with a downtown full of retail, restaurants and amenities creates a perfect opportunity for public art to draw people out of their cars and engage in the community. 

While pretty murals alone won’t change the economic development of a city alone it can certainly be an economic driver that amplifies a vibrant and thriving community. 

Public art creates interesting and inviting places that encourage engagement and exploration.

A public art strategy can include any number of elements to help create a cultural community. 

A few implementation ideas for consideration: 

  • Murals
  • Sculptures
  • Gateway entrance
  • Signage (traditional and non-traditional)
  • Photo worthy 4 seasons pieces (temporary and permanent)
  • Painted sidewalks and crosswalks
  • Unexpected spaces such as utility boxes, poles, garbage cans, sidewalk grates
  • Alleyway activation
  • Events / pubic participation 

Style and Theme

While each installation should be unique and dependent upon the artist’s style, location and message, an overarching theme is helpful for cohesiveness and consistency.

Building off of the City of Four Seasons theme – it is recommended that Edinboro capitalize on this brand and focus on at least the first handful of installations being centered around this concept. This will help amplify the branding to residents and visitors as a city with endless possibilities and opportunities. 

Manchester, Iowa Whitewater Park Mural

This mural was completed in the Summer of 2018 by artist Dan Hatala.

It depicts recreationists at the Manchester Whitewater Park enjoying the Maquoketa River.

Check It Out

Timeline for Implementation


ECED Arts & Music Committee + Borough of Edinboro


Begin by scouting your community with fresh eyes. Individually or in teams walk through town taking pictures, and making notes of locations that could be a good fit for an installation piece or performance space.

Remember – don’t just look for blank walls, there can be beauty in all kinds of unexpected places – sewer drains, fences, garbage dumpsters, benches, the open air space above an alleyway, lamp posts, etc.

Then drive through town by car from different points of interest looking to areas that stand out as potential opportunities for improvement.

Compare notes to the recommended locations in this plan. Create a list of priority locations – gateway entrance locations to the community and downtown should have special consideration.

Reach out to building owners directly and ask if they would be interested in the program.

Optional engagement – create an application google form and promote for local building and landowners to submit locations and ideas for installations. Match funding resources should be indicated in the application.

Once a location is identified and funding is secured, draft a call for artists or RFP (Request for Proposals) and announce the opportunity.

Then make sure you get it in front of the right people! The following are excellent ways to promote your RFP:

Committee members create a list of favorite artists. Reach out to those artists directly and encourage them to apply

Share the press release with local, state, and regional media outlets

Post the news on all available social media platforms and newsletters – the city, the chamber, ask committee members to share on their personal pages and in applicable artist group pages.

Post RFP to Call for Artist sites, such as:

Upon deadline completion, review applications, narrow to top three artists and set up interviews. Update the community through the process; when the final artist is selected, work is in progress, and when the piece is finalized.

Based on the committee’s goals, repeat the process. Remember, murals are a great place to start but a truly comprehensive public art plan should seek artists of various disciplines to create a variety of unique installations throughout the community.



Arts committee reviews plan and begins scouting to identify top priority locations.

Work with the city and county to identify any existing funding sources. Based on this and priority locations, build an estimated budget and determine if it is feasible to roll out the first installation in fall of 2021. If it is, begin drafting and promoting an RFP.

If it’s not, look into alternative options for low budget public engagement opportunities to kick off the arts placemaking plan. Example – working with high school or university arts department on design and implementation.

Begin applying for funding opportunities (see funding below).


Possible first installation to maintain momentum of the placemaking process.


Create priority list of locations and opportunities for 2022. Make sure to note important dates in the grant application process other than just the final due date. Things to note include; accepting questions by date, letters of interest requirements, eligibility requirements and application materials.


Four seasons art, Entertainment and Recreation

Public input during the visioning process indicated a strong interest in more events and activities specifically in arts and entertainment.

Continuing on the city of four seasons theme, Edinboro has an excellent opportunity to also be known as a place with year round arts and cultural events. As both of these categories appeal to a wide audience this would further enhance both the existing quality of life for local residents and support Edinboro as a top destination for visitors. 

While many communities desire ‘more things to do’ it’s important to remember that capacity and resources are often limited. Edinboro is fortunate to have a strong number of invested local leaders and volunteers in the ECED and beyond, but adding more events can still be a heavy lift. 

When thinking about adding more the best place to start is by looking at ways to add on and enhance existing events. We recommend starting with a strategic look at what Edinboro already offers and make a goal to add at least one artistic enhancement to an existing event per quarter. 

Existing annual events


Maple Festival, Art + Music Festival


Fourth of July Celebration


Highlander Games + Scottish Festival, Homegrown Harvest Festival


Holiday Arts Fair, Lighting of the Lights, Toy Drive

The enhancement could be an installation commissioned or created during the event, or pubic participation in the installation, educational classes, contests, or performances. Remember, it should be fun! The goal should be to layer opportunities for maximum effect and to get the most of your investment in time, talent and resources.

For example: A commissioned mural by a regional professional celebrating Pennsylvania’s sugar maple tree.

Done just quietly paint a mural – make it an event!

  • Public engagement component through a social media campaign in the artist selection process and/or concept development.
  • Created in March during the Maple Festival where participants can watch the installation live.
  • Possibly have live music and a food trucks selling or giving out samples including culinary adventures in Pennsylvania maple syrup.
  • Create a Maple Trail through town – Local restaurants featuring maple-inspired dishes, Maple Chocolate at Edinboro Chocolaterie, Maple beer at bars, Maple beer garden.
  • Sugar streets – sugar maple/syrup inspired sidewalk chalk contest open to the public
  • Local businesses window decor contest
  • Sponsored by: the Northwest Pennsylvania Maple Syrup Producers Association in partnership with the Borough and matching grants
  • Bonus – artist hosts a workshop, guest talks with local HS art class and/or artist lecture on campus

Examples of ideas and opportunities per season

  • Garden party – Community gardening, planters on the sidewalks, pop up paint a pot station, flower painting or painting
  • Paint the town – Spring clean and freshen up, painting utility boxes, benches, light poles, etc.
  • Plein air painting – Workshops, classes and contests
  • Maple inspired art (see above)
  • Pop up mini golf (sidewalks and parklets) – Creatively designed holes (businesses sponsor a hole and design and/or work with local artists or students to create. Awards and prizes should go to most unique. Participants form teams and compete – bonus style points to team names and costumes.
  • Jazz in the sand – Live music at the beach
  • Float and film – Movies at the beach
  • Kids portrait booths – Custom on the spot portraits of humans or dogs made by kids. What a great way to support a young artist and get a cool picture.
  • Pop up parklets in conjunction with the Fourth of July festivities
    • Creating temporary spaces for people to gather downtown
    • Each space is sponsored and/or curated by a local business or artist
    • Selfie stations with pop up backdrops
    • Photobooth with professional photographer documenting independence day attire
    • Example: PARKing day with ASLA – reimagining public spaces and alternatives to automobile dominated environments. (This national event is typically in the fall, but the inspiration is the same)
  • Host ongoing engaging art – Host a summer long installation (or during the fourth of July week of festivities) where residents are invited to participate such as filling in the blank or creating a piece of the final product.
    • Example: Before I Die Series
  • Fall colors in conjunction with the Homegrown Harvest Festival
    • Found things Andy Goldsworthy inspired temporary installations on the beach open to the public, or, local artists apply to participate. Can include a contest element or just for fun.
    • Commissioned professional installation using or inspired by natural elements such as leaves, rocks, sticks.
    • Possible partnership with schools and/or University Art program for organizing, participation and documentation of pieces.
  • Scottish heritage arts – in conjunction with the Scottish Festival
  • Scotch tasting and pairing
  • Weaving demonstrations and classes, paper weaving booths for kids
  • Scottish artists commissioned for workshops, classes, speaking opportunities and a public art installation.
  • Artistically curated Scottish inspired pop up photobooth set up during an event (sponsored so photos are free for participants)

Anyone can have summer events! Embrace the beautiful winter season with opportunities to bundle up and get outside for some good cold fun.

  • Winter beach art installations – Host a contest for artists to create installations encouraging visitors to enjoy the beach even in the middle of winter. As opposed to most art in museums, these installations should encourage touching, climbing and exploring the art.
  • Light up the night – there is just something about lights in the winter that are extra beautiful. A few excellent examples include:
  • Fire and ice festival – In conjunction with the winter art market hire ice sculptors to create sculptures live on the sidewalk or in the street during the day. Then hire a fire dance performer troupe to melt the sculptures during a show in the evening. Get your cameras ready!
  • New Years Eve Bonfire on the beach – participants burn away their worries by writing notes and throwing them into the fire.
Mirage, by Cristina Vega and Pablo Losa Fontangordo, winners of the 2020 Winter Stations Toronto Competition; click to read more.

Timeline for Implementation


ECED Arts Committee + Borough of Edinboro


Review existing annual events with fresh eyes looking for opportunities to expand artistic and cultural opportunities.
For each event – ask some basic placemaking questions; What’s unique (about this event)? What’s missing? and – If money wasn’t an object, what would you like to see (in addition to this event’s existing schedule)? Start brainstorming to get ideas then work backwards on feasibility narrowing the list.

Bonus if the idea:

  • Involves the opportunity for public participation in the selection, design or creation
  • Would appeal to a broad audience of participants
  • Has a partnership component with local businesses, the schools, and/or the University
  • Includes professional and amateur artists

Each year capacity and resources can be evaluated to see if the program can be scaled up to meet its goals of its own freestanding arts and culture events in addition to enhancements of other events.

Then, dream up ideas for freestanding/new arts and culture specific events. What does the committee identify as a top strategic priority for the future? What are the goals?

Review ideas and sort by season taking into consideration when the event would ideally be scheduled to round out a full year of events. Identify top priorities and goals for the following year. Once events are decided upon, estimate a budget and match up to the grant calendar. Work with the city and county on existing funding opportunities and seek private funding sources / apply for grants as needed.


Q2 2021

Public roll out of the placemaking action plan! If possible – consider an immediate online engagement opportunity through social media. If the committee + borough already have a little funding available and a location ready to get a mural up this year – ask the public for inspiration ideas, vote to choose an artist, location, etc.

Review the rest of the year assuming social distancing/virtual events and then plan for 2022 hopefully assuming things will be “back to normal”.

Make a goal of two additions to events in fall/winter 2021. Remember, it’s ok to start small! The first couple events should be heavily public engagement opportunities to make a splash in the rollout!

Q3 2021

First event! – Example: Create a City of Four Seasons mural in conjunction with the Homegrown Harvest Festival. A few options include:

  • Hire an artist to paint mural outline and invite the public to participate by filling in the spaces.
  • Or – invite the community to share inspiration for the mural combined with feedback from the placemaking process to incorporate into the design.
  • And/or – work with the high school / University arts departments/clubs to help create the piece with student involvement.

Q4 2021

Second event! – Possible fundraising component to capitalize on end of year giving.

Reflect on test event enhancements. Evaluate plans and priorities for 2022.


Art as Information

Informed by public input from the visioning process, folks in Edinboro feel the community needs better directional and informational signage for visitors and residents. 

Using public art in combination with directional signage will create a strong sense of place, encourage exploration, and help people effortlessly navigate through town. 

Style and Theme

For consistency the wayfinding style should build upon the existing branding using the boroughs City of four seasons logo, style and color palette. 

Signage should include the four bold, saturated colors + natural unpolished elements such as wood and metal to represent the four seasons of arts, entertainment and recreational opportunities. 


Edinboro has four main entry points that intersect at the entrance of the downtown district. Unfortunately, if a driver is traveling east or west on Plum (6N) and not paying attention, it’s highly likely they could pass downtown without even knowing it was there. 

Edinboro should not be a ‘blink and you’ll miss it community’. 

On an average day, there are an estimated 13,400 vehicles a day passing through the Plum and Erie Street intersection according to the Erie County PENNDOT AADT* map.

If even 5% of those vehicles stopped and spent $20 locally that’s over $4.8 million per year into the local economy. 

*AADT is a basic measurement that indicates vehicle traffic load on a road segment. It measures how busy a road is and is a critical input parameter in many transportation planning applications as well as for fund allocation to transportation agencies.

So, how do we get people to stop and get out of their cars?

The first step is to get their attention. Using public art installations and wayfinding signage indicates that something exciting exists here.

Remember, a key component to placemaking is exploring and leveraging what makes a place truly unique. So, to a driver who has just passed through possibly many similar communities – What makes Edinboro look and feel unique? Public art and wayfinding are strong tools to grab attention and help visitors navigate the amenities your community has to offer.

It is recommended that the borough explores investment in a gateway entrance installation. This could be done in a number of ways but could include a gateway arch over Erie Street, pillar style installations at the intersection corners with large vehicle signage facing the street, and pedestrian information (map, events) on the back, painted, stamped and stained concrete or pavers through crosswalks and/or the main intersection.

The secondary goal of getting people out of their cars and exploring the community is to get them to come back again! This is where we want to get the map of amenities and annual events in their hands.

See the map

Wayfinding - it’s not just for tourists anymore!

Finally, wayfinding is not just for visitors to your community. Throughout the visioning process and in stakeholder interviews we heard a couple of sentiments more than a few times:

There isn’t enough parking downtown

Edinboro does not have a parking problem, it has a walking problem. As in most small communities drivers expect to be able to pull up and park directly in front of their destination. Parking even a half a block away feels off putting and many will claim they won’t stop if they have to park so far away.  

However, the same driver will park in a Walmart parking lot, walk into the store, all around the aisles of the store, and back to their vehicle without any hesitation. This trip might not seem like a lot but could easily be more than twice the distance as walking the entire downtown district while parking at the mall. 

The difference is simply perception.

Public art and wayfinding signage can encourage people to walk by ensuring it’s not as far as you think and creating interesting spaces that people want to explore. 

Why do we like to wander the aisles at stores? Because you never know what you might find, why can’t communities be like that as well? (They can!) 

Let’s get everyone used to multi-modal transportation, it’s healthier, safer and better for the local economy

People who have lived here for years don’t even know (__ local amenity) exists.

Another key finding related to wayfinding is the perception that many local residents and those who work in town aren’t aware of the existing offerings Edinboro has to offer. Its hard to believe in a community of 5,000+ people this can be true but it is.

In every community, no matter the size, there will always be people who aren’t aware of certain events, amenities, etc. and on the other side there will always be event organizers and business leaders wondering why.

Part of this is often due to the wide variety of communication channels in our modern world. It used to be something was in the paper or on the news and everyone just knew. With declining readerships and endless streaming entertainment and social media platforms available it is no longer easy to get a message out.

This is where the benefit of being highly publicly visible is immensely helpful. If the public art in Edinboro starts installing pieces highlighting the year round recreational activities and events available, directional signage points to locations, and printed maps appear in local businesses, it will be hard to ignore.

This strategy builds your community’s brand and offerings into surround sound. Seeing and hearing about something consciously or unconsciously over and over helps amplify and instill the message. In marketing it’s called the rule of 7 – someone must see or hear something seven times before they consider buying it. If Edinboro was a product – would you buy it?

Timeline for Implementation


ECED Arts Committee + Borough of Edinboro


A professionally designed wayfinding strategy should be a critical component to Edinboro’s priorities for the future. However, it will be a significant investment with a large price tag. As the Borough works to find funding for design and implementation, there are other low cost ways to kick off a wayfinding strategy.

Atlas recommends using Walk your City as a great option. This organization helps communities make street signs for people: campaigns of pedestrian and bike signage that show the distance, in minutes, to everyday amenities. These campaigns encourage more active transportation choices, making communities healthier, safer, and more vibrant.

Benefits include:

  • Test with a pilot before long term investment
  • Affordable, fun and engaging
  • Great opportunity for public engagement
  • Can roll out with
  • Support local businesses
  • Kickstart conversations around walkability

From their site: Walk [Your City] grew out of a simple question: why don’t people walk more? Given that half of all trips taken in the US are less than three miles, there’s plenty of opportunity for folks to walk or bike (rather than drive) to reach useful destinations nearby. When we began to ask this question in our community, we learned that the perception of distance was often greater than the physical distance itself. (Sound familiar?)

Signs are affordable, well designed, easy to order and install and even include a QR code for more information.


Q2 2021

Public roll out of the placemaking action plan! If possible – consider an immediate online engagement opportunity through social media. If the committee + borough already have a little funding available and a location ready to get a mural up this year – ask the public for inspiration ideas, vote to choose an artist, location, etc.

Review the rest of the year assuming social distancing/virtual events and then plan for 2022 hopefully assuming things will be “back to normal”.

Make a goal of two additions to events in fall/winter 2021. Remember, it’s ok to start small! The first couple events should be heavily public engagement opportunities to make a splash in the rollout!

Q3 2021

First event! – Example: Create a City of Four Seasons mural in conjunction with the Homegrown Harvest Festival. A few options include:

  • Hire an artist to paint mural outline and invite the public to participate by filling in the spaces.
  • Or – invite the community to share inspiration for the mural combined with feedback from the placemaking process to incorporate into the design.
  • And/or – work with the high school / University arts departments/clubs to help create the piece with student involvement.

Learn more about Walk Your City.



To fulfill this vision with high-quality installations, it will, of course, come with a price tag. But while funding is important, the most critical component is leadership. There are plenty of funding opportunities out there but without the right leaders who have the capacity and resources to devote to the implementation, the likelihood of these ideas coming to fruition is minimal.

Luckily, Edinboro already has a number of local champions in arts and culture. Supporting, developing, and funding human and social capital will be the basis for this implementation strategy.

There are a number of different ways to model this but a few recommended ideas for consideration include:

  • The city funds a contracted position dedicated to implementation, public engagement and/or grant writing for the Arts Commission. This could be housed within the borough staff or with ECED Arts to support the existing leadership. 
  • An internship program through the city focused on supporting the arts commission through various implementation tasks, public engagement and/or grant writing.
  • PennSERVE / Americorps VISTA: The public art plan may be eligible for additional implementation support by hosting an Americorps member. There are a number of relevant examples of how this partnership could work, here are a few:
  • Grant funding is available on a Federal (Competitive) and State (Formula) level.

Contact the PennSERVE Office for more information.

Creative placemaking grants program

Project-based funding for arts, culture, and design activities that strengthen communities by advancing local economic, physical, and/or social outcomes.Requires a partnership between a local government entity and nonprofit organization.

Due Date: Possibly August, but the next round has not been announced

Amount: Cost share/matching grants range from $25,000 to $150,000, with a minimum cost share/match equal to the grant amount.

For more information, click here.

Offers support primarily to small organizations for projects in all artistic disciplines that extend the reach of the arts to populations that are underserved. Challenge America features an abbreviated application, a robust structure of technical assistance, and grants for a set amount of $10,000

Note: registrations due in March 30 and April 13

Due Date: April 27-May 4, 2021

Full calendar here

Amount: Grants require a cost share/match of $10,000 consisting of cash and/or in-kind contributions. Total project costs must be at least $20,000 or greater.

For more information, click here.

Annual grants to the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development that are further allocated on a formula basis to approximately 200 local governments within Pennsylvania.

Housing rehabilitation, public services, community facilities, infrastructure improvement, development and planning. Must be used for activities that benefit low- and moderate-income persons, eliminate blight or meet an urgent need.

Public art projects could potentially qualify.

For more information, click here.

Resources may be available for historic art exhibits.

For more information, click here.

True Value Foundation provides 20 gallon paint grants through the Painting a Brighter Future program.

Note: Must include a youth development / leadership component to the project.

Due Date: March 31, 2021

Amount: 20-gallons of paint + materials

For more information, click here.

The COVID-19 Cultural and Museum Preservation Grant Program provides grants to cultural organizations and museums that experienced a loss of revenue from the closure by the proclamation of disaster emergency by the Governor on March 6, 2020.

Amount: $25,000 – $500,000

For more information, click here.