County project off to successful start

MOUNT MORRIS — A historic work of art has captured the hearts of an entire community as it encompasses the story of leadership, courage, freedom, family and hope.

The Mount Morris Wall Mural dedication ceremony took place during Glory Days, which honors the life of Francis Bellamy. Bellamy’s words became our nation’s pledge in 1892. The version we know and honor today was revised in 1942 to include, One Nation Under God.

On June 8 Mount Morris Partners for Progress and the Village of Mount Morris teamed up to celebrate the near completion of the historic artwork.

William D’Angelo, Mount Morris Partners for Progress president, welcomed everyone to the Eighth Annual Glory Days in honor of Francis Bellamy. D’Angelo thanked everyone who had anything to do with the project from the beginning; especially Shawn Dunwoody, the artist from Rochester who has worked on it for weeks.

“It is our ideas that are up on this wall. We never knew what it was going to be. We thought it might be patriotic. This is art. This is history. This is Mount Morris,” he said. “We can always hold our heads up high to say Mount Morris was the first to get something done in Livingston County.”

Mount Morris Mayor Frank Provo said this was a great project for the whole community to get involved in.

“There was a lot of public input. Shawn (Dunwoody) took those ideas and gave us something great. I like what we have. I like where it is going to go. I hope it will be a start for more art to come into the village of Mount Morris,” he said.

Mount Morris Supervisor Chuck DiPasquale has always been proud of his hometown.

“This makes me even more proud of Mount Morris. I love that people stop and ask me where to find the mural. I love that we have something like this being put up in our town,” he said.

The Livingston County Inspirations Trail will hit all nine towns in the county, but this is the first to incorporate the concept. The hope is that other towns take the initiative for something similar on their walls.

D’Angelo said the trail is something bigger than Mount Morris. It is something that encompasses the entire county.

“It is supposed to bring people from the communities and from the outside to stop and take a look at each of the villages. Livingston County is one of the most beautiful regions in all of New York State, if not all of the United States. It all begins at the county level,” he said.

Louise Wadsworth, Livingston County Downtown coordinator, talked about the importance of the Inspirations Trail.

“I want to thank Greg O’Connell for saving this wall for us. It was about a year-and-a-half ago I had my first meeting with a group of people from around the county. I really wanted to do an Inspirational Trail, which would bring people from every community through the whole county. Kathy Link and Linda Gray put their heads together and decided that Mount Morris was going to be the first one,” she said. “I am so proud they picked Shawn Dunwoody to be the artist for this. He is the perfect person to do the first mural. He brought the whole community together. He really put everyone’s ideas on here, and it reflects the entire community. This is the standard for the rest of our towns to come up too.”

Shawn Dunwoody, Rochester artist, said he has been truly honored to work on this project.

“This has been a fantastic journey. I want to say thank you to all of you. This is not about what I am painting. This is about who you are in Mount Morris. I wanted to be that tool to put your voices out here. When I heard this was going to be the first piece on the Inspirations Trail, I knew it had to be something,” he said. “I went in with the intention that this is the first of many other things that will happen throughout the county. It needs to hit hard. It needs to be strong.”

Dunwoody said there were several meetings that took place to get this going. He met at the school several times to talk with the students, too.

“I got great information about the history of the town. I got great information about how it all developed into what it is today. I walked away from these meetings with so many ideas and so much spirit. I realized the strength of Mount Morris is developing new families. It has always been open about family and creating change,” he said. “I went with Francis Bellamy’s original pledge, because his vision was that he wanted any country to be able to salute and pledge their country. It is all about extending the world family, which is in the heart of Mount Morris.”

Dunwoody wants the community to gather once the project is complete and sign the bottom of the mural. It all belongs to them.

One thing that really made the day touching was the entire Charles Peritore Family showed for the ceremony. Charles Peritore, a WWII Veteran, passed away recently in Mount Morris. His family had him honored by placing his image on top of the mural for everyone to see.

“I get goosebumps every time I look at it,” Charles Peritore Jr. said. “I love coming over to see it, so I can look at him. We found a color photo of dad to give to him, so he could copy the image for the mural. We are very proud of dad, and he was a very humble man. He was very well known in Mount Morris. We brought everyone down to the ceremony to see the mural. We are all very honored to have dad up on the wall.”

The mural should be done within a couple weeks. Future plans include more historic figures, Letchworth falls, Mount Morris Dam, and more. Dunwoody is able to focus on the project by staying in an apartment provided by Greg O’Connell as he works on his masterpiece. The legends that have made their home on the wall include Gen. William A. Mills, John Wesley Powell, Ross Barnes, Mary Seymour Howell, Mary Jemison, and Francis Bellamy.