Penn State Fayette unveils historical installation to accompany Melega mural

The campus’ iconic mural is now commemorated with historical context, biographical information and personal artifacts.

LEMONT FURNACE, Pa. — Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus has unveiled a historical installation to accompany the Eberly Building’s iconic mural, "The Spirit of Service" by Frank L. Melega.

The mural was commissioned by the Second National Bank of Uniontown and completed in 1954. The mural, over 10 feet tall and 41 feet wide, took one year to complete. Melega worked on-site, at the bank, applying oil paints to imported Belgian linen canvas.

When the bank's ceilings were lowered to conserve energy in 1977, the mural was taken down and gifted to the Fayette campus. In 2001, "The Spirit of Service" was permanently installed in the Eberly Building and remains today in the Corporate Training Center auditorium.

The accompanying installation, designed by Patrick Daugherty, artist and part-time instructor at Penn State Fayette, features a detailed history of the mural and the artist, along with three studies that illustrate Melega’s creative process for the mural. A paintbrush, pencil and piece of canvas from the artist’s collection are included.

The mural features familiar scenes of farming, education, construction, coke ovens, patch houses, a train, tourism and more. Many of the figures in the painting were modeled after friends and relatives of Melega's.

“When I was growing up in Uniontown, I was fascinated by the mural in the bank," said Daugherty. "Today, 'The Spirit of Service' is a jewel of the Fayette campus, but many people don’t know the history behind it. I’m happy that this installation will provide that context.”

In 1999, Daugherty co-founded the Frank L. Melega Art Museum in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, with Norma Ryan, former Brownsville mayor, and Frank R. Melega, son of the artist, who visited the campus for the unveiling.

“I grew up with this mural. It’s a real story of western Pennsylvania and the ways common people made a living,” said Frank R. Melega. “That’s the purpose of art — to enhance your life, to make you say, ‘I was part of that. I know where that is.’ My father’s mural shows our small section of life on Earth.”

Charles Patrick, chancellor and chief academic officer at Fayette, helped to facilitate the new installation.

“We are thrilled to have the history of 'The Spirit of Service' represented on our campus so that our community and our guests can better understand what it means and what it has been through,” said Patrick.

For inquiries about the mural, contact Daugherty at [email protected]. To schedule a visit, contact the Office of Continuing Education at 724-430-4211.