CARLISLE, Pa. (WHTM) — There’s something new at the Carlisle Police Department. One of the hallways now displays a six-foot by six-foot mural. It’s based on a design by local artist Jeremy Tritle, showing two clasped hands, one black, one white, in front of an American Flag. It was scaled up and painted by art students from the Carlisle School District.

The mural is the idea of Carlisle Chief of Police Taro D. Landis. “The idea of this started just before the pandemic,” he says. “We were looking for ways to unite the community. And the Carlisle School District and the art department were so absolutely fantastic in coming aboard.”

Ashley Gogoj, the Program Chair for the Art and Design Department at Carlisle School District, asked for volunteers.

“I had five students who were interested,” she says, “And we were in the hybrid model of instruction, only half the students in on two days and the other half in on the other two days. So this allowed me to pull kids from different groups, because we still had to social distance, and abide by COVID protocols, so we did small teams of students and we worked over five days to paint the mural.”

Most of the students had never tackled large-scale painting before. “When you’re working larger, you’re constantly having to step back, and look, does it look like what you’re trying to create,” Gogoj said. Complicating the matter, the hallway is rather narrow. The artists had to back into a room across the hall to properly examine their progress.

The straight lines of the flag and the bends and curves of the clasped hands presented their own unique challenges. Student Dervla Dolan spent a lot of time trying to get the hands right. “Finding the right shades, and when dark parts would hit other dark parts, it’s hard to find definition between them, so figuring out the highlights and the shadows was really hard,” she says. There are a lot of layers painted over other layers. I mean, the artist is their worst critic, so I keep on seeing the places where I messed up.” she adds with a laugh.

Student Ella Bowman says getting the stars lined up was trickier than she expected. “What we ended up doing is we made a stencil and ended up stamping each star so it would be unified,” she said. “But I think that was the most difficult because we had to align it in straight lines coming down.”

‘It was my first time working on a large scale, and I like that we did a social justice piece because the U.S. is more divided than ever, but now I think we need to remember that we’re all in this together.”

Dervla Dolan agrees. “I really care about this sort of thing,” she said. “Unity and just keeping people together. It’s sad, but we’re really divided and things are really divisive along multiple lines, but we’re all Americans and we all should have at least some common interests.”

Chief Landis thinks of the mural as a message about both our needs and our hopes. “Our country seems to be falling apart at the seams. But we’ve been through this before. I think the American flag and the texturing of it, it’s worn, it looks like it’s been through something, the shading, the hands together, actually holding on to each other, is very symbolic of what we have to do in our nation today.”