YORK COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — In 2020 abc27 did a story with local wildlife artist Teanna Byerts, who was painting an 8-foot-by-16-foot mural for the Christmas Magic show at York County’s Rocky Ridge Park.
“The reason the mural happened in the first place,” she explained, “was because it was during COVID, and we could not have a live Santa, so ‘What are we going to do?'”
The mural, which showed a lot of local animals gathered around a “Woodlands Santa,” proved very popular, and is coming back for its third year. Byerts is creating some new art to go with it.
“We’re doing lifesized murals, as standees,” she said. Placed out in front of the original mural, they will help create some depth — a three-dimensional effect.
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When we joined her at Nixon County Park (where there’s space to work indoors) she was in the roughing-out stage. She’d made simple sketches on the plywood cut-outs, which she uses as a guide to the finished product.
“So I have to put a base coat down, and I’ll go over, like, layers and layers until it’s more refined, and it’s going to be realistic with a little bit of whimsey.”
One standee is all about our little feathered friends — “birbs” as Byerts likes to call them. “The internet meme of ‘birb’ has become so embedded in our culture that Audubon actually has a definition for it,” she said, “so anything small, round and fluffy is a birb.”
Byerts noted these are birds that stay around through the winter, and that you might see at your backyard bird feeder. Both the birds and their perch were barely started. “This is a small white pine tree, it looks crazy now because this is only a rough sketch. So eventually it will be green, and it will look like a small white pine tree.”
While we were there Byerts was concentrating on the other standee, an animal that’s fairly new to the Midstate — the coyote.
“The eastern coyote is a different beast from the western coyote,” Byerts explained. “A good century ago, coyotes started moving eastward to fill in the space vacated by the wolves that we extirpated. So as the coyotes moved eastward, they moved through parts of Canada, and they hooked up with wolves. So by the time they got to Pennsylvania they actually have wolf DNA, as well as coyote. They’re larger, and their social structure is more wolflike.’
“They’re awesome animals. They’re very adaptable, they’re clever, they’re even found in cities. They’re tolerant of human interference in a way that wolves aren’t. So, cool animals.”
Byerts’ coyote will provide a lot of the promised whimsey.
“Clearly he’s carrying a package,” she said. You’ll also want to look for a tip of the hat to a certain well-known coyote from popular culture. “There’s going to be a little ‘Acme’ at the bottom of the bag,” Byerts noted with a laugh.
Byerts hopes that not only will visitors to Rocky Ridge enjoy the mural, but it will also get them thinking about what’s going on beyond the lights.
“You’re walking through these woods full of lights and things, and displays and little food stands, but you’re in the woods,” she said. “You’re in a natural environment, at night, soaking that in. So this is another focal point along the way to show some of the magic and wonder of the environment that is right at our back door.”