Miles of Mules was a public art project designed to celebrate the richness of history and the beauty of art along the Delaware and Lehigh canals. The Miles of Mules project was started by the National Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor then expanded through the following partners: the Cultural Council of Luzerne County in Wilkes Barre, the Banana Factory in Bethlehem, and the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown.
The Mule was chose as a playful and dynamic symbol of our regional heritage. In the 19th century, mules played an indispensable role in the area’s economic and social history, as coal mines, canals and farms flourished along the Corridor. Picturesque towns throughout the region owe their prosperity to the mules who pulled mine cars and towed canal boats, hauling coal from the ground to the surface, and then on to markets in New York and Philadelphia.
Originally, there were a total of 175 sitting and standing mules produced and painted by the Theme Factory in Philadelphia July 2002. In time, many mules were moved, damaged, destroyed, lost, and 45 of the mules were auctioned off to the public.
To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the project, the Doylestown community began a public effort of trying to relocate as many of the mules began. Photographs were taken of located mules and collected onto the Doylestown website.
Two of the Mules were designed by Mr. Imagination. One remains near the bus stop by the Banana Factory.The second, “Alferd” is in Lehigh University’s permanent art collection.
One mule was rescued by local businessman Brian Tallarico, when he noticed the back legs were wrecked from so many people climbing it during its public installation location near the Taylor Gas station. After spending two years in Tallarico’s Chocolate shop, the mule was adopted by Jon Clark and stayed in Home and Planet until ArtsLehigh brought the mule to campus; hoping some creative students would make it a new artful discovery.
This “recue” mule has been loved by many in South Bethlehem.
As of August 2012, 45 mules have been found. At the same time of year, the mule we see right here was donated by Dr. Silagh White to Lehigh University’s newly formed Art, Architecture, and Design Club. The members of the club collaboratively came up with ideas for the mule and 30 sketches were submitted. It wasn’t long before the club agreed on the winning idea by Danielle Heymann, which was then painted in the style and interpretation of the members who volunteered to paint the design.
Standing near the entrance of the Fairchild-Martindale Library, the Art, Architecture, and Design Club hopes that the mule will now not only be enjoyed by the many students, faculty members, and visitors passing by; but will also serve as a reminder and support of its original idea in the importance of history and art.