The message behind Plattsburgh's newest mural

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) The city of Plattsburgh unveiled its latest public mural Wednesday honoring the late actress and Plattsburgh-native Jean Arthur.
Organizers hope the new homage to Arthur will encourage the dreamers of today to shoot for the stars like Plattsburgh's home town icon did in her day.

The year was 1900. Gladys Green was born in her Oak Street Home in Plattsburgh. In the years to follow, the Green family moved around a lot. "It seems her family had a bit of a nomadic lifestyle," said Matt Boire, a local history buff.

Before hitting the silver screen in the 1930s, Gladys Green changed her name to Jean Arthur. "After her two favorite heroes which are Joan of Arc and King Arthur," said Julia Devine with Outside Art.

It was a name fit for a star, and that she was. "In 1934 she was paid $119,000, which was one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood. She made more than the president of the United States for comparison," Boire said.

Arthur was featured in three Frank Capra films -- "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town," "You Can't Take it With You," and "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." Her Hollywood legacy includes an Academy Award nomination for best actress.

But Arthur also left her mark on Plattsburgh. "We wanted to feature a woman in the arts. We thought it was really important, especially in the arts corridor of downtown Plattsburgh, and she was kind of perfect." said Amy Guglielmo with Outside Arts.

The new 47x50-foot mural painted on the back of the old Merchant's National Bank pays tribute to the star -- the largest mural in the Lake City.

"That little area that has been one of the most unattractive areas in all of the city is going to soon be one of the most attractive areas," said Plattsburgh Mayor Colin Read.

The mural was painted by Brendon Palmer-Angell, another Plattsburgh native who's been successful in the arts. "The response has been so great, there has been just so much love," Palmer-Angell said.

He says this is the biggest mural he's ever done, but that it also has a deeper meaning for him. During his research, he says he found that Arthur struggled with anxiety, like he does. "That it's not all just this sort of refined facade, the challenges behind the screen. In a way, that gave me a lot of confidence," he said.

"She's a great symbol to the community," Devine said. She says the goal is to show the future stars of Plattsburgh that no dream is too big. "Dream like Jean."

Jean Arthur's birthday is next Thursday, October 17. She would be 119 years-old. To celebrate Outside Art is hosting a showing of one of her films, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" at the Strand.