Artists, community volunteers begin painting city's largest mural

click to enlarge Artists, community volunteers begin painting city's largest mural (2)
CP Photo: Dontae Washington

Pittsburgh artists Kyle Holbrook and Dana Morris have begun working on “the largest mural in Pittsburgh history.”

“What we are doing here today is using art to form unity and inspire more people to practice self-love, Morris says during the project launch on Saturday. “People need to know that they are creative and unique in their own way.”

The project will be conducted in three phases. Phase one involves a Stop the Violence mural that will be painted entirely in orange. The mural is located by the Communitea Cafe on Center Avenue in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. Residents will be able to see the mural as they walk into the soon-to-open Salem’s Market and Grill in the Spring of next year. The location will be an expansion of the original Salem’s Market and Grill that is located in the Strip District.

Holbrook and Morris took part in making the mural, but they’re relying on volunteers from the community for the bulk of the painting.

“A lot of people feel like they are not artists because they never made a painting or drawing,” says Morris. “I feel like the more people who are involved then the more people can feel comfortable with interacting with each other.”

First Lady Michelle Gainey — wife of Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey — also participated in the project launch.

“I think that artists tend to paint what they see and live,” Gainey tells Pittsburgh City Paper. “So, when you invite young people and members of the community to be a part of the mural, you are allowing them to paint what they see and what they want to see and to me, that is very special.”

click to enlarge Artists, community volunteers begin painting city's largest mural (3)
CP Photo: Dontae Washington

Several city police officers also took part in painting the mural, which fell on the three-year anniversary of the death of fellow police officer Calvin Hall.

From August to October, Holbrook and Morris are expected to be joined by over 500 artists from around the world to start phase two.

The front of Salem’s will depict the store’s history alongside healthy eating encouragements and community images. The back of the store will showcase the history of the Hill District.

Next Year, Holbrook says he plans to take the project to a new level.

“In 2023, we plan to do a sculpture and mosaic walkways with QR,” says Holbrook. “People can own a QR code, and that code will make an augmented reality that they can walk into with their phones. People will find all sorts of things while doing it including coupons for Salem’s.”

He plans to follow that with lights and seating for Pittsburghers to enjoy some outdoor dining.

“The whole point of this is to have a landmark for the whole city in the black community,” says Holbrook. “People hear negative things about the Hill District, but now we are starting to see different communities come here. Having a landmark for the whole city can change the perception that people have as well as change how people feel about their community.”

For Holbrook, the assignment seems natural. Aside from generations of his family growing up here, Holbrook depicted the Granada Theater on the side of Black Beauties Lounge in 2007, and painted the August Wilson Mural in 2014.

“People forget that the Hill District used to be a mecca for entertainment and art,” Holbrook says. “Not just for Pittsburgh, but the entire world. We are working are way back to that. We have so much talent here that is going to be great for our future and it is exciting.