“I love them all.” But he says he really, really misses his morning cappuccinos. “As soon as they’re back open,” he adds, “I’m there.”
When he first moved to the neighborhood in 2012, Gurwin says Lawrenceville was in the midst of its wave of expansion. “As a graphic designer working with brands and logos, it was the perfect marriage and really great to participate in that neighborhood growth,” he says. “I’ve really always felt connected to the neighborhood for that reason.”
It’s hard to miss Gurwin’s identity work around town. He’s done logos for Dancing Gnome Brewery, Patagonia Pittsburgh, and Fern Hollow Bicycles. S.K. Frey chocolate company owner Sally Frey praises his design skills, crediting the designer’s branding with bringing people to her products. And they might just bring people to Pennsylvania, too. As drivers enter the state, they’re now greeted with the artist’s beautiful, larger-than-life lettering skills, “Welcome to Pennsylvania, pursue your happiness,” designed by Gurwin for the Pennsylvania Tourism billboards under the art direction of Pittsburgh design agency Red House Communications.
Gurwin says that’s a cool project for him to see come to life, and shares that he has friends who send him pictures of his sign as they drive into the state; but, it’s work decorating the businesses of his hometown that seems to make him most happy. And when he saw how many of the doors on those businesses had to close because of the pandemic, Gurwin knew he wanted to do something to help.
So with extra time on his hands, a determination to help his neighborhood, and the luck of sharing a studio with a sign painter (Andrew Paul of Run Rabbit Gilding) who was out of town when the pandemic began, Gurwin “put on his sign painting hat” and designed hand-lettered signs to distribute for free throughout Lawrenceville and which can now be seen displayed in windows up and down Butler Street.
There’s “Shop Online, Support This Small Business,” “Order by Phone, Support This Small Business,” and “Order Online, Support This Small Business.” The signs that include a word in red are hand-painted by Gurwin, set up in Run Rabbit Gildings’ side of the studio, tracing his design repeatedly with Tempera Paints (“the paints you used in elementary school in the big ol’ tubes”). His pals Ashley Olinger and Dylan Devine stepped in to help print dozens of the light and dark blue versions of the signs with their risograph printer, making Gurwin's old-timey design feel even more reminiscent of advertisements from the 1950s.
send him an email to schedule a time to pick up a free sign from his porch.)
But why give the signs away for free when he himself is losing money during the pandemic? Because Gurwin appreciates “the sense of togetherness that comes from everyone helping everyone else, neighbors looking out for neighbors.” And, one can tell after talking to the artist for even a short while, he just really, really loves his neighborhood.
“Even though the doors are closed and the windows are down, it still feels like the neighborhood is connecting with itself. There’s still a community,” Gurwin says. “That’s what I wanted the signs to do. Make it clear that these buildings aren’t vacant and silent.”