“I'm kind of a West Coast girl,” says Fang, a Seattle, Wash., native who attended college in California and currently lives in Shadyside.
Now she's exploring that world more through art, particularly with Painting Main, a recently launched fundraising project that features postcards with her hand-painted, watercolor illustrations of various local businesses.
Fang says Painting Main was inspired by her sense of longing for her favorite food and drink establishments shut down during COVID-19.
“It was sad to see so many empty storefronts,” she says. “Ordering takeout helps, but it's not the full experience, the sitting with friends, and the music and ambiance.”
Her website currently has postcards depicting two coffeehouses, Arriviste Coffee Bar in Shadyside and Ineffable Cà Phê in Lawrenceville, and restaurants Casa Brasil on Bryant Street and Nancy's Revival, a long-time Wilkinsburg diner.
The postcards come in various sizes and are priced from $4 or pay-what-you-can. Proceeds will go toward the highlighted businesses or to charities chosen by the restaurant or coffeehouse owners.
Since it started on May 20, she says the project has raised over $500.
Fang believes the project highlights the importance of investing financially in small businesses as a way to “stimulate local economies.” She also wanted to “prioritize businesses that serve low-to-moderate income communities, are women/minority/immigrant-owned, or are newly opened, as they've been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.”
It also serves as a reminder of how essential small businesses are to the fabric and character of a neighborhood. Fang points out how the businesses featured in the project tend to be “very community-minded.” For example, Nancy's Revival has been operating in Wilkinsburg since 1976 (formerly Nancy's Diner, it was bought and renamed by Revival Chili in 2019).
The other three businesses were chosen for what they bring to their respective neighborhoods — Ineffable Cà Phê focuses on Vietnamese cafe culture and food, Arriviste supports local artists with monthly gallery shows, and Casa Brasil hosts Brazilian music nights and other cultural events.
She points to the thesis of the project, which “seeks to celebrate small businesses not only as providers of much-needed services, but also as creators of essential thirdspaces where community love, cultural exchange, and precious memories are born.”
“I hope I can capture that a little bit on paper,” says Fang.