Tube City Almanac

July 07, 2008

Faces in the Crowd

Category: News || By

Jason Togyer/Almanac photo

It's usually not polite to stare.

But it would be impolite not to stare --- or at least take a good look --- at the new mural taking shape on Market Street, Downtown.

With help from students at McKeesport Area High School, Wilkinsburg and Pittsburgh, nonprofit group called the MLK Community Mural Project is decorating the side of the former Abriola Auto Parts store with a collage of faces: white, black, native American and Asian.

Jason Togyer/Almanac photo"We've got a good bunch of kids here," says teacher and artist Jeff Katrencik of Houston, Washington County, who is helping lead the team working on the mural Downtown.

The mural is one of about two dozen that will be completed this summer, says artist Edward Rawson of Squirrel Hill, chief operating officer of the MLK project. Another is underway right now at the Port Authority's park and ride lot on Duquesne Boulevard in Duquesne.

Funding is provided in part by National City Bank, with additional support from several local foundations.

Some materials are provided by PPG Industries and Golden Artist Colors of New Berlin, N.Y., Rawson says.

City native Robert Qualters, an artist who has worked on murals throughout the Mon Valley, is among the MLK project's board members.

Founded by artist and graphic designer Kyle Holbrook, the group painted 26 murals last year, primarily along the Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway.

Jason Togyer/Almanac photo"We work with a lot of high school age kids, 15 to 18," Rawson says. "All of them are interested in the arts."

The MLK project's murals have depicted a variety of subjects, including local history, people, places and events. The theme of the mural Downtown is the connection between different people in the community --- friends, family members and neighbors --- and the faces include those of several city residents.

Students working on the community murals are paid for their time, Rawson says.

"We like to get kids from different neighborhoods mixing it up," he says.

When the mural is complete, it will be sealed with a protective anti-graffiti coating supplied by PPG. The MLK project also has a $5,000 maintenance fund for each mural that will provide ongoing repairs for the next 10 years.

Rawson and Katrencik say the students working on the murals are stoked to realize that something they're doing today will remain part of the neighborhood for years to come.

"Sometimes the real story is working with the kids," not the murals themselves, Rawson says.

Jason Togyer/Almanac photo

Your Comments are Welcome!

The mural is a great addition to the landscape of McKeesport. We were on Water Street Saturday afternoon enjoying live jazz in the afternoon. It was great! The music was by the Pittsburgh Jazz All Stars, you could be reasonable priced beverages ($3 for an ICLight) and the crowd enjoyed the dry weather. I over heard Spider Rondenelli tell the crowd that additional music concerts are on the way ! We hope this will help bring folks back in to town to enjoy the verdant banks of the Yough River.
Donn Nemchick - July 07, 2008

Wonder if those folks could retouch the mural down on Lysle Blvd? It’s been fading badly the last couple of years.
ebtnut - July 07, 2008

Cool. Bob Qualters is an amazing guy and an icon in the social justice art movement.
Scott Beveridge (URL) - July 09, 2008

Why Don’t we just turn MOOK loose on the city of McKeesport? These Murals may be great in some eyes but in others it looks like Graffiti.
I sure wouldn’t be too happy to have one of these painted across the street from me. We ought to just paint “Chew Mail Pouch” signs on all the sides of our houses so that we will fit in. Art is all well and good but leave it in the art museums where the folks who want to view it can go. Remember Beauty is in the eye of the beholder….....
Cox's Jimmy - July 10, 2008

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