Artists and community volunteers begin painting the largest mural in town
Pittsburgh artists Kyle Holbrook and Dana Morris began work on “the largest mural in Pittsburgh history”.
“What we’re doing here today is using art to build unity and inspire more people to practice self-love,” Morris said at the project launch on Saturday. “People need to know that they are creative and unique in their own way.”
The project will be carried out in three phases. The first phase includes a Stop the Violence mural that will be painted entirely in orange. The mural is located near the Communitea Cafe on Center Avenue in the Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Residents will be able to view the mural when they enter Salem’s Market and Grill which will soon open in the spring of next year. The location will be an extension of the original Salem’s Market and Grill located in the Strip District.
Holbrook and Morris were involved in the making of the mural, but they rely on community volunteers for most of the painting.
“A lot of people feel like they’re not artists because they’ve never painted or drawn,” Morris says. “I feel like the more people involved, the more people can feel comfortable interacting with each other.”
First Lady Michelle Gainey – wife of Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey – also helped launch the project.
“I think artists tend to paint what they see and experience,” Gainey told the Pittsburgh City Paper. “So when you invite young people and community members to be part of the mural, you allow them to paint what they see and what they want to see and for me that’s very special.”
Several city police officers also participated in the painting of the mural, which fell on the third 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 begin phase two.
The Salem storefront will depict the store’s history alongside healthy eating encouragement and community imagery. The back of the store will feature 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 mosaic sculpture and walkways with QR,” says Holbrook. “People can own a QR code, and that code will create an augmented reality that they can enter with their phone. People will find all kinds of things by doing it, including coupons for Salem’s.
He plans to follow that up with lights and seating for Pittsburgh residents to enjoy 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’re starting to see different communities coming here. Having a landmark for the whole city can change the perception people have as well as the way people feel about their community.
For Holbrook, the mission seems natural. In addition to the generations of his family who grew up here, Holbrook represented the Granada Theater on the side of the Black Beauties Lounge in 2007 and painted August Wilson’s mural in 2014.
“People forget that the Hill District was once a mecca for entertainment and art,” says Holbrook. “Not just for Pittsburgh, but for the whole world. We are working on that. We have so much talent here that is going to be great for our future and that’s exciting.