Wall project to bring together Natrona
Stevo Sadvary knelt in front of a cement board in the shape of a tomato in Natrona's Community Garden Tuesday afternoon to demonstrate how volunteers might arrange tiny pieces of red and green ceramic tile on its surface.
Sadvary, a Squirrel Hill-based mosaic artist, is working with the Natrona Comes Together Association and Habitat for Humanity Allegheny Valley to craft a Unification Wall at the community garden in the Natrona section of Harrison.
He has helped with other mosiac projects in the area, so he was more than happy to participate in this one.
"It's fun," Sadvary said. "I like my art to be seen by a lot of people."
The wall, which will surround the garden, will be made of gabions filled with multi-colored bricks, rocks and cement boards cut into garden shapes like flowers, carrots, butterflies and strawberries. The cement boards will be covered in colorful ceramic tiles.
A series of flag poles will be incorporated into the wall, said Bill Godfrey, president of Natrona Comes Together, and garden seating, or benches made of gabions, also are in the works.
"It's going to be very cool," Godfrey said of the project, funded through a $30,000 donation from ATI Allegheny Ludlum. "I think it's going to be very unique to Natrona."
"It's going to be more than a wall — it's almost like an instillation, like a garden design. It's really going to be an interactive art piece or utilitarian art piece."
Redland Brick in Cheswick donated the bricks.
"We're trying to not pollute as much as we can and do recycled things," Godfrey said.
The purpose of the wall is to keep garden workers safe from ATI trucks that use the road and also add aesthetics to the area. The garden, which sits on the corner of Federal and Greenwich streets in Harrison, is used by people of all ages and is across the street from a truck stop.
"There are a lot of young kids here," Godfrey said. "We're just really concerned that maybe a young child would run into the street."
Retired civil engineer and Habitat for Humanity volunteer Dennis Mialki came up with the idea to use gabions as opposed to something more industrial-looking like a concrete or brick wall.
He used gabions while doing relief work in Nepal in 2015. A village had been struck by an earthquake and ninety-three homes were destroyed, he said.
The destroyed homes were made of stone and mud mortar, Mialki said. Relief workers built the villagers new homes out of brick and concrete, but a bunch of stone was left over when the homes were torn down. Mialki didn't want to waste the stone, so he used it inside gabions to reinforce a dirt road and expand the village's parking area.
When approached about the garden wall, Mialki thought gabions would work well there, too.
"It's a much more organic-looking wall," he said. "I thought it being such it would be a better solution for a garden."
Mialki lives in West Tarentum, but grew up in Natrona.
He recognizes that Natrona is a disadvantaged area that needs help, so he hopes the project will bring the community together.
"One of the beauties of using a gabion wall is that it's very volunteer friendly and it's very unskilled labor friendly," he said. "I was able to teach a village of 400 people in Nepal how to put the cages together and fill them and I couldn't even speak their language."
Project organizers are searching for volunteers to help with the art and construction of the wall, which should take roughly four weeks to complete. It will be 2 feet deep, 4 feet high and 250 feet long.
Helen Strzesieski, a board member with Natrona Comes Together, will supervise volunteers on the project.
Like Mialki, Strzesieski lives in Tarentum but grew up in Natrona. She said she likes that the project is environmentally safe and thinks it will be beautiful.
"This will be something to catch your eye," she said.
Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4702, email@example.com, or on Twitter @maddyczebstrib.