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McKeesport Area students make murals to brighten Kane center

| Friday, March 15, 2013, 3:51 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
John J. Kane Regional Center of McKeesport nursing supervisor Brenda Smith and environmental service manager Andy Geffert talk with McKeesport Area High School students as they carry a mural that soon will hang in the local nursing home.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
John J. Kane Regional Center of McKeesport administrator Charlene Yoder, right, and Kane Foundation board member Joan Burns listen as McKeesport Area High School students describe their mural project.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
McKeesport Area High School art teacher Diana Pazuchanics-Catley poses with students who painted a mural with red and pink tones during Thursday's reveal to Kane staff.

McKeesport Area High School students are bonding with the area's elderly through the power of art.

On Thursday, representatives of the John J. Kane Regional Center of McKeesport and the Kane Foundation accepted three student-designed murals that will be displayed in the elevator area on each of the facility's floors.

During the first semester, Kane representatives reached out to high school art teacher Diana Pazuchanics-Catley, who nominated her painting students for a journey of artistic, intellectual, social and emotional growth.

After a planning meeting among district staff and Kane representatives, the nursing home passed along information about Kane's services and career opportunities. The facility provided photographs of residents engaged in activities and daily living.

Using Adobe Photoshop, Pazuchanics-Catley digitally altered the images for expressionist painting ideas.

“Students were then asked to research famous quotes that would support the visual image they were painting,” she said. “Some of the quotes were serious, others humorous, uplifting or inspirational.”

Choosing themes as simple as a heartbeat or as complex as strength or friendship, students looked for ideas that relate to people from all walks of life and all generations.

“It doesn't matter if you're young and in high school or if you're older and in a nursing home,” said junior Jermaisha Pratt, whose mural section reflected friendship. “If you have a friend who is always there, it can keep you happy. You have someone to share your situation with.”

Each participating student painted a section of three color-coded murals. The individual paintings were made on sheets of masonite that were cut by McKeesport Area Career and Technology Center's building construction department.

When the paintings were finished, students in the auto body department spray painted 4-by-8-foot panels, upon which the images were glued.

“The project is very diverse,” senior Aaron Bagrowski said. “You don't have just one way of expressing something. If you look at these paintings, they're all different but they share a common message.”

Joan Burns, a retired McKeesport Area educator and Kane Foundation board member, was impressed to see the finished murals.

“You're going to bring a smile to the faces of a lot of residents, their families and the staff,” Burns told students.

Kane McKeesport nursing supervisor Brenda Smith said those smiles are what she had in mind when seeking students for the mural project.

“When we walked off the elevator it was bland,” Smith said. “We wanted to do something to create a home-like atmosphere.”

Kane McKeesport administrator Charlene Yoder said the students' willingness to brighten the facility — along with the lives of its residents — shows that young people truly care about their community.

“The journey has ended for the student painters at the high school, but we want the images to continue their journey into the hearts of the McKeesport community,” Pazuchanics-Catley said. “It is our goal to inspire all the residents, staff and visitors who pass through the doors of Kane each day.”

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or