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McKeesport Auberle mural project inspires peace through painting

About Michael DiVittorio

By Michael DiVittorio

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, 4:36 a.m.

Auberle youth and staff learned about peace through painting as part of a mural project with Moving the Lives of Kids.

Murals were presented in McKeesport on Thursday afternoon.

Artists said 31 youths from across Auberle's 16 programs collaborated with the professional group to create the art that will be displayed throughout the facility.

“It's not about painting a pretty picture, even though I think we did that,” said Moving the Lives of Kids executive artist Kyle Hornick.

“It was something to do. It was fun,” said 15-year-old Treyvon P. “I enjoyed it. It helps me vent and I express how I feel through drawing and painting. It's like a coping skill ... Where it says ‘love with the hearts,' I did that. I did the cross down in the corner and I did a couple other things down in the corner. It was peace through painting.”

The mural project is part of Auberle's certification process through The Sanctuary Model. That model integrates current brain and medical research, best practices in promoting emotional, mental and behavioral health and healing strategies for at-risk youth and their families.

“We really wanted to focus in on the topic of sanctuary,” Auberle director of residential services Gary Hazy said. “The concept of personal safety, the concept of positive self-image and how can we take it from what's on your brain, what you wish to be and get it on paper. The whole process probably lasted five or six weeks. It was no small feat.”

“We found these projects have been really beneficial to our young people,” Auberle CEO John Lydon said. “You really have to get up close and personal to see the impact that our young people made on this. With the symbols and the words and the things that are really important to them.”

Messages painted on the murals include “love,” “hope,” “dream big,” “be friendly,” “it takes courage to ask for help,” and “play nice in the sandbox.”

Hornick said he worked with 22 boys and some staffers for their part of the project, and some of the teens helped teach techniques to the younger children.

“I think everything turned out great,” he said. “I'm real proud of them. From far away it looks like a color scheme or pattern, but when you get up close you see that each one tells its own story.”

Nathan P., 14, said he painted water and helped with the structure of the mural.

“It feels pretty good,” Nathan said about working on the project.

Moving the Lives of Kids artist Portia Hornick worked with nine Auberle girls.

“I had every girl take a piece of paper and write down their goals for the future and where they see themselves,” Hornick said. “I had them brainstorm as far as the sketches and what symbols they could draw ... They took their notes and incorporated that all around their portrait. After that we started our big mural.”

One girl wanted to be a shoe designer and painted a brand name. Another wanted to be a lawyer and painted a gavel.

“There was definitely some talent discovered during this process,” Hornick said. “They all did a really good job.”

Auberle and the mural group first collaborated on a project for the Westmoreland County Courthouse in 2011.

Hornick said the relationship between the organizations grew from there, and he was happy to be back at Auberle for another project.

Auberle's mural project was made possible by support from The Grable Foundation. More information about Auberle's certification in The Sanctuary Model is available online at

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1965, or



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