Murals give youngsters chance to shine, memorialize Pittsburgh playwright
Fashion lover Rayonna Woodson finds a lot of similarities between unique clothing pairings and the August Wilson mural she is helping with in the Hill District.
“I like it because it's so creative. So many colors and it's expressing,” said Woodson, 18, of Beltzhoover.
Woodson is among 10 teens and young adults creating segments of the mural in honor of Wilson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright from the Hill District, on a building on Centre Avenue. The students are working under the direction of the Moving Lives of Kids Art Center, or MLK, a nonprofit that works with youths to provide them with art education and paint murals.
“Oftentimes, they're neighborhoods that really needed some beautification,” said Kyle Holbrook, 36, a Wilkinsburg native and muralist who founded MLK in 2002.
MLK has enlisted about 5,000 teens and young adults to produce murals in 17 states and nine countries. In each city, local professional artists are brought on to work with young people.
By October, 87 young people will have created 15 murals on buildings and other sites in Pittsburgh, including the back of a bank on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill, Mad Mex restaurant in Oakland and at the North Side Coalition for Fair Housing on Brighton Road.
“The idea is to keep kids busy, also creating a positive peer group,” said Holbrook, who received a bachelor's degree in graphic design from The Art Institute of Pittsburgh in 2002.
With the Wilson mural, each of the 10 muralists will paint a section based on a play in “The Pittsburgh Cycle,” a series of 10 Wilson plays that chronicles the black experience through the 20th century.
Darrick Ambush, 20, of Homewood is basing his segment on Wilson's “Seven Guitars,” a 1995 play set in the Hill District in the 1940s.
“It's my first mural. … It's turning out good right now,” he said.
MLK introduces youngsters to careers they might not have considered, such as graphic design or working behind the scenes on movie sets, said Matthew James, spokesman for the group.
All young muralists participate in daily classes in which they learn art fundamentals from professionals and sketch their work before applying it to the murals, Holbrook said. For four to six weeks of work, most of the students receive stipends ranging from $700 to $1,200 each through the assistance of McAuley Ministries, The Heinz Endowments, Pittsburgh Summer Employment Program and The Bridge of Pittsburgh. Classroom space is funded by the Grable Foundation.
The work has taken MLK global. In the past year, Holbrook and two Carlow University professors worked in Uganda, where Holbrook led mural projects, using color and art therapy, with mentally and physically disabled children at eight schools. The professors assessed the impact of the work he was doing.
He also traveled to Portugal, where he spoke at a conference about his work in Uganda and was commissioned to produce a mural.
“I was really inspired by what we did in Uganda and Portugal and really looking at a deeper impact that we can make through public art and starting to look at how art … and education can really empower some of these communities,” Holbrook said.
Holbrook was on the advisory board for the founding of the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, a performing arts center that opened to great fanfare Downtown in 2009 but is now $10 million in debt and up for sale.
The Wilson mural has significant meaning for him.
“Considering all the things the center is going through added to the importance of this mural,” he said.
Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Waivers granted for Garden Theater block development
- Baldwin students take in film on Nobel Peace Prize winner’s activism for girls, education
- Suit seeks $5M from McKeesport authority
- Newsmaker: Sanford Asher
- Pittsburgh zoo receives $9M gift — largest ever — from Mellon Foundation
- Trial scheduled in beating of black man at T station
- Wilkinsburg minister raided for drugs and guns, charged with 18 felonies
- 17-year-old male killed, 15-year-old female shot in McKeesport
- Pittsburgh’s North Shore traffic gets critical look
- Police looking for man who sexually assaulted Squirrel Hill woman
- Newsmaker: Rudolph ‘Rudy’ Zupancic