Thomas Jefferson student artwork to brighten up UPMC Children’s health center
Vibrant, colorful, kid-friendly murals created by Thomas Jefferson High School students will adorn the walls of UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh’s Center of Adolescent and Young Adult Health’s clinical and research hub in Oakland.
For the past several weeks, about 40 students in the school’s drawing and painting classes have been designing and creating the unique works of art.
“It’s a boost for kids that maybe never had their art displayed before,” said Kirk Salopek, art department coordinator at TJ. “They see that you can display your work and it can be appreciated by lots of people.”
Jayme Andrisko, 37, a lifelong Pleasant Hills resident and 1999 TJ graduate, works as the senior practice manager at the center.
After the center moved into a new location in Oakland in 2018, Andrisko was tasked with finding adolescents to create artwork for the space “so we could display their talents and gifts.”
“I immediately thought of my alma mater,” she said.
She had seen the murals TJ students created for Primanti Bros. in Pleasant Hills and reached out to the school to see if they could create something similar for the center.
“Over the years, I have seen the talents that the school cultivates from their students, as I watched my own children bring home fantastic displays of their projects,” she said.
She wanted something “light and bright” for the center and for the art to be “uplifting and inclusive.”
Salopek said he was excited to have the opportunity for his students to display their art in a public space.
“I like to put the kids into the community. It makes the community aware of what work we’re doing up here,” he said.
The students also love it, he said.
“They get to put their work out there.”
One mural will be featured in the waiting room. Student PJ Chonko also is providing several photography pieces for display throughout the center, including in exam rooms.
Because the murals had to be created at the school then transported to Oakland for installation, they were made in sections.
Students wanted to create something their peers getting services at the center could relate to, Salopek said.
The goal was for the murals to be “silly, light and busy,” Salopek said, with the intent of taking a child’s mind off of whatever brings them to the clinic.
The students opted for a pop culture theme, Salopek said. One mural is a retro music scene designed in vertical sections so it appears as musical bars and beats, similar to a speaker display.
The other, created by students in Natalie Fink’s painting classes, is of various shoes.
“This really resembled to us that our youth come from ‘different walks’ of life, but they all matter and are all embraced in our clinic, as we walk through our lives together,” Andrisko said.