Artists work with Graffiti Watch to learn, display neighborhood's history
South Side Community Council's Graffiti Watch volunteers have been meeting monthly during the warm months over the last 10 years to paint over graffiti in the Flats.
Although these efforts have helped to control the amount of graffiti in the neighborhood, Steve Root, the Graffiti Watch lead, had an interest in moving towards a more proactive approach. As a traveler in cities in the US, Europe and Canada, he became aware of each city's public art and the positive image it projected.
Over the last year, he has been in conversation with Ron Baraff of the Rivers of Steel Corporation and Shane Pilster, a local artist, along with local property owners on how to bring public art to South Side. About a month ago, his public art committee met to formalize the project.
The plan is for the identification of public space and artists who are willing to hear from the community and learn about its history so it can be incorporated in their art. In time, these efforts can be a new way to attract visitors to the South Side - to view its history through public art.
These efforts cost money and while the Public Art Committee recently began working on a fundraising plan an opportunity came about to jumpstart their efforts. The Hemispheric Conversations Urban Art Project brought artists from Mexico and Chicago to work with local artists to paint aerosol murals on walls at Carrie Furnace on April 29. They offered the community council three artists from Mexico to demonstrate their skills on one of the walls in the neighborhood.
Fortunately, Mr. Root has, over the last year, been in communication with Ally Berger Garcia of Berger Investments who owns the property that includes Popeye's and Family Dollar. They have been working together to clean up Fox Way behind the building and already agreed that their back wall would be a great site for a mural.
Over the past week, Wes, Kif and Orion, renown artists from Mexico, painted a mural containing elements of South Side's and Pittsburgh's history. More information about the public art project will be shared shortly, but those who have an interest in knowing more immediately and becoming involved can reach Mr. Root at SouthsidePittsburghPublicArt@gmail.com.
"This is a great example of the business community working alongside residents," said Barbara Rudiak, president of the South Side Community Council. "Berger Investments responded to the concerns from the South Side Community that the alley was unkempt with overflowing trash and litter. They met with John, the franchise owner of Popeye's and Jessie, the manager at Family Dollar who cleaned up the area and expressed their commitment to keeping the area clean."
During the mural work, Popeye's provided the artists with food and use of their facilities.