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City Theatre commissions Marlana Adele Vassar for South Side Mural Project

Supported by a 2019 RADical Impact Grant from the Allegheny Regional Asset District


Last updated 2/17/2022 at 9:56am

City Theatre has commissioned mural artist Marlana Adele Vassar to create a large-scale mural on the theater's Philip Chosky Production Center inspired by the rich history of immigrants and refugees in the city, both past and present.

As part of a RADical Impact Grant from the Allegheny Regional Asset District (RAD), one of 12 awarded in 2019 in honor of RAD's 25th anniversary, City Theatre commissioned playwright James McManus to write a play featuring stories of immigration in Pittsburgh. In September 2021, McManus's play The Rivers Don't Know had its world premiere and was presented in partnership with Pittsburgh Playhouse at Point Park University, Cornerstone Theater, and community partners All for All powered by the Global Switchboard, ARYSE, Global Minds, JFCS Refugee & Immigrant Services, Literacy Pittsburgh, Welcoming Pittsburgh, and the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh.

Inspired by stories from the community, The Rivers Don't Know explores the experiences of refugees and immigrants in Pittsburgh. Through three interlocking stories of a 1940s steel mill worker, a Somali family, and a class of ESL students, the script contemplates what it means to call the steel city home.

The final stage of the project is an 18'x50' mural on the theater's production center in South Side inspired by the themes of the play. Facing Muriel Street, between 13th and 14th Streets, the mural location can be seen across the Monongahela River.

"The development and production process for The Rivers Don't Know fostered collaborations with immigrant and refugee organizations, communities, and artists throughout Pittsburgh and beyond", shared City Theatre Co-Artistic Director Clare Drobot. "We are excited to add a new mural to South Side's artistic landscape celebrating those bonds and sharing Marlana's artistry on our campus for years to come."

Mural artist Marlana Adele Vassar was selected from a pool of Pittsburgh-based artistic applicants.

"I've spent the last few years translating community stories into distinctive public art pieces with a balance of style and substances," said Ms. Vassar. "My professional experiences have given me a unique perspective on creative approaches and helped me develop my artistic philosophy – art is everywhere, and the ordinary has the potential to be extraordinary."


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