What is your Name (artist name)?
When did you begin working with MLK Mural?
I started working with MLK Mural during the summer of 2008.
What was your role with MLK Mural? Were you painting murals? Teaching?
I have been lucky to be on many sides of the non-profit. First, I was a site manager and artist, working with a handful of young people and professional artists to complete the stunning "walking mural" in Mount Lebanon at the "T Station." My role was to ensure the safety of the youth, and to make sure the Mount Lebanon project was on target with its timeline to complete the mural, remain on budget, engage with the community, and to see that the young people were documented and thanked for their awesome efforts.
In May of 2009 I returned to Pittsburgh following my graduation from Columbia University's School of Social Work, where I earned my Master of Social Work degree. The idea was that I would hired as the Youth Director, while also having the great opportunity to paint murals around the city. My role consisted of :recruiting, engaging, empowering, leading, and directly supervise at-risk youth artists working on-site | research, write, and submit grant proposals for ongoing project funding to foundations and state/local agencies | Participate in community-based meetings to promote and build program support through outreach and education | Maintain time-sheets for all managers/youth and oversee all supply needs and records.
I currently assist MLK Murals as needed - helping with opportunities as they arise in the capacity of youth director.
What project or projects did you work on? (locations)
Carnegie - Helped to prep the wall by cleaning and re-grouting the brick for a large-scale mural reflecting Carnegie's history.
Mount Lebanon - Prepped the walls by power washing and drawing out line sketches / grids in pencil for the artists to paint within. Worked with assigned site youth - orienting them to the mural process, teaching them artist skills, empathy, community and leadership building skills. Directly connected with area government agencies and small businesses to ensure the completion of the mural. Maintained artistic vision by visiting with the mural’s lead artist - a local artisan residing in Mt. Lebanon. Painting, retouching and cleaning up the final mural.
Bloomfield - Prepped the walls and directed the youth and artists on site at Del’s Restaurant, a neighborhood icon. Coordinated with lead artists and business owners to hold artistic workshops on site. Maintained schedule of events, including a health component, and human resource aspects such as timesheets, volunteer hours and pay.
Larimer - Directed some 30 youth and many artists on site at the “Green Mural, a large scale mural on the site of a multi-unit lot at the corner of East Liberty and Larimer Avenues. Coordinated with lead artists and local organizations to hold artistic workshops on site. Maintained schedule of events, including a health component, and human resource aspects such as timesheets, volunteer hours and pay. Worked with city and state officials who collaborated with MLK Murals in helping to provide youth who were in need of a positive summer job experience.
Duquesne - Helped to fill in as needed during the end period of wrapping up the artwork.
Downtown - Painted and worked to recruit young people to work on a large scale canvas mural downtown for the G20, sponsored by the One Campaign. It represented each country in Pittsburgh that was taking part in the 2009 summit.
What did working with MLK teach you?
Working with MLK Mural has reminded me of the power of positive role models, empathy, grass-roots organizing and the tangible evidence that art programming is good programming. MLK Murals teaches those who are engaged with it to see opportunity for change with each blank wall. It makes the impossible possible. The murals have reduced blight and is a major deterrent of graffiti in the city.
What impact do you think MLK Mural had on the individuals you worked with?
MLK Mural offers a safe space to grow and create forever bonds among youth and the artists, and their environment. The community individuals have the chance to see walls painted with rich historic reference, or enlightening messages for the future. The youth become a part of the city through meaningful work, while gaining invaluable experience as paid participants. The artists get to work with teenagers who need and want their guidance - both as artists and adults. The funders have first-hand insight into the world of community murals and the varied layers that create positive elements to a city and its residents - allowing them to continue funding projects that make a difference.
What did you get out of the program?
MLK Murals is a local run organization that celebrates diversity and opportunity. Using the arts, MLK Murals is a beacon of light to so many young people. I was honored to get so much out of the program, from the small time moments working side by side with creative people, to helping to place foster kids on a project site, to meeting appreciative parents. I loved having paint on my clothes and in my hair, and walking in to a local shop on a break and hearing the words of thanks from those whose neighborhoods were revitalized. It’s powerful and a great deal of fun and hard work. My favorite thing to do is drive by a mural that was completed many years ago - the paint bright in the afternoon sun. The memories are forever emblazoned, one stroke of the brush at a time.
Who did you work with? (any memorable youth)
Honestly, every single one of the some 100 youth I supervised are important to me. Each young person brings a history and a future. Their present moments were inspiring - it’s a lovely thing to take things in the way that young people do - making me feel welcome and inviting me to teach and guide them.
Of course, working with Mac Miller when he was still in highschool was fun as he interned with us long before he hit the worldwide stage as a performer. I also truly enjoyed the staff who made the day to day exciting and motivating. Thank you to Eddie Rawson for being the glue of the organization - his schedule book brimming with check-in points, while his paint brush lay waiting for vision. Kyle Holbrook is a leader and dedicated to the arts and youth - he makes so much happen and with a smile or a nudge things fall into place. I adored the artists I would talk with on the phone at the end of each evening - getting the youth attendance numbers for each site - Stoff, Shane, Devon, Luke, Joy and Danny. I liked seeing Vanessa Germaine in the office as she did what she does best in the MLK Mural film “Art of Life.” Nico’s amazing communicative style led the education component. I adored the the Eagle crew - those who worked so hard to prepare each site before the kids arrived and paint was poured. There are hundreds of participants - too many to list - and I am humbled by them all.
Did MLK Mural help you get to where you are now? How? (Mentally, physically, spiritually?)
Of course! Each experience shapes me. I am grateful for that truth.