Recently, I’ve been asking myself a question. This question was inspired by a trip I took. A few months prior I visited Miami, to expand my perception of culture and it just so happened by doing that, and what I saw on that trip, I found it imperative to expand my perception of myself as well.
You see, what I observed in Miami was a vibrance of culture and art unlike any place I’ve ever seen. Murals adorned spaces that would otherwise have been left to be forgotten. All around me I observed families, friends, brothers, sisters, loved ones, all sorts of people, interacting with their environment through taking pictures and creating memories, and by that, creating the perceived culture of the area.
And in this art Mecca, I was inspired. Not just to go back to Pittsburgh and create paintings, but to do my part to make the City itself more beautiful through dedicating the upcoming summer to public art.
Before my trip to Miami, I had only completed a handful of murals that, for the most part, only I saw because they had been on my workspace walls.
About eight months ago, I put a graffiti tag that said “change your thoughts to change your stars an open mind is open bars” on a building that was half a block long and abandoned for years in the Southside community of Pittsburgh. On the side left untagged, of this abandoned building, sat four blank garage bay doors. Above them shattered glass. And above that, ideas floated that only I could see, that with permission, i could make real for everyone to observe throughout their daily routine.
Four months ago, I returned to the same spot of the previous tag, that had been painted over and erased. As I began to replace the same tag, with the same words, I was encountered and approached and told to stop by the overseer of the building. The conversation that occurred after this, was what revealed to me the importance of public art. The question I posed was “why was something removed, that improved not only the look of the building, but the reality that people interacted with each day by challenging them to stop and think.” I then offered that if given permission, I would come back and paint all of the blank garage bay doors and beautify the whole area. Instead of just leaving tags, my tag would be the beautiful transformation. The building care takers agreed to let me do this. And that was the beginning of the 20 Murals Project.
You see, Miami inspired me, but it was not a place I would fall in love with. For me Pittsburgh is that. However, Miami did make me pose the question to myself “Am I simply being inspired by a beautiful City or am I making the City more beautiful and inspiring it?” I think in some capacity I can say I am doing a little bit of both, but to do a little bit of both of either is all I really needed. So this summer I am dedicating myself to the creation of public art, that everyone can enjoy.
Spaces in the city where you can go and sit.
Places where you can take photographs. And build memories. Have conversations. And be inspired. Without a doubt, beautiful places like that exist right now in this City. My goal is that by my position as a leader in the arts community, I can encourage people to venture out and experience Pittsburgh in a different way, and that is through the appreciation of not only mine, but the existing public art. To tell you the truth, sometimes it sucks just having to make paintings. It gets old being in the same room for 72 hours and hearing nothing but your own thoughts arguing with one another, whether either is good. So I’ve put myself in the position where that’s not the case by only taking and doing the projects that I’m excited about.
Words cannot express how much I appreciate all of you who enjoy what we do at Studio AM and what my art represents.
The life of an entrepreneur seems like transparent fog. It seems like I can see the shadow of the big picture that I want, but everything else is blurry and I just have to keep moving forward. Some weeks I know exactly what I’m doing and I end up being wrong. Other weeks I have no clue and I win big, and I think this is what I like most about it. But in that challenge that never stops, that really only I can see at times, I understand my importance in the community. But one thing that I also recognize is how important this community is to me.
It’s been the coolest thing ever to see young people purchasing art… for their weddings… anniversaries… new homes… friends birthdays… to just simply say “thank you”. And that through that, I am able to create memories that can never fade away. My goal was and is to create a new generation of art enthusiasts, buyers, collectors, and artists as well. Only actions can express my gratitude for this City. But just know that through your support when you purchase my art, or buy a jar of salsa, or come have a private event at Studio AM, or come to brunch, or support us in any other way. That you are supporting people that are committed to making the things around them better. I can’t begin to express my gratitude. So I will just continue to work.
Over the summer, I will be completing the remaining murals to get to the number 20. So if you have access to a space, know a space or someone who has access to a space that can be beautified, please contact us and let us know.
I challenge all of you to make a conscious effort to pay attention to the beautiful things, as you enjoy your week. My hope, is that by doing that, you are able to become inspired, allowing what is around you to become more beautiful.
Head up and hustle on.