December 18, 2005

Jail trail mural

jail trail mural I've said before that the Eliza Furnace Trail, more commonly known as the Jail Trail, has a lot of beautiful graffiti on it. This fall, Static-Free sponsored an awesome mural on the trail. Yesterday I finally had a chance to take pictures of it.

Here are a few detail shots from the mural. Click on the thumbnails for larger versions of all the pictures.

detail 1 detail 3 detail 5

August 13, 2005

Oliver High mural

high mural Last weekend I was trying to get a good picture of a mural in the Strip District. It was a Sprout Fund special: Bright colors, painted way up high, and very literal. Since much of the mural was devoted to an almost photographic representation of the bridge it's located next to, I wanted a shot of the mural and the bridge together. I was running all over downtown and the strip trying to find the right angle, but I couldn't quite pull it off. It's all good, because in the process, I found a terrific mural I hadn't seen before.

On the north side, between River Road and the Allegheny River, is a rails to trails bike path. Next to the trail, on the base of a huge overpass (for 279), there's a Pittsburgh-themed mural painted by students from Oliver High. The panels of the mural cover a huge range, from a picture of people in line for peanuts, to the history of the region, to a panel featuring a water-nymph. And hey, right there in the middle of the middle panel? The very same bridge that was in that other mural. I guess it's hard to have a mural without it in this neighborhood.

panel 1 panel 2 panel 3 panel 4 panel 5

Click on any of the images for a larger version. Because I was standing about 5 feet below the bottom of the mural, the pics came out of the camera with a lot of skew due to the angle. Aggressive photoshopping made the images square again and I think the results are ok, but then I'm not a serious photographer.

July 07, 2005

Murals will return some day, but until then...

It's been a while since I photographed a mural, but I promise I haven't quit. It's just been a really, really busy spring. With luck, I'll be back at it in August or September. In the meantime, here's a great shot of a mural in East Liberty.

March 20, 2005

Eliza Furnace Trail Murals

Along the side of the Jail Trail (aka the Eliza Furnace), there's a huge amount of graffiti. Each time I bike the trail, I think "damn, I really need to take pictures of this stuff." Because this graffiti isn't just hastily scribbled tags, it's full color, pop-out-off-the-wall awesome. Fortunately, someone has finally taken pictures. Here's ndanger's photoset from flickr.

November 23, 2004

Mural below an overpass on Forbes Ave.

mural on Forbes Ave. below the
overpass In Oakland, on Forbes Ave,, where it, the Boulevard of the Allies, and the Parkway don't-quite-intersect in an unholy, confusing nexus, there's a mural painted under an overpass. T. K. Mundok painted it, though unfortunately, it looks like others have added graffiti on top. Still, it's a pretty impressive piece of work, and literally thousands of people drive by it every day. I have to admit, I didn't notice the mural until recently, probably because the stretch leading up to the mural is an attention-grabbing mishmash of a blind curve, a merge, and 3 lanes of heavy traffic. Come to think of it, this might be the last place I'd want a mural that could distract people.

October 19, 2004

South Side Slopes mural

southside mural At 18th and Quarry on the South Side Slopes, there's a mural celebrating the South Side. According to the neighborhood association, it was painted by Richard Bach. It fits into the "hyper-realistic panorama" class of murals, showing people from all over the South Side hanging out, doing their thing, and generally having a good time. Not much more to say except that the mural, and perhaps the South Side itself, deserves bonus points for featuring a blacksmith (see far left of the pic) along with the more mundane shop types.

September 19, 2004

All in a Day

All in a Day by Leslie Ansley and Monique Luck

Muralists caught in the act! On Murray Ave. near its intersection with Forward Ave. in Squirrel Hill, Leslie Ansley and Monique Luck are painting a mural they've named "All in a Day." The mural depicts scenes from Squirrel Hill: the clock on the JCC up the street, the sign, and the local high school (Allderdice) are all represented, to name just a few pieces. The artists have another mural (called Life in Motion) on the North Side. Both murals are part of the Sprout Fund's public art project.

September 13, 2004

Sprout's mural project

Among the things that Sprout does is fund neighborhood murals in Pittsburgh. Check out the site, both for the completed set of 2003 murals and for the new 2004 murals.

August 28, 2004

Pittsburgh Pirates Mural

baseball player mural As summer starts to wind down and we begin to get bored of the Olympics (hey, not our fault - NBC's coverage sucked [again]), our thoughts return to baseball. How are those Pirates doing anyway? Best not to ask. Let's instead talk about the Pirates' glorious history. At the intersection of 2nd Avenue and Ross St. downtown, under the bridge (Boulevard of the Allies is passing above), there's a mural of 14 of the most famous Pirates.

Getting a reasonable picture of the whole mural seems to require standing in the middle of the road. But then the traffic lights block some of the mural. Here are the missing pieces:

left side of mural right side of mural
Left side Right side

Who are the baseball players? I don't follow baseball and I haven't lived in Pittsburgh all that long, so I don't know. (As you can see from the picture, there's a plaque, but all it explains is that the mural is a gift from the Art Institute to the city.) So I've started asking around. Here's what I've got so far, from right to left:

  • Honus Wagner
  • Roberto Clemente
  • Bill Mazeroski
  • Unknown (kneeling)
  • Willie Stargell
  • 9 more unknowns
A big shout out to Stewart, who came up with these first 4. Do you know more? Leave me a comment!

By the way, as Stewart also observed, the clock and scoreboard in the left side of the mural are from Forbes Field (long demolished, but a picture survives).

As always, click on the pics for larger versions.

July 31, 2004

Painted utility poles

At the intersection of Butler and 52nd in Lawrenceville, there are flowers painted on the utility poles. I can't find any indication of why this was done, except that it looks great. The flowers themselves are great, but also I can't help but like the spot on the poles where the flowers end and the pole's natural rust/paint pattern resumes.

picture of utility box picture of pole

Click on the images for larger versions.

June 10, 2004

Welcome to the Strip

picture of the welcome to the strip mural On Penn Avenue, between 21st and 20th, there's a mural on the second floor of the side of a bar that says "Welcome to the Strip." The mural is right in the heart of the strip, a stone's throw from the best of the produce markets and restaurants in the area. From the picture, you might think that the buildings around the mural are about to fall down, but I can tell you they've looked about the same for years now.

The strip is a bazaar in the true old-world sense: merchants from a mishmash of cultures offering their wares in the simplest way possible. There's no yuppy light fixtures or froufrou furniture (well, ok, there's some at the froufrou furniture store) to create a "shopping experience." In other words, you see what you get, you get what you pay for, and if you don't like the price, you negotiate. Back in the day, 61C's office was in the strip, and we'd usually make time to grab lunch from one of the local places (the neighborhood had Vietnamese, Italian, Caribbean, and Japanese food, with Thai, Indian, and a brew pub close by). By the way, the strip has an ultra-hip and flashy web site which totally fails to convey the feel of the place (in fact, it seems to focus on only the yuppiest aspects).

And of course, click on the picture for a larger version of the mural.

June 04, 2004

Lawrenceville alive!

picture of lawrenceville alive mural On Butler St. in Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville neighborhood, there's a mural that states, definitively (note the double exclamation points), that Lawrenceville is alive. And strangely enough, the mural is correct. Lawrenceville, after years of depression after the steel mills left, has become the new happening spot in town (at least if you're a hipster). But where hipsters tread, normal people soon follow (if only for the ironic t-shirts and art galleries), and slowly but surely the shops along the piece of Butler St. near the Strip District are being renovated.

On the stretch of Butler where this mural is found, there's a car wash, a field of oil tanks, and a bunch of depressed-looking houses (it must be hard to keep the house looking good when you live across the street from a bunch of soul-sucking oil tanks). The hard part for me is figuring out whether the people who painted the mural were trying to inspire the crappy part of Lawrenceville to improve itself, or they were saying to people passing through "sure it's bad here, but another mile down the road the joint is hopping!"

(Click on the image for a larger version of the picture.)

April 17, 2004

Books mural

books mural At Market St. and Duboce in San Francisco, thee's a trippy mural (shown at right - click on it for a larger version) all about the wonders of reading. I especially like the way the books blend into houses. As Joe pointed out, this mural has something in common with the South Side Goodwill mural that I blogged about back in February. That mural is also about books (and the weird faded bluish green people who reach for them). I think I like the style of the Pittsburgh mural, but the San Francisco mural is a lot more lyrical.

The books in the picture are: Chaim Potok, "The Chosen", Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "100 Years of Solitude", Maya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings", "The Art Book", Cervantes' "Don Quixote", J.D. Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye", and Douglas Adams' "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". An eclectic mix, but all good.

Now that you've put up with my hack criticism, for more information about the mural, try this page. It's evidently part of a larger "Bay Area Mural Awareness Month" program. That's one major difference between Pittsburgh and San Francisco's murals: SF murals are usually documented somewhere. I keep trying, but finding information about Pittsburgh murals is always a challenge. (Disclaimer: I only look for information about the web, so differing amounts of Internet penetration into various cities yadda yadda yadda blah blah blah, don't sue me.)

Arriba Juntos

arriba juntos building On the way from one side of San Francisco to the other, Joe and I passed Arriba Juntos's building (on Mission between 14th and 15th), which is painted with an amazing mural (shown at right - click on it for a larger version). The rest of the block looked a little desolate, which only emphasized this mural. On the lower right of the mural, there's a scroll with some writing on it:

We're blessed to have a mother who comforts our souls with summer breezes, cleansing our bodies with every drop of her sows. Respect her kindness, her love, and her nature. Never throw oil into the stormdrain and always recycle... don't allow the sacrifices made for the future and offered by Earth to have been in vain.

To end on a random note, Arriba Juntos seems to go by its initials, AJ. My hometown synagogue, Adath Jeshurun, also goes by AJ.

April 13, 2004

Decorated telco cabinets

Gizmodo has a blurb and some pics of trompe l'oeil murals on decorated telco cabinets. Awesome.

April 11, 2004

Mural in Half Moon Bay

mural in half moon bay On the side of the building at 421 Main St. in Half Moon Bay, California, there's a mural that "pays tribute to the traditions, hard work, and spirit of the men and women who founded the Coastside." Or at least, that's what the plaque next to the mural says. It's interesting how the artists pieced together the component images collage-style. And who could argue with a picture that puts the church on one side, the jail on the other, and the people in between?

By the way, the mural was painted by Adriana Gallego and Claudio Dirochea. You can click on the image for a larger version, but I have to say, there's a much better version of the picture online, here. I think the photographer for that picture used a ladder to escape horrible perspective skew (tm).

April 07, 2004

Video Game Mural in San Francisco

qbert mural detail On the corner of Brody where it crosses Market in San Francisco's SoMa section, there's a video game mural painted on the side of an antique shop. There's Donkey Kong, Q*Bert, Space Invaders, ghosts from Pac Man, an Atari joystick, and don't miss the "1 UP" and "2 UP". And as Joe pointed out, the Mercedes coupe that's parked below Q*Bert probably dates from about the same era as these video games.

The picture at right is just a detail from the mural. Click on it for the whole shebang.

March 22, 2004

Union Orthotics and Prosthetics

the mosaic
the building

Companies come and go, but buildings tend to stick around. On the section of Liberty Ave., between Bloomfield and the Strip District (two Pittsburgh neighborhoods, for those of you not from the area), there are two particularly random examples and one mural (actually, a mosaic).

On the front of Union Orthotics and Prosthetics' main office (almost directly across the street from the excellent Church Brew Works), there's a mosaic about electricity. It's got a kite and key, a couple pictures of electric plants (coal and hydro, I guess), a tower for high voltage lines, and, in the background, an outlet. Really, it's rather tastefully done for what it is. But then, why's it on the front of an orthotics and prosthetics company? Seems like maybe once upon a time, perhaps an electric utility owned the building. (I'm assuming it was a utility and not a contractor because only a public utility would spend its money on a mural instead of, say, paying the CEO or shareholders.)

A little further up the street, a building that is currently a Quizno's Sub was, as recently as September 2003, Hangar Prosthetic (apparently the 3500-4000 block of Liberty Ave. is prosthetic city). The usual queasiness in associating medical stuff and food kept me from trying that Quizno's for a while, but I finally managed to do it. Better than Subway, sure, but I prefer Uncle Sam's.

So what have we learned? The life cycle of buildings is apparently: electric utility, then prosthetics specialist, then sub shop. Only time will tell what a sub shop turns into.

The top picture is the mosaic, of course. And the bottom picture is the building itself. Click on either for larger versions.

Update: Searches on the Allegheny County Real Estate Property Values site reveal that Sargent Electric owns a lot of property in that neighborhood. I'm thinking Sargent's probably the company that built the building and put up the mosaic.

March 06, 2004

VFW Post 278

Continuing the patriotic murals theme from a few weeks ago, the Veterans of Foreign Wars building in Pittsburgh's Bloomfield neighborhood (on Liberty, opposite the Bloomfield Bridge) is painted with all manner of military scenes, from a sailor coming home to the flag raising at Iwo Jima.

One of the most arresting parts of the mural is the picture of the three soldiers staring into the distance.  It's probably based on the Three Soldiers Statue that stands near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, but unlike the statue, the men in the mural appear much more haunted by the things they've seen.

Sorry there's so much extra stuff (cars, posts, poles) in the pictures.  This building borders a busy supermarket parking lot.  And as always, click on the pics for larger versions.

side front
sailor three men stealth tank

February 22, 2004

September 11 Memorial

of the mural On the side of Duke's bar, in Bloomfield on S. Millvale Ave., there's a small mural commemorating September 11. I don't know when the dead branches and graffiti were added. Perhaps some time after the adjoining gas station shut. My girlfriend points out that this could be a metaphor for how the country's patriotism has faded since the initial surge after 9/11.

of the building Here's a picture of the front of the building. Note the sign promising "no crap on tap".

Click on the images for larger versions.

February 08, 2004

Van customizing shop

of the van shop mural In Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville neighborhood, there's an old van customizing shop whose windows have been boarded up. Usually, that'd make a building uglier than a pig in a mincing machine, but in this case, someone took the time to paint over the boards with Charming Scenes of Urban Life (tm).

The van shop's sign alone is a classic. It evokes an era (before my time, thankfully) when vans roamed the earth unchallenged and unmocked. Note the text on the sign offering installation of "flares, spoilers, & sunvisors", "custom grills", and of course, "captain chairs". In case anyone wants to call the number on the sign to inquire about getting their van customized, I'm pretty sure that this place is in the 412 area code.

By the way, this building is on Penn Ave., near Main St., and right across from Tram's Kitchen. If you haven't been to Tram's, you're missing great Vietnamese food. Especially the fresh rolls, which are the best I've ever had anywhere (disclaimer: I've never been to Vietnam).

As always, click on the picture for a larger version.

February 01, 2004

South side Goodwill

picture of the goodwill mural

Driving on Carson St. (on Pittsburgh's south side) today, I noticed a mural on the side of the Goodwill building near 27th St. This area is a few blocks beyond the "trendy" part of Carson Street, and there hasn't been much there beyond the Goodwill and a coffee shop. But recently, gigantic office complexes have begun sprouting. If those buildings manage to take off (not a sure thing given Pittsburgh's glut of office space), I wonder how long it'll be before Goodwill is gentrified off the block.

Click on the image for a larger version of the mural.

January 17, 2004

Highland Park mural

picture of highland park mural

On the side of a tavern in Pittsburgh's Highland Park neighborhood (at Bryant and N. St. Clair, near the excellent Tazza D'oro coffee shop), there's a mural depicting the way the nearby park (also called Highland Park) looked at the end of the 19th century. I have to admit the mural seems out of place there, given its immediate surroundings (basic neighborhood market, cleaners, etc.), but it's a nice reminder of the neighborhood's roots.

As usual, click on the thumbnail for a larger version of the image.

January 09, 2004

The Bride on Penn Ave

Picture of the mural
On Penn Ave., where it meets S. Graham St. (in Pittsburgh's Garfield neighborhood), there's a mural on the side of a building of a bride leaving a house (and crying). What's particularly cool about this mural is that the house in the picture is the house right next to the mural. The mural was painted by Judy Penzer in 1995. Click the thumbnail for a larger version.

January 05, 2004

Graffiti mural on Gold Way

On Gold Way (a tiny back alley on the border of the Pittsburgh neighborhoods of Oakland and Polish Hill), there's a pretty decrepit building with an incredible mural on its back. I've passed this building several times a week for 3 years, but until today, I never got a good look at it. It's really beautiful and impressive up close. Unfortunately the wall on which it's painted seems to be in the early stages of disintegrating.

Btw, sorry for the low light conditions. After 4 straight days of clouds and rain, I gave up on waiting for a sunny day.

Here are the pics (click any thumbnail for a larger version):

The whole scene

The low wall in front

Detail from left side of the mural

Detail from center of the mural

Detail from right side of the mural

January 02, 2004

Pittsburgh map mural

What's exciting about public murals is that they seem to spontaneously appear out of nowhere. I think people usually find them when they're lucky enough to glance in the right direction at the right place. Just today, I found a mural at an intersection I've passed hundreds of times over the years. Is the mural new? Probably not. I'm going to be documenting the murals I stumble across over the coming months, just because they're there and worth noticing. Here's the first:

At the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, there's a mural on a small shed visible from Shady Ave. For those unfamiliar with Pittsburgh geography, it's a map of the central spot in the region: the north side, downtown, and south side. I don't know much about this mural, but I'm guessing it was designed and created by kids.

Click on the thumbnail for a larger version of this image.