Maureen Diskin took a trip to D.C. just as the street-long Black Lives Matter mural on Pennsylvania Avenue was being created. She was inspired by what she saw — people of all genders, colors and ethnicities marching peacefully through the streets in solidarity.
“There were so many signs everywhere,” she says. “The words were powerful and went on for blocks and blocks. It felt like you were in a sacred space. It was an honor to participate.”
So when she returned to Pittsburgh, Diskin wanted to make a bold statement of her own — and she let a building she co-owns do the talking.
The once nondescript production facility for Enrico Biscotti Company — Diskin’s husband Larry Lagatutta is the other owner — at the corner of Penn Avenue and 31st Street is now a colorful message of unity. Both of the building’s long exterior walls, one facing Penn and the other facing 31st St., are painted with vivid primary colors, uplifting images and graphics, and words of hope.
Diskin first discussed her idea for the building mural with Kyle Holbrook, executive artist for the Moving the Lives of Kids Community Mural Project, who was working on his own mural at Salem’s Market and Grill down the street, as part of his 10 murals for Solidarity for Change project.
That mural and another one on 22nd St., on the back of Enrico’s restaurant, make up the trio of new murals, all related in the Strip District. “They all speak to one another visually with hands of different races working together,” says Holbrook who designed the murals. “I don’t know where that’s been done elsewhere,” he says, adding, “It’s all about advancing the careers of our artists in Pittsburgh.”
One of them is Matt Speck who did the mural at 31st St., painting the gray walls with rainbows, geometric patterns and hands raised high in harmony. The buildings’ owners selected the solutions featured on the murals, says Holbrook. Diskin, for example, focused on unity and was inspired by a photo from her D.C. trip, of a Black woman and herself holding their hands together high.
Members of the community pitched in, painting messages and single words such as equality, empathy, power and respect, like they did last month on a public mural in Oakland.
Speck, who has been working on the mural for three weeks, was proud to be part of it and expects to finish any day. This is his first mural in Pittsburgh.
The mural at Salem’s Market and Grill was finished over the weekend while work continues on the 22nd St. mural.