The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP) hit the ground running with its new initiative.

To kick off REFORGE Downtown, the nonprofit organization commissioned artist Jayla Patton to paint a 3,500-square-foot asphalt mural on the 900 block of Penn Avenue between 9th and 10th streets.

The first of several temporary public art installations, “Colorful Growth/Soft Waves” is nearing completion and will remain on view until November 2. Richard Hooper, the PDP’s vice president of marketing and communications, hopes the work will draw people back to the area.

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.

“Public art like this, in an outdoor setting, offers a great opportunity for us to continue to engage with the public in a socially distant, safety-conscious way, while still bringing vibrancy to Downtown spaces,” Hooper says.

A graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Patton is an illustrator, comic artist, animator and educator who started working on the piece on August 11. Her passion for bright colors impressed the PDP’s panel of artists, Downtown residents and stakeholders which was tasked with reviewing portfolios from multiple applicants.

“Color really affects mood, so bringing bright color bursts and a dynamic visual change to the urban landscape will impact people in really interesting ways,” Patton says. “You are compelled to slow down, reexamine, rethink. In the ‘new normal’ we find ourselves, it’s so important that we take some time to reflect.”

The first large-scale, asphalt artwork to be featured in the area, the mural’s design was largely in the hands of Patton. Several other planned installations are more complex and will require extensive coordination efforts, from creative plans to fabrication, implementation and online promotion.

Over the next six months, the PDP will debut different programs and projects to help reactivate Downtown for residents, visitors and workers — and to support local businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19. Hooper says the organization’s reimagining of several city streets for expanded outdoor seating is an early example of this work.

The PDP will integrate and normalize safety protocols within these public art projects while giving the community something to appreciate and enjoy.