Photo by Bill O'Toole.

Eleven years ago, Malcolm McCormick was just one of several aspiring artists assisting painter Kyle Holbrook on his latest piece of public art.

Located at 250 Paulson Avenue in East Liberty, “We Fall Down but We Get Back Up” features portraits of prominent East Enders, such as East Liberty Concerned Citizens Corp. founder Ora Lee Carroll, around a green field along with the title of the mural.

Working from Holbrook’s designs, McCormick and other students from a community arts education program called Moving the Lives of Kids Community Mural Project (MLK Mural) painted the artwork during two and a half weeks in 2008.

Speaking about the project to MTV several years later, McCormick would minimize his contributions to the project: “I can’t paint. I can’t draw,” he joked. “I can barely read.”

But he did contribute to the mural. And over the next decade, as McCormick became globally famous as the rapper Mac Miller, he remained friends with Holbrook and performed several benefit concerts for MLK Mural, which Holbrook founded.

“We always stayed in contact,” Holbrook tells NEXTpittsburgh.

His favorite Mac Miller song? Best Day Ever,” he tells us. “One of his early ones, but just good energy.”

Now, with the first anniversary of the singer’s untimely passing approaching, Holbrook is expanding “We Fall Down” to include a permanent tribute to Miller. And he wants all of Pittsburgh to contribute.

Holbrook shows off a rendering. Photo by Bill O’Toole.
Holbrook shows off a rendering. Photo by Bill O’Toole.

For the next week, Pittsburgh-area residents are encouraged to visit Paulson Avenue and contribute messages that will serve as the foundation for a new mural dedicated to the young star. As Holbrook explains, the words left in orange paint will eventually shine through beneath a portrait of Miller.

“We want the community and Pittsburgh at large to be able to come out over this next week and contribute,” says Holbrook.

The portrait is based on a photo of Miller from one of his many photo shoots. In addition to the mural itself, the memorial will include a working clock sculpture in the exact position of Miller’s watch in the photo. The clock will be designed by local sculptor Bob Tortorette.

“The time,” says Holbrook, “is going to be symbolic of him living on forever.” 

Bill O'Toole

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.