Strawberry Way Mural
Strawberry Way mural, view from Smithfield Street. Photo by Maya Henry.

The asphalt covering Strawberry Way, one of the busiest pedestrian thoroughfares in Downtown, is getting a makeover, set to be completed later this week. The alley is the site of several public art pieces that have been installed over the last decade but Deanna Mance’s mural is the first one that you can walk on and the first mural on asphalt in the city.

Strawberry Way mural
Deanna Mance’s mural on Strawberry Way.
Deanna Mance’s mural on Strawberry Way.

A project of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership in collaboration with the City of Pittsburgh, the mural stretches along Strawberry Way for three blocks—between Smithfield and Grant Streets. Strawberry Way is closed to vehicular traffic between William Penn Way and Grant Street so the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership will be placing permanent outdoor furniture in the area for the public to use.

The mural and the furniture will help to activate the alley using tactical urbanism similar to the OpenStreetsPGH movement that improves urban space for people, not just automobiles. The design also calls attention to pedestrian crosswalks at William Penn Way and Morrow Way.

The artist selection process was organized by the Office of Public Art (OPA) who was hired by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership to identify an artist for this project.  Artists from the Pittsburgh Artist Registry were selected by OPA to compete for the opportunity.

Deanna Mance was awarded the project after a series of interviews with a group of stakeholders made up of property and business owners along Strawberry Way. Mance submitted three designs to The Art Commission which approved the project and helped select the final design.

The design that was selected is based on details from everyday objects and surroundings that are often overlooked. “It’s site-specific,” says Mance. “I extracted design elements and patterns from the architecture around me. There are also lines that represent the city—curving hill lines and flowing river lines.”

Another popular mural, The Two Andys, sits above Wiener World at Smithfield Street where the two men seem to be observing the activity below. “I was definitely influenced by the color and vibrancy of that mural,” says Mance.

The piece will be the largest Mance has ever completed. Mance usually creates works on paper and looks at the mural as a drawing that she is “sketching with a [paint] roller.” Painted with acrylic exterior paint and then clear-coated, the walkable mural will only last two to three years at which point another artist can step in to provide a new mural on the site.

The project is funded by the Colcom Foundation.

Maya Haptas has an M.A. in Historic Preservation Planning from Cornell University and is a freelance writer covering various topics from architecture and urban design to wellness and skateboarding. She is currently the assistant editor of Bigfoot Skateboarding Magazine.