Shane Pilster (left) and Max "GEMS" Gonzales put the finishing touches on the mural. Photo courtesy of dowhatwelove.

It’s easy to feel discouraged by the negativity that seems to be surrounding us, but two local artists are lifting spirits with a mural in Sharpsburg.

Verizon reached out to Shane Pilster and Max “GEMS” Gonzales to create the mural for the nationwide A Call for Kindness campaign to “spread love through art” with positive messaging murals. The artists also partnered with Artspiration, a local non-profit, on the project.

Pilster and Gonzales are renowned for their colorful street art and commitment to arts education in the community. They have also worked on national campaigns in the past with brands such as Dick’s Sporting Goods and vitaminwater.

“The genesis of the campaign came about in early 2020 and it’s really just about encouraging folks to go out, perform kind acts, and make the world a better place,” says Andrew Testa, public relations manager at Verizon. “We’ve all been going through a tough time. If you look around, we’re really all in this together.”

Cheered on by Sharpsburg residents and hundreds of passing cars, the pair finished the mural in two days.

Max “GEMS” Gonzales works on the mural. Photo courtesy of dowhatwelove.
Max “GEMS” Gonzales works on the mural. Photo courtesy of dowhatwelove.

“Not to say that we compromise quality in any way, but graffiti is a technique that produces amazing results really quickly. Spray paint is just a magic tool,” Gonzales says.

Gonzales spearheaded the design process with influence from Mexican-American and Chicano muralism. The mural portrays a sunset scene of reds, oranges and yellows and shows an anime-like frog character fishing in a pond. A cat and dog are crossing a bridge holding hands. With its striking colors and simple statement about unity, the mural makes it easy to smile.

Find the Sharpsburg mural for the foreseeable future at 924 Main St. at the corner of 10th Street.

Yoori Kim is an aspiring journalist currently in her third year studying Professional Writing at Carnegie Mellon University. She is interning for NEXTpittsburgh for the summer and is excited to explore more of Pittsburgh.