Family Ties

Brian Brown is creating The Sprout Fund’s newest public-art mural: It's one that will depict the East Liberty community.



Artist Brian Brown stands in front of his latest work-in-progress: a portrait of the East Liberty community.

Photo by Cami Mesa

Sitting in East Liberty’s Quiet Storm cafe on an overcast, late-August afternoon, a 26-year-old artist looked perfectly content while sipping his coffee. In fact, it’s unlikely that anyone would guess that Brian Brown would start creating a family thereafter. Or that Brown’s “family” is two-dimensional and lives on a wall.

It’s one of the most recent public-art projects made possible by The Sprout Fund, a local nonprofit that funds and organizes the public art murals scattered throughout Pittsburgh. Originally a grant-making organization, Sprout Fund launched the public-art program in 2003 and has orchestrated 55 murals thus far, which are spread throughout the Pittsburgh region.

Forty to 60 artists and 15 to 20 community-organization groups apply for a mural each year. However, only six to nine mural projects are constructed annually, so The Sprout Fund selects the community, and the community then selects its artist from a narrow list provided by The Sprout Fund.

Although Curt Gettman, public-art program manager, says the mural itself is a wonderful outcome of the project, Sprout Fund hopes it’s more than just paint on the wall for community groups.

“We want the project to be about the community getting organized and bringing new members in the community group to work on a project,” Gettman says. “Our goal for the program is to make the Pittsburgh region one of the best, most livable places in the country.”

By funding the projects for the neighborhoods, The Sprout Fund hopes to empower communities to realize their goals.

A Blank Slate

Family Resources, a private nonprofit United Way partner agency, acquired the services and assets of the Parental Stress Center on March 1. With this acquisition, Family Resources, whose mission is to prevent and treat child abuse by strengthening families and neighborhoods, inherited a building with an enormous blank wall.

Andi Fischhoff, Family Resources’ development director, says the organization wanted to use the wall as a welcoming place for children and families in East Liberty.

“We wanted a wall that would resonate with who we are and say to everyone who comes into this neighborhood [that] East Liberty cares about kids and families,” says Fischhoff.

After seeking out The Sprout Fund, Family Resources sorted through a series of artists and designs after being approved for a mural. Family Resources and members of the community involved in the processwere captivated by Brown’s idea to feature community members in the mural, says Fischhoff.

In order to include East Liberty residents in his work, Brown held a photo shoot; there were about 70 participants representing various ethnicities and age groups.

“This [was] a way to energize the neighborhood and give people in the neighborhood a feeling that they are part of this history in this community and in the present and in the future,” says Fischhoff.

But not everyone you’ll see in the mural is someone currently living in East Liberty.

“One woman came over to Brian and me and said, ‘These are my grandsons, and their father is fighting in Iraq. Here is his picture. Can you put him in the mural, too, please?’ Of course, he is going to be in the mural,” says Fischoff.

The Wild Card

The mural takes some artistic license in other ways as well. For example, a streetcar turns the corner around a generic storefront. As Brown explains, this was a personal touch.

“The idea of painting a giant streetcar is the next best thing to building a streetcar,” he says.

Brown developed an If I can’t build one, I’ll paint one attitude while growing up on an airbase in Forth Worth, Texas. Instead of streetcars, however, Brown created large paintings of airplanes.

And while it was a family tradition to join the U.S Air Force, the only association Brown wanted with planes was to draw them.

Brown and his mother moved to Kalkaska, Mich., during his freshman year of high school. Although he wasn’t the type of kid who knew the difference between Impressionism and Post-Impressionism and which one Monet fell under, Brown developed an interest in art.

After graduating from high school, a musician offered Brown money to create an album cover, which was when Brown realized he enjoyed the artist’s lifestyle. A few weeks later, Brown started his first semester at Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, Mich., later earning a distinguished award upon graduation.

From there, Brown enrolled in Carnegie Mellon University’s M.F.A. program and finished his studies in May. However, Brown says he was never viewed as an artist.

“Art is kind of a wild card for me. It wasn’t my plan to do this—it just kind of all worked out,” says Brown.

Now, others can see Brown’s wild card through the faces of the East Liberty community.

(The Sprout Fund: 5423 Penn Ave., East Liberty; 412/325-0646, publicart.sproutfund.org. Family Resources: 5877 Commerce St., East Liberty; 412/363-1702, familyresourcesofpa.org)

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in October

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in October

This month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

From glass and aluminum to ketchup and candy, Pittsburgh has made its mark, thanks in large part to the instantly recognizable brands that remain etched not merely on its buildings — but on its DNA. We look at 10 of those brands and explore how they helped to establish and define the Steel City.
Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Under a new CEO, Pittsburgh International Airport heads into its 25th year while attempting to woo flyers and flights and leave its empty, post-hub days behind.
Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Three men at NASA serve pivotal roles in maintaining the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been taking high-resolution photos of deep space for more than 25 years. And they're all from Pittsburgh.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

New Contract for PSO is a No Go

New Contract for PSO is a No Go

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra musicians vote to go on strike.
Strip District's Savoy Seeks to Refresh and Renew

Strip District's Savoy Seeks to Refresh and Renew

The restaurant debuts a new lounge and has plans for refocused menu and more.
Pittburgh’s Daya Dropping New Album, Headline Tour

Pittburgh’s Daya Dropping New Album, Headline Tour

The teen singing sensation from Mt. Lebanon’s tour concludes in Pittsburgh.
See it Now: Trailer for Filmed-in-Pittsburgh “Fences”

See it Now: Trailer for Filmed-in-Pittsburgh “Fences”

Directed and starring Denzel Washington, the first big screen treatment of August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play arrives in theaters on Christmas Day.

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in October

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in October

This month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

From glass and aluminum to ketchup and candy, Pittsburgh has made its mark, thanks in large part to the instantly recognizable brands that remain etched not merely on its buildings — but on its DNA. We look at 10 of those brands and explore how they helped to establish and define the Steel City.
Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Under a new CEO, Pittsburgh International Airport heads into its 25th year while attempting to woo flyers and flights and leave its empty, post-hub days behind.
Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Three men at NASA serve pivotal roles in maintaining the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been taking high-resolution photos of deep space for more than 25 years. And they're all from Pittsburgh.
Dish Review: Bar Marco's Turnaround

Dish Review: Bar Marco's Turnaround

The Strip District eatery overcomes tumult and once again is one of Pittsburgh’s finest restaurants.
Talk of The Tahn: Weird Things We Do that Make Pittsburgh Wonderful

Talk of The Tahn: Weird Things We Do that Make Pittsburgh Wonderful

The things that are best about us? They’re not things. They’re ways.
Edit Module

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


New Contract for PSO is a No Go

New Contract for PSO is a No Go

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra musicians vote to go on strike.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
e2 to Close in Highland Park

e2 to Close in Highland Park

Chef/owner Kate Romane will move on to a new project.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
6 Best Restaurants for College Students in Pittsburgh

6 Best Restaurants for College Students in Pittsburgh

Easy access from universities, wallet-friendly prices and really good food make these our favorite choices for the university set.

Comments


Halloween Hotlist: 10 Events That Prove Scaring is Caring

Halloween Hotlist: 10 Events That Prove Scaring is Caring

Pittsburgh is a wicked destination for spooky shenanigans. Here’s a sampling of what’s to come.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Pirates’ Ship Sunk But Salvageable

Pirates’ Ship Sunk But Salvageable

Of all that conspired to derail the Pirates after three consecutive trips to the playoffs, the unanticipated implosions of Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano proved, in retrospect, to be more of a deal-breaker than anything else.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Green Chic: The Boxcar Planter Set

Green Chic: The Boxcar Planter Set

The geometric set is available through the hip Ace Hotel shop.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Surprise: Deepwater Horizon is Quite Good

Surprise: Deepwater Horizon is Quite Good

Reviews of "Deepwater Horizon" and "Queen of Katwe," along with local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
A Laid-Back Love: Kelly McHolme and Bob Stasa

A Laid-Back Love: Kelly McHolme and Bob Stasa

This Pittsburgh couple wanted their guests to be just as content as they were at their wedding.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Make Your Design Work for You: Mecox Opens In Pittsburgh

Make Your Design Work for You: Mecox Opens In Pittsburgh

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Mecox will be opening its eighth location, but its first in Pittsburgh, in Shadyside.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education

Thiel College to Break Ground on New Science Facility

The project will cost $4.5 million and will connect two previously existing structures.

Comments