My Best of the ‘Burgh: A Q&A With Kyle Holbrook

You may not know his name, but you know his work.

Kyle HolbrookWilkinsburg native Kyle Holbrook — muralist, author, designer and filmmaker — has created more than 200 murals around Pittsburgh. Many are aimed at awareness of gun-violence awareness — he has lost 46 people to the gun violence epidemic — but Holbrook’s work also depicts moments in Black history and sports figures such as Roberto Clemente. He’s led the Moving the Lives of Kids Community Project, a mural project that engages kids in positive activities over the summer, for 21 years.  He lives in Penn Hills and just published a children’s book, “Big Baby Artworld.” We wanted to know: What is Kyle Holbrook’s Best of the ‘Burgh?

What’s your Pittsburgh “hidden gem,” a place that you love that doesn’t get the attention it deserves?
 Two places: Strong II Dry Cleaners in Homewood, “because they do an amazing job, they clean custom suits…they deliver to you.” Also, the Mellon Park Walled Garden. “It’s like a paradise right there.”

If you could only eat one local meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Ham and cheese omelet with french fries at Nicky’s Grant Street, a Downtown diner. “I also did my first mural Downtown inside Nicky’s entry way. It was there for 15 years before it was remodeled.”

If Pittsburgh had a theme song, what would it be?
To describe Pittsburgh, “Here We Go,” the Steelers theme song. To describe myself and my film, “Only God Can Judge Me” by 2Pac.

What’s the annual tradition that you wait for every year?
The MLK Community Paint Day. “That’s where stakeholders and the kids and artists paint a mural. It’s usually in July; I invite all the people out. Last year it was in the Hill District.”

Favorite Pittsburgh appearance in a movie or on television?
Mac Miller’s appearance in Holbrook’s film “The Art of Life.” “[It] reminds me of him when he was young, his freestyle — and how talented and happy he was.”

What’s your unpopular Pittsburgh opinion? What is something you think about the city (or a famous aspect of it) that won’t win you any friends?
“I think Scotty’s Diner in Wilkinsburg had the all-time best pancakes — better than Pamela’s.”

Where’s the first place you take out-of-town guests?
“The Strip District. We’d first start at Salem’s Market and then go to the Clemente Museum. It’s an amazing place with amazing artifacts — it’s the passion of Duane [Rieder]. Then I’d show them the mural of Roberto Clemente [which Holbrook painted on the side of the museum in the summer of 2019, with the help of children in the community]. Then we’d get some Engine House 25 wine.”

You get one Incline ride with any Pittsburgher, living or dead. Who is it?
Romare Bearden

If you could bring back one Pittsburgh place or restaurant that’s no longer there, which would you pick?
Shadow Lounge in East Liberty

Categories: Best of the ‘Burgh