Discover the Beauty of “Artsburgh” in PAJul 17, 2022 09:00AM ● By Kyrah Page
They say in the state of Pennsylvania, there are only two cities that really matter and they are Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. I just so happen to be from one of them… can you guess which one? (Hint: look at the title of the article). I was not born in Pittsburgh but I did grow up here and it is not a perfect place but that is everywhere though, right? Blacks in Pittsburgh have a hard time thriving because the place is not exactly for us – that’s a story for another day. There are pros and cons to everything and I am not here to break down the cons; so, for now, let’s focus on the pros.
Pittsburgh is known as the home of many champion sports franchises which include our Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Pittsburgh Pirates. We are known for our steel which is how we got our name “The Steel City”. At one time, Pittsburgh dominated the steel industry, supplying steel and glass all over the world. Our steel built structures like the Brooklyn Bridge, the George Washington Bridge, the Chrysler Building, and the Empire State Building. We have about 29 colleges and universities in Pittsburgh for those pursuing higher education. One of those colleges, known as the University of Pittsburgh, was where the first polio vaccine was developed in 1953 by Dr. Jonas E. Salk.
There is also a lot of history here in Pittsburgh. One of our own, August Wilson, became one of the most famous playwrights. He is best known for “The Pittsburgh Cycle” which is a compilation of 10 plays where he discusses topics regarding Black life and culture. We are known for our attractions like our museums, Kennywood Park, or “The Point”, which is where our three rivers meet. The list can go on and on but one of the best things about Pittsburgh is our creative art. Do not get me wrong! I love me some sports, however, I do feel the creativity in Pittsburgh is a little underrated. So, I just wanted to take this opportunity to talk about some of the beautiful Black murals and a couple of Black artists in the city of Pittsburgh!
Camerin “CAMO” Nesbit
Camerin “CAMO” Nesbit is a Black artist and founder of CamoCustomz, based in his hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. He is also the coordinator of The Artwalk, which is an initiative that invites residents and visitors to explore Homewood, an inner-city urban community, by way of outdoor murals. The Artwalk currently features 11 murals created by four different artists including Nesbit. He is known for his pieces the Homewood is Home and BubbleGum murals, both located along N. Homewood Avenue. Nesbit also played a huge role in the creation of the Black Lives Matter mural, located in downtown Pittsburgh. He successfully organized and paid 25 Black artists to make the finished piece. Some of those artists included Janel Young, Jordan Collington, Destenee Guy, Juliandra Jones, Dejouir Brown, Natiqu Jailil, Cyrstal Neol Jalik and Christina Richard III. The Black Lives Matter mural we see today was not the same mural that was there originally. The original mural had the same message but these artists reenvisioned it and turned it into something beautiful and powerful. Homewood native, Nesbit, has created some beautiful work around Pittsburgh and manages to capture the essence of Black culture and struggles as depicted below.
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Kyle Holbrook is not only an established Pittsburgh artist he is also the founder of Moving the Lives of Kids (MLK) Community Mural Project which is a nonprofit organization. Their mission is to inspire, educate and empower the youth through public art. Although this project started in Pittsburgh, it has reached 56 cities, 27 states, and 43 countries, according to visitpittsburgh.com. Growing up, I would see his murals everywhere. I lived in Homewood, a neighborhood in Pittsburgh, but you would also see his work in other urban communities from East Liberty to the Hill District and even on busways. Holbrook has managed to rally hundreds of residents in Pittsburgh along with the MLK project to create over 40 murals. According to mlkmural.com, Holbrook has stated,
“One Friday night, during an internship teaching art at the Boys & Girls Club of Wilkinsburg, he was directing a few kids in creating a mural. ‘Since I grew up in the neighborhood, I knew a lot of the other kids who were passing by. They started crowding around: ‘Hey Mr. Kyle, can I help?’ At one point I paused and thought, ‘Look at all these kids who could be out doing all kinds of stuff, getting into trouble, and here they are, painting.’”
As a kid, I may not have known whose work it was at the time but I knew that I loved seeing it every day on my way to school or to visit my grandmother. It was a part of not just the Homewood experience but also the Pittsburgh experience. His work has touched and influenced many, including me. Below are some of his pieces that are around Pittsburgh.
I only discussed two artists in this article but there are so many Black artists in the city of Pittsburgh that have aided in its beauty. Those that live here grew up on this art; it is a part of our hood. This art tells a story which makes it not just art but a movement. So, remember when I said that Pittsburgh was known for many things? We are also known by many names, such as, “The Steel City”, “Blitzburgh”, “Sixburgh”, “The City of Bridges”, “The Burgh” and so on. Our names have come from either sports, our steel, or our bridges but there is not a name to represent all the creative and talented Black artists out there. So, allow me to create one. It might be cheesy but if it catches on, make sure you give me my credit. Without further ado, I present to you…“Artsburgh”!
Kyrah Page is currently a student at Lincoln University. She is also the CEO and founder of her own brand called “Keepin’ It Kultured”. Where she combines art with activism to empower, inspire and educate the Black community. She advocates for change, promotes black positivity, and addresses controversial issues. Kyrah is many things but most importantly she is an activist.
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