Neighborhood Walk #2: Public art

December 11 is the second Neighborhood Walk, organized by the Rust Belt Bloggers. This time we’re looking at Public Art.

Butler has a terrific new mural that covers the side of a building on the west side of town, right across from my parents’ company.

The mural was commissioned by the owner of the building on which it’s painted: Elizabeth Graham, who had seen a mural painted in Erie and decided to commission a neighborhood-focused work by the same artist.

The artist is Rabecca Signoriello, a native of the region. The mural depicts elements and individuals particular to the West End of Butler: baseball, steel working, Pullman car and automobile manufacturing, and local bridges and features.

Butler’s baseball stadium, Historic Pullman Park, has recently been redone, just across the street from this building. A summer collegiate baseball team, the Butler BlueSox, will begin playing there in 2009, and the Division 2 College World Series will also be held in Pullman Park.

But Butler’s baseball tradition is longer than you might imagine, and the mural captures this history. As a feature in the Butler Eagle explained:

Most prominent on the mural are baseball legends like Whitey Ford, who played for the New York Yankees’ minor-league affiliate at Pullman Park in the 1940s. Ford rented an apartment on third Avenue, which runs next to My Buddy’s.

Other Butler Yankees great Joe Dimaggio and Lou Gehrig are featured, as well (as) Major League Baseball Hall of Fame ummpire Elmer Massey, who also played for the Pittsburgh Crawfords in the Negro League. Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard of the Homestead Grays are featured, too.

Butler does not have a lot of public art, so this mural is particularly striking. It also makes a huge difference to this street: The area has a mix of industrial operations, small retail, and residences, and over time it has come to feel run-down. The mural, along with the shiny new ballpark and the removal of some less appealing business buildings and houses, helps the street feel more alive.

You might not get this from the picture I took, unfortunately. It’s a cold and rainy December afternoon, when not much in western Pennsylvania looks its best. But I think you can envision how much nicer the mural is than the old, blank building side used to be.

For more background on the mural, the artist, and the project, as well as some photos of the artist in action, you can check out this article in the Butler Eagle: "Mural depicts history of Butler’s West End," Ed Biller, September 5, 2008. (Paid subscription required)

5 replies on “Neighborhood Walk #2: Public art”

  1. Geez, I was past the mural in the wrong direction sometime in the last 2 months (I no longer remember when) and didn’t even notice.

  2. Dale: I see you posted it to the Rust Belt Bloggers site. That’s probably the most visible. Nice job!

    Jennifer: The close-up will have to wait for a sunnier and warmer day — and a day when I can swing by there earlier than rush hour. Pretty much have to stand in the street to get a good clear photo.

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