Muralist brings slices of Irwin to senior living center

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There’s a little bit of Irwin at Redstone Highlands Senior Living Community in North Huntingdon.

A year ago, a committee of administrators and residents approved the facility’s Main Street mural project, which incorporates images from downtown Irwin in the building’s main hallway.

Mural artist Jackie Hochard provided the committee with photos of eight or nine Irwin buildings and created before-and-after storyboards to show how each proposed mural area would look after painting.

So far, Redstone Highlands administrators have approved three murals.

A photo of the old Irwin Library on Third Street was used as the basis for a mural on the outside of Redstone Highlands’ library, and shake shingles from the outside of an Irwin store were painted on the outside of the Redstone Highlands gift store, now called Treats and Treasures.

Ms. Hochard also painted a brightly colored mailbox and other images from the Irwin Post Office on the outside of the Redstone Highlands mail room, which residents now call “the post office,” she said.

“We wanted to kind of create a sense of community in that common space … rather than walking down a cold long hall that had no character to it,” Redstone Highlands vice president Vicki Loucks said. “Everyone is happy with it. It has really brightened up our building.”

Alice Ann Morgan, a Main Street mural committee member, said she likes the completed work.

“I just think she’s a miracle worker,” she said.

Ms. Hochard has painted a number of murals, but this one was a joint effort with her mother, Joyce Hochard, who is a Redstone Highlands resident.

“She said, ‘But I can’t paint,’ ’” Ms. Hochard said. “I said, ‘I’ll show you how.’ ”

She taught her mother how to do the shading on bricks that were painted on columns as part of the project, and the two women eventually painted 5,176 brick pieces, including sides and ends.

Mrs. Hochard shaded bricks she could reach while standing on the floor, while her daughter climbed up two scaffolds to complete the Irwin Library mural. 

Ms. Hochard said it was fun to work with her mother. At the same time, Mrs. Hochard has a “great eye” for design, which led to some disagreements as they worked, Ms. Hochard said.

Ms. Hochard said the most enjoyable part of mural painting is figuring out how to do things and fix problems. She redid the entire roof of the Irwin Library mural after viewing a number of similar slate roofs, Ms. Hochard said.

The murals outside the gift shop and mail room were completed by August, and she finished up the Irwin Library mural last week.

If Redstone Highlands approves the mural for outside the building’s chapel, it will be painted with images of stonework from First Presbyterian Church, Irwin, and with stained glass windows that complement the window inside, the artist said.

Ms. Hochard, who graduated from Norwin High School in 1975, said she learned to paint under the instruction of Alex Frendy of Jeannette, her art teacher at Norwin.

Former Norwin assistant Superintendent Charles Turbot got the artist her first art job painting signs in the high school.

Her mother didn’t want her to attend one college they visited for art because of the extreme dress of students there, and instead, Ms. Hochard attended and graduated from Grove City College with a degree in business administration.

She worked in accounting for 15 years, then looked for something more flexible so she could help care for her father when he got sick.

Ms. Hochard went to New York for a course in faux finishes. Then her friend from college, Cindy Heddaeus, had a party introducing her to 40 women in Upper St. Clair. Those women kept her busy with mural painting projects for about three years, she said.

Since then, she has done a number of murals, including pastel animals in the nursery at First Presbyterian Church, Irwin; an Art Deco media room in a Squirrel Hill doctor’s home, where she created gold, raised plaster griffins; and murals in homes that incorporated family members and pets.

She works about 30 hours per week as a bank teller in Greensburg.

Ms. Hochard also gives programs on the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly and how to raise them for clubs, Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops.

Details: and www.redstonehighlands/facebook.

Anne Cloonan, freelance writer:

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