Runners' mural to showcase Homewood during marathon

Work of public art will be created during May 4 race

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Long after the bands, cheerleaders and crowds disperse from neighborhood celebrations during the Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon, Homewood will have made a more lasting tribute.

A work of public art, made in part from trash that will be collected before the marathon, will be created during the May 4 race -- between mile 17 and 18 -- in a city-owned lot at North Lang and Frankstown avenues. It will be a mural collage depicting three runners symbolically.

Officials from the marathon, Operation Better Block and GTECH Strategies will hold a news conference on the site at 11 a.m. today to discuss their plans.

The marathon has supported GTECH-- Growth Through Energy and Community Health -- to plant sunflower fields in specific sites along the race course since 2011. Three have been in Homewood, one on the North Side.

Operation Better Block has been active in marathon-related events in Homewood each year and has a close relationship with GTECH.

The groups cooked up the art project as a place-holder until it's time for GTECH to plant the lot with sunflowers. Three homes were demolished on the site last year.

The mural will be installed on posts and remain in place "to show it has become an activated space and that something will be happening there," said Sara Innamorato, GTECH's communications specialist.

Homewood isn't used to accolades. For 364 days a year, it deals with vast stretches of vacant property that are neglected, frequent police calls and litter. But on marathon Sunday, the East End neighborhood is Cinderella at the ball, beloved by runners and a favorite among race volunteers.

"We ask the runners for feedback, and Homewood was their number one neighborhood last year," said Patrice Matamoros, the marathon director. "It's because of the energy and spirit in the neighborhood. There are a lot of people on their porches cheering. People shake milk jugs filled with rocks. One lady had a karaoke machine on her porch."

Demi Kolke, community development coordinator for Operation Better Block, said it's a point of pride for Homewood "to be recognized for something so positive and that people look forward to coming to the neighborhood."

Ava Weiskopf, a graphic designer who contracts with GTECH, designed the mural. It will be up for at least a year, and Operation Better Block will maintain the site, said Jerome Jackson, its executive director.

Ms. Innamorato said groups that hold cleanup events in other neighborhoods can drop off their collections at GTECH or Operation Better Block, especially if there are materials that could be used in the mural.

"Each runner in the mural will be a different color," she said. "Yellow, blue and red. We can use anything that could be glued, screwed on or nailed to a piece of plywood. No glass. And items should be less than 2-by-3 feet.

"We're going to try to do some pre-build beforehand and everyone in the community who's there [on race day] can help us install it."

The neighborhood's annual spring cleanup April 26 will provide the bulk of the materials when more than 70 people are expected to turn out, Mr. Jackson said.

The marathon typically grants each neighborhood $1,500 for provisions and entertainment, Ms. Matamoros said, adding, "We will do an additional grant" for the Homewood art project. "We work with GTECH every year because we believe in leaving the [marathon] course better than we found it."

Diana Nelson Jones: djones@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1626. Read her blog at www.post-gazette.com/citywalk.


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