Art project spruces up Carrick

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Art project spruces up Carrick

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

By Diana Nelson Jones, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pam Panchak/Post-Gazette

Click Here to read the story on line.

Melissa Rosefeld 2.jpg

Artists who spruced up Carrick's vacant storefronts include, from left, Steve Hutter of Knoxville, Tommy Mason of Washington, Pa., Lynsey Kern of Allison Park, Melissa Rosenfeld of Carrick, Gail Matus of Carrick, Kathryn Carr of Bethel Park and Mary Grace Nichol of Crafton.

A Pittsburgh Leader article from 1904 reporting on the status of Carrick stated that "if nine out of 10 Pittsburgers were asked where Carrick is they could not answer. If asked to describe the place they would be equally at sea."

That's kind of how residents of this huge neighborhood on Pittsburgh's southern hilltop feel they are regarded today.

"People feel forgotten," said Melissa Rosenfeld, a wisp of a woman with a strong grip. She's both sweet and fired up for her neighborhood. Walking along the 2600 block of Brownsville Road the other day, she touched the dusty glass of an empty storefront and said, "I'm so tired of looking at this: Dark, empty and cold."

The very next storefront blooms with works of art. Across the street, art fills two storefronts.

Seventeen artists contributed work when Ms. Rosenfeld put out the call earlier this summer. She fueled her project, The Carrick Art Escape, with a $1,000 grant from the Neighborhood Investment Association and a flier designed by Pittsburgh police Detective Alphonso Sloan.

Detective Sloan is on the Graffiti Task Force and, as a graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, liked the idea of art jumping in ahead of blight and its attendant graffiti. "I couldn't wait to help her out with her project," he said.

Ms. Rosenfeld sent a mass e-mail calling for artists, "and all of a sudden people tell me I'm on Facebook and Craigslist," she said. "Artists from all over responded."

The art work is in the 2600, 2000 and 1800 blocks of Brownsville.

Ms. Rosenfeld, her husband, Don, and 15-year-old daughter, Malia, spent chunks of their summer buying art supplies and delivering them to the artists -- among them muralist Mary Grace Nichol in Crafton, photographer Tommy Mason in Washington, Pa., and painters Lynsey Kern in Allison Park and Joyce Wasser in Highland Park.

Gail Matus lives in Carrick. In her panel, "Growing Up Carrick," she said, "I wanted to tell the story of the community. Then I realized I recognized my own family in it."

Mr. Mason said he was challenged by the space: "These were the biggest pieces I've ever done," 3 feet by 7 feet. "Melissa's attitude was just so exciting. She's such a positive person. I think her project should be a model for all communities."

"We get so used to seeing the same thing every day," said Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, a Carrick native who helped spread the word on Facebook, Twitter and in her other networks. "Art can wake us up and see the world in a different way.

"Brownsville Road is a very heavily traveled corridor, and I hope visitors and residents alike will find interest in storefronts and buildings that have been previously overlooked."

Ms. Rosenfeld contacted as many owners of vacant storefronts as she could for permission. The one that sports Mr. Mason's giant photograph of green and red peppers -- a former Isaly's -- now has a look of possibilities, "like a good Italian restaurant," she said. "The art is meant to inspire building owners and encourage entrepreneurs to come to Carrick."

A board member of the Carrick Community Council, she said the group's goal "is to transform Carrick into one of the up-and-coming neighborhoods, like Lawrenceville did." The council's website is

Retail on Carrick's portion of Brownsville -- at two miles one of the city's longest commercial corridors -- far outweighs vacancies, but several dusty windows block after block are too much, said Ms. Rosenfeld, 42, a former teacher's aide. "It was beautiful when I was growing up, and it has beautiful potential."

Her next plan is to organize an art crawl on the sidewalks at rush hour, with the artists and their portfolios. "Brownsville at 4:30 is bumper-to-bumper," she said.

Diana Nelson Jones: or 412-263-1626. Read her blog City Walkabout at