StripMural1
Jasmine Goldband / The Incline

The Strip District’s most prominent mural is almost gone

It’s being covered up as the Penn Rose Building becomes luxury apartments.

Sarah Anne Hughes

Whether approaching the Strip District from the David McCullough Bridge or from Downtown, it’s hard not to notice the giant fish seemingly leaping out of a frying pan surrounded by a golden bridge, a baguette and a winged horse — 10 stories up.

Or at least it was.

The mural, titled “Welcome to the Strip,” has been slowly disappearing over the past several months as construction progresses on the Penn Rose Building. The Sprout Fund commissioned artist Sandy Kessler Kaminski to paint the piece in 2004.

The Penn Rose Building was acquired by the Philadelphia-based Red Rocks Group in 2014, according to the Post-Gazette. Developer Ethan Fellheimer, who has called the Strip the “Brooklyn of Pittsburgh,” told the paper last fall the historic building will have 72 loft-style units (ranging in price from $1,100 to $2,100 a month), street-level retail, restored windows and “very sexy” bathrooms. The project was endorsed in 2015 by community development nonprofit Neighbors in the Strip (now called Strip District Neighbors).

When asked if the mural was being covered permanently or temporarily, Fellheimer said via email, “It will no longer be on the building.”

Kaminski told The Incline she reached out to the developer to see if they would let her paint something compatible with the historic restoration. She said she never received a reply.

Fellheimer did not address that claim in a follow-up email, writing, “We believe the restoration of the facade to its original color will greatly enhance the skyline of the Strip District.”

Kaminski called the mural “one of the toughest designs that I ever had to work with,” as there were a lot of community voices and business owners that wanted to dictate what happened. “I was like, ‘No, that’s not how this works,'” she recalled with a laugh. “It was a lot of work.”

You’ve probably seen some of Kaminski’s other work without realizing it, like her “A New Perspective” on a door in Oakland, her many murals in Millvale or the fish she painted on the North Side. As a teacher with The Pittsburgh Project, she’s currently working with her students on a mosaic gateway sign for Perry Hilltop and Fineview, as well as portrait panels of Negro League Baseball players.

Kaminski said she’s upset to see the mural disappear, saying 12 years “seems an awful short lifecycle” for a piece of art. She’s worked well with other developers like Walnut Capital in the past on community projects.

“I was kind of hoping this developer might go, ‘Hey, there’s an artist here who can still paint this stuff, and maybe we should work with her since we destroyed her calling card.'”

2733836434_1a60fdd556_o
christine592 / Flickr