New South Side Mural Has Message of Stopping Gun Violence

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A new mural on a South Side building is taking aim at gun violence.

The simplistic piece of art on the former Park Inn building, 2262 Glenwood Ave., is the work of Kyle Holbrook, a Florida-based artist and muralist who grew up in violence-plagued Wilkinsburg borough on the edge of Pittsburgh. Holbrook claims that more than 40 of his friends have been killed by gun violence.

The 14-by-24-foot mural depicts a hand giving the peace sign over an abstract background with a stylized stop sign that reads “Stop gun violence.”

It is part of Holbrook’s Moving the Lives of Kids mural project.

Holbrook, who could not be reached for comment, founded the program in 2002 as a public arts organization and has painted more than 500 murals in roughly 100 U.S. cities and several countries. More than 7,000 children have been involved in the murals.

The idea for the project came to the artist when he was working with children at a Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs in Wilkinsburg, painting a mural, according to his website. 

“Since I grew up in the neighborhood, I knew a lot of the other kids who were passing by,” he stated. “They started crowding around: ‘Hey Mr. Kyle, can I help?’ At one point I paused and thought, ‘Look at all these kids who could be out doing all kinds of stuff, getting into trouble, and here they are, painting.’”

His vision is to use public art to reach kids over the summer months to do positive community work when they are not in school. 

Like many cities in the country, Youngstown is experiencing a spike in gun violence. There have been 22 gun killings in the city so far this year and 99 people shot, both surpassing last year’s totals. In August alone, there have been 25 shootings.

Two killings on the West Side Tuesday night have not yet been ruled homicide.

Last week, eight people were shot in a South Side disturbance that took two lives, including that of a 10-year-old girl.

Katrina Love has lived in the Fosterville neighborhood – where the new mural is located – since 1972 and has been captain of Fosterville Block Watch since 1996.

“I’m so happy and pleased to see this mural,” she said, while admiring the artwork Wednesday morning. “It’s beautiful. Love, peace and happiness is my motto.”

Love and her group were holding Freedom Fest on Saturday in the neighborhood and witnessed a shooting that took place on Glenwood Avenue after the event ended. “All of the kids ran over to the playground to be with us,” she said.

Love said she is troubled by the rash of gun violence in the city.

“It saddens my heart to know that people cannot solve their issues in a peaceful manner,” she said. “It just saddens my heart and I just pray and pray every day for us to have peace.”

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.