New Street Mural Welcomes Visitors to the Hoyt

NEW CASTLE, Pa. – A new mural on the street serves as a unique welcome mat for Arts & Education at the Hoyt.

The mural, which is 85 feet long and 10 feet wide, greets visitors at the main entrance of the art museum at 124 E. Leasure Ave.

The mural gives the impression that it is the edge of a clear blue pool. It features an arc of intertwined arms and flowers around the word “Welcome.”

The design was conceived by Hoyt staff and volunteers after a planning session led by Erie-based artist Antonio Howard of Erie Arts & Culture. Funding for the project came from Erie Arts & Culture, and the work was begun in late July as part of a residency project led by Howard.

Erie Arts & Culture is the regional arts agency for northwestern Pennsylvania, as appointed by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

The group’s challenge was to convey the message that “everyone belongs here”’ without words. As it turns out, the mural did use one word: Welcome.

“The idea of a welcome mat evolved over time,” said Kimberly Koller-Jones, the Hoyt’s executive director. “We discussed how to express ‘belonging’ with suggestions like a garden, hugs, sharing a meal and gathering places such as a community pool.”

It was hugs that stuck out in Howard’s mind, forming the foundation of an idea that underwent numerous iterations before settling on the current design.

The work continued to evolve as paint hit the pavement. For example, while Howard had intended to paint the arms different skin tones from the beginning, details such as jewelry, tattoos and painted fingernails were suggested by participants as the work was in progress.

Flowers were also planned as decorative elements but became symbols of love and friendship in the choice of color and variety. 

“It is all part of the community engagement process,” Howard explained.

Oftentimes, Howard would engage passersby in conversation, then encourage them to jump in. While most would offer their compliments and be on their way, some would stop and grab a brush. Others came back the next day.

“I smiled every time Antonio began explaining to each newcomer that mistakes were OK and inevitable,” Koller-Jones said. “He’d reassure them that it was just a part of the learning process and would add character.”

Throughout the project, Howard made participants and passersby feel at ease, Koller-Jones said. “That is exactly what we’d like for folks to experience inside the Hoyt – being at ease with themselves,” she said.

The Hoyt mural project was inspired by the success of a music-themed painted crosswalk at the Scottish Rite Cathedral in New Castle. That project, led by the Hoyt’s outreach director, Paige Kleinfelder, was completed in the spring by teens enrolled in the Hoyt’s KickstART program.

More street murals are planned as funds become available, Koller-Jones said.

A public ribbon-cutting is planned for Saturday, Sept. 16, at 11:45 a.m., followed by a reception inside the Hoyt.

Pictured at top: The new 85-foot-long mural on the street in front of the main entrance to Arts & Education at the Hoyt.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.