The Restored Brookline Mural - 2017
In mid-September, 2017, work began on refurbishing and repainting the Brookline Mural, a welcome sign that greets motorists and visitors as they drive along the looping part of Brookline Boulevard from West Liberty Avenue. Originally painted in 1996, the mural had begun to deteriorate over the last few years, with paint chipping and strong discolorization.
Starting around 2013, the Brookline Area Community Council, the neighborhood group who first commissioned the artwork and held responsibility for its upkeep and maintenance, had been trying to work out a solution to the problem, but found that to be a very difficult process.
Town hall meetings were held to gauge the opinion of Brookliners as to whether the mural should be replaced with a new design or refurbished as is. Opinions were mixed. It was learned that the wall is owned by the City of Pittsburgh, and any changes would need prior approval. This included a safety inspection by City Engineers to determine if the wall was still structurally sound.
Once that inspection was complete, Brookline Area Community Council President Annette Ferrieri began researching cost estimates for having the mural either redone or replaced with another design. These came in at approximately $30,000. A new design would also require the approval of the Pittsburgh Arts Commission, a sometimes difficult and lengthy process.
In order to raise that amount of capital, Ferrieri approached the South Pittsburgh Development Corporation to assess the feasibility of obtaining a grant through that non-profit organization. By the time the grant proposal was ready for submission, two years had passed.
At this time the Community Council received unexpected news. The Urban Renewal Authority ruled that the painting was not really a mural, but a welcome sign. This ruling had the effect of both assisting and complicating the process of the art replacement, or refurbishment.
Because murals and welcome signage are governed by different regulations, the designation as a welcome sign eliminated the Community Council's having to get approval from the Pittsburgh Arts Commission for any refurbishment. However, this ruling also presented new challenges.
It was determined that stripping the wall and painting a new design would require contacting the original artist, Jennifer Rempel, who owned the copyright to the existing artwork. Rempel would have to release her claim to the copyright in order for any changes to be made to the wall design. Also, painting a new mural instead of just repairing the existing welcome sign would require starting the process over and obtaining Art Commission approval.
For the sake of time, cost and further deliberation, it was decided to stick with the existing design. After tracking down the original artist, she was hired to oversee the refurbishment. Work began in mid-September and was completed by October 15, 2017.
Once the project was finally finished, the Brookline Welcome Sign looked as good as new. The wall was stripped in the problem spots, reprimed and then repainted. Jennifer Rempel was on hand to oversee and assist in the painting, and personally handled the repainting of the murals signature feature, the image of a sculptor with his chisel and hammer carving the letters by hand.
Thanks to the dedicated work of the Brookline Community Council President Annette Ferrieri, Council members, the South Pittsburgh Deveopment Corporation and concerned Brookline residents, one of Brookline's iconic landmarks is back in top form, ready to greet motorists and visitors for the next twenty years or more.
* Photos provided by Doug Brendel - Information by Dan Kaczmarek *
A Look Back In Time
The wall was originally built in 1935 during the reconstruction of Brookline Boulevard. It stood bare for sixty-one years until, in 1996, Jennifer Rempel was contracted by the Brookline Area Community Council to paint the mural.
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