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Painting it Forward, 1 Town at a Time



Sometimes you have to stop thinking about painting and just paint. On Sunday, September 9th, workers at Durability + Design did just that. 

Technology Publishing Company, which is also home to the Journal of Protective Coatings & Linings (JPCL) and Paint BidTracker, joined the Paint the Town effort, brainchild of national radio personality Delilah, along with WISH 99.7 radio; the Lawrenceville Corporation; Lawrenceville United; the people of The United Methodist Church; and Glidden Paint.

This was the fourth year for this volunteer project, whose goal is to spruce up needy residential and commercial building façades with a fresh coat of paint.

Paint The Town is a community project and promotion created by Delilah to inspire consumers and listeners of her program to invest time and energy in their towns and neighborhoods, and instill pride in the places they call home.

Glidden donated thousands of gallons of paint in vibrant shades, and windows and doors were taped off with a generous donation from Frog Tape, a sponsor of the event.

Hey There, Delilah

With her soothing voice, open heart and love of music, Delilah hosts a nationally syndicated show that attracts nearly nine million weekly listeners on more than 200 radio stations, making her the most-listened-to woman on U.S. radio.

This year, she was honored at the Alliance of Women in Media’s 37th Annual Gracie Awards Gala, where she took home the trophy for “Outstanding Host–Entertainment/Information.” Often referred to as the “Oprah of Radio,” Delilah is an author and diligent participant in volunteer efforts on many levels.

In addition to her Paint the Town projects, Delilah is an avid supporter of the hunger-relief organization Feed the Children, and she established a foundation of her own called Point Hope, a voice for forgotten children everywhere.

 Paint the Town
 A volunteer paints a garage at Sullivan Field.

Painting Many Towns

Over the past three years, Delilah has brought Paint the Town projects to suburban towns near Seattle, St. Louis and Chicago. This year, Pittsburgh’s eclectic Lawrenceville neighborhood was chosen for its civic pride and physical characteristics that make the project possible.

“It’s an honor to be welcomed into a neighborhood that’s so rich in history, pride and beauty,” said Delilah.

 Paint the Town
Technology Publishing volunteers (left to right) Paint BidTracker editors, Kristen Reiner and Emily Orsovay, your humble author and Marian Welsh, Publisher of JPCL.

“We look for a spirit of volunteerism. We look for businesses and homes with character and charm,” says Kraig Kitchin, who manages Delilah’s businesses and community activities. “We look for an involved city government and cooperation from all city departments.”

Once primarily occupied by steel mills because of its proximity to the Allegheny River, Lawrenceville is notable as the birthplace (and burial place) of American composer Stephen Foster. It is also site of a Civil War arsenal that exploded in 1862, killing 79 workers, most of them young girls.

 Paint the Town
Paint The Town volunteers (left to right) Maurice Brown, Michele Hudson of Citizens Bank, and Matthew and Babs Sefiane of Constellation Energy.

Now an up-and-coming urban neighborhood, Lawrenceville is undergoing a transformation common these days in formerly industrial neighborhoods. It boasts an active art community peppered with new galleries, restaurants, diverse businesses, and community events.

Beyond Buildings

In addition to painting building facades, Paint the Town has always included other components, including the design and implementation of a mural, the subject of which is specific to each location. Richard Washek, a set designer from Seattle and friend of Delilah’s, is always on hand to manage that process.

The two met four years ago when Delilah was attempting to create her own mural. She is a very capable artist but had never taken on a project of that scale. He literally happened to walk by, and offered to help. Four years later, he is the lead artist and muralist on every Paint the Town mural project.

 Paint the Town
Doughboy “Square,” which is clearly a triangle, and its image preserved in the new Paint The Town mural under the 40th Street Bridge.

Lawrenceville has long been identified by the Doughboy statue that stands at the intersection of Penn and Butler Streets, serving as a sort of entrance into the neighborhood. Erected to commemorate soldiers who served in World War I, the statue drew 20,000 people for its dedication. The statue sits in a small park-like setting called “Doughboy Square,” oddly shaped like a triangle. No better image represents Lawrenceville, and this area was therefore chosen as the subject of Pittsburgh’s Paint the Town mural.

Redoing the Doughboy

“A computer-generated image was taken of the Doughboy Square section,” Washek explains. “It was then projected onto the mural surface at night, and the basic outlines were painted. The color was then filled in during the day by volunteers and me.”

 Paint the Town
Set designer and mural artist, Richard Washek, helps out with building façade painting at Paint The Town in Lawrenceville.

The mural adorns the support of the 40th Street Bridge and provides further color to a trail and community green space along the river. A few yards from the mural sits the Bernard Dog Park, yet another contribution by Paint the Town.

Since 2008, Lawrenceville has been struggling to raise funds for a dog park in the name of Jay Bernard, a close friend of mine and a major force in Lawrenceville’s revitalization. Before he passed away in 2007, he spearheaded many major efforts on behalf of his beloved neighborhood where he lived and operated his handmade soap company, Jay Design.

 Paint the Town
Your humble author and Jay Bernard at a Hawaiian-themed pool party in the 80s.

“To those active in Lawrenceville's fun—from the House Tour and Art All Night to the Joy of Cookies tour and the Boys of Lawrenceville and its gourmet spaghetti dinner fund-raiser—Mr. Bernard is considered nearly irreplaceable,” wrote Diana Nelson Jones in his obituary. “He seemed unsinkable, too, so boundless was his energy on behalf of his neighborhood.”

Paint the Town provided the necessary resources, financial and otherwise, to see Jay’s dog park finally open.

No doubt about it, the fingerprint this project leaves on the towns that it touches is indelible. This project that started years ago when Delilah noticed building facades in need of a little TLC on her way to work every day has taken on a life of its own.

It gives me a personal sense of satisfaction knowing that I helped to beautify the neighborhood that my friend, Jay, loved so deeply. And every time I pass Raymond Auto Body on Liberty Avenue (the building I worked on), I will feel a sense of pride and ownership. But satisfaction, ownership, and pride aside, it was a really fun day. Go figure.


Tagged categories: Building facades; Causes; Coatings manufacturers; Community service; Donations

Comment from Josh Inklovich, (9/13/2012, 6:08 AM)

Paint is a great way to make a vibrant, visible difference. It was nice to come back to a neighborhood I ran around in as a youth while having the opportunity to contribute to my city. The 40th street bridge mural is quite cool. Yay United Methodist Church, Delilah, Glidden, and volunteers!

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