Who Painted These Dog Murals?

Fifth Avenue, Downtown New Kensington. December, 2021. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

First off, thanks to everyone who sent me condolences on the death of my grandmother (my late mom’s mom) last month. I greatly appreciate the cards and emails.

Grandma reminded me a little bit of Betty White. Grandma was 90 years old and Betty White was 99. To be honest, it kinda hurt when, right after Grandma passed away, I saw Betty White appear in a television commercial. Then, a few weeks after Grandma passed away, Betty White also passed away. I also lost one of my favorite uncles in 2021 – my dad’s brother. My family greatly appreciates everyone who reached out to us.

Here’s another “mural” photo for you. I don’t know who did this one. My Google skills fail me today. So, if anyone knows who painted these dogs in these windows, please reach out to me. I would love to credit the artist.

Fifth Avenue, Downtown New Kensington. December, 2021. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

Mural: “Rising Phoenix” at Voodoo Brewery by Shane Pilster

Fifth Avenue, Downtown New Kensington. December 4, 2021. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

If you Google “New Kensington” and “Voodoo Brewery,” you can find a lot of photos of Shane Pilster’s “Rising Phoenix” mural. In fact, here are photos that I took last December, a week after Krampus brought me my camera.

You can also find a lot of information about New Kensington’s Voodoo Brewery / Voodoo at the Ritz and Old Town Overhaul with a quick Google search. Here’s such an article from the Trib.

So, for this blog post, I took a bunch of photos that showed the “Rising Phoenix” mural in the background as the community gathered for New Kensington’s Christmas Parade.

Fifth Avenue, Downtown New Kensington. December 4, 2021. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

I felt really defeated last spring over the setbacks that Jonathan and I had encountered in trying to rebuild our front porch. I wrote a snarky post on this very blog about how murals weren’t going to solve New Kensington’s problems. The murals weren’t solving any of MY problems. My sister Elizabeth is a hero because she read the post right after I published it. She told me that I was harsh. I took the blog post down about an hour after I published it. The post now resides for eternity in blog post hell. Or, maybe it resides in blog post purgatory because with my luck it’s cached somewhere.

But, now our porch is almost complete. I feel much more hopeful about my future here in New Kensington.

Fifth Avenue, Downtown New Kensington. December 4, 2021. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

These marchers arrived on a bus from Valley High School in New Kensington. I watched the bus arrive. It travelled past me and unloaded on the next block over from where I sat waiting the parade to begin. I saw kids sitting next to the windows, holding their trombones.

Fifth Avenue, Downtown New Kensington. December 4, 2021. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

I have a soft spot for the high school marching band. I marched in a high school band when I grew up in Somerset County. I played the clarinet.

I don’t remember getting to march past any cool brewery murals, though.

Mural: New Ken by Bernie Wilke and Other Artists and also a Santa Claus Cameo

Mural by Bernie Wilke and Other Artists. Fourth Avenue, Downtown New Kensington. December 4, 2021. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

I cheated and posted a version of this photo on Facebook yesterday so that I could share it with New Kensington’s Fire Department.

I wrote before that my eyes have a “little bit” of a strabismus. I’m having a really terrible time figuring out if this photo is straight, even with the tools on my Lightroom software. So, please let me know if this photo looks crooked. A close family member told me that my photo cropping on this is fine, but I don’t believe them.

Bernie Wilke and other local artists, including local volunteers, painted this mural in the spring of 2021. Here are the photos of that I took of the Work-In-Progress Mural and also of the mural dedication.

If you leave the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the Allegheny Valley Exit, drive through Cheswick and Springdale, and then turn right to drive across the C.L. Schmitt to cross the Allegheny River into New Kensington, you will see this mural as you enter downtown New Kensington.

The very first time that I ever came to New Kensington, I drove here on Route 56 from Johnstown. I lived in Johnstown at that time because I worked in downtown Johnstown at my very first post-college job that provided health insurance. (I used to refer to the job in Johnstown as my very first “real job.” But, you see, that’s not fair to anybody who worked with me at Wendy’s or McDonald’s or Wal-Mart before I found an office job with health insurance in Johnstown. So, I’m going to replace “real job” with “job that provided health insurance.”)

On my very first trip ever to New Kensington, I visited my future husband, Jonathan, at his then newly-purchased house in Parnassus. Then, I watched a New Kensington Civic Theater play for which Jonathan provided tech and manual labor.

I left New Kensington in the dark on that visit. I intended to use the Pennsylvania Turnpike to drive to my parents’ house in Somerset County. This being my very first trip to New Kensington, I had no idea how to access the turnpike from New Kensington. I did not own any mobile devices that had GPS.

Jonathan said, “Oh, how about if I drive to the turnpike on-ramp in my car, and you can follow me. The turnpike is really close to my house, and it’s no problem at all for me to just show you where it is.”

So, I followed Jonathan to the turnpike entrance. Turned out that the turnpike was NOT “really close” to Jonathan’s house. The drive took us 15 minutes with no real traffic. Jonathan later admitted to me that he feared that I would get lost finding the turnpike and thus I would never agree to drive to New Kensington ever again if he left me to locate the turnpike on my own.

Anyway, I took the photo at the top of this blog post yesterday during New Kensington’s Christmas parade. I considered skipping the parade this year because my mom used to drive up (drive down?) from Somerset County each December to watch the parade with me before she passed away in 2018. But, we didn’t have a parade in 2020. So I went to the 2021 parade.

The above photo was an afterthought. The parade route started on Fifth Avenue, made a left, made a second left, and proceeded onto Fourth Avenue. So, the parade route has a U shape. I set myself up to watch the entire parade on Fifth Avenue. After the parade ended for the people watching on Fifth Avenue, I cut across the parade route to re-watch the tail end of the parade on Fourth Avenue. I crossed Fourth Avenue behind the end of the parade and I kept walking until I stood directly across Fourth Avenue from the New Kensington mural. Just then, the fire truck carrying Santa Claus passed by the mural. I decided at that moment to take out my camera and try to grab a photo. I really wish that I would have pre-planned this. Maybe I could have gotten a photo of Santa Claus looking at the camera.

But, I can’t complain about a photo that I didn’t plan at all.

Mural: Shine by Ashley Hodder

Mural by Ashley Hodder. Fifth Avenue, Downtown New Kensington. November 27, 2021. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

Here is a photo of the mural “Shine” by Ashley Hodder.

I wanted to shoot this mural against a blue sky with no cars in the foreground. Maybe I’ll still get to this. However, every time that I drive down this street with my camera, the sky refuses to cooperate. Cars line both sides of the street. I’m lucky that I found a decent place to park today. I won’t complain about a thriving downtown.

I shot this mural once before. As the artist painted it. Here is the work-in-progress on the evening of September 24, 2021, during the September edition of New Kensington’s “Final Fridays.”

Mural by Ashley Hodder. Fifth Avenue, Downtown New Kensington. September 24, 2021. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

The building to which this wall belongs housed the former Bloser’s Jewelers. Crews filmed a scene from the 2019 movie adaptation of Maria Semple’s fiction novel “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?” inside this building.

The story actually took place in Seattle. The movie producers used Pittsburgh and the towns around Pittsburgh (such as New Kensington) as a stand-in for Seattle. Pittsburgh’s a less expensive city. (New Kensington is even less expensive.)

I read the book. The book underwhelmed me. I guess that that whole story was kinda tongue-in-cheek. Most of the humor went over my head.

I didn’t see the movie yet. I kinda want to watch it just to see the scene that was filmed inside of this building. But – the release date kept getting pushed back. Then, I found too many other ways to waste my time than to watch a movie adaptation of a book that I didn’t enjoy.

My Call to Action: Did you watch the movie Where’d You Go, Bernadette?” What did you think of it?

The One with the Cat Mural (Cat Mural by Raphael Pantalone)

Cat mural by artist Raphael Pantalone. This building houses Frankie’s Friends Cat Rescue in downtown New Kensington. Photo taken September 25, 2021

I get my ideas from other places, just like a lot of other people.

You’re probably sick of hearing about this, but after Covid happened, I spent much time consuming Adam Selzer’s “Mysterious Chicago” Facebook page. Adam turned each Monday into “Mural Monday.” On each Monday, he posts virtual tours of himself walking around Chicago neighborhoods looking at murals. When he goes on vacation and his vacation happens to overlap with a Monday, he posts video of whatever town he happens to be in on that day.

So, New Kensington is in the process of being cleaned up and repaired. Preservationists secured funding to paint murals here. (Just like Chicago!)

I said to myself, “Jenny, you know of some people who used to live here, and then they moved away to other parts of the country. Maybe they would like to see these new murals.”

I made this assumption because my mom moved away from the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Carrick in the 1970’s and her parents left in the 1990’s, but every so often, she and my dad travelled to Pittsburgh for various reasons and some of their trips included quick drives around Carrick.

I don’t plan to do Mural Monday. I will just photograph and post murals when the mood strikes me, and then tag these posts with the “Murals” category.

So, here’s a cat mural for you. This cat mural covers the side of the building occupied by Frankie’s Friends Cat Rescue in downtown New Kensington. Facebook taught me that Raphael Pantalone painted this mural as well as additional cat murals inside the building.

Aluminum City Mural by Bernie Wilke

Updated: Here are the photos that I took at yesterday’s mural dedication.

Mural by Bernie Wilke. Mural Dedication. Downtown New Kensington, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. April 11, 2021. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)
Mural Dedication. Downtown New Kensington, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. April 11, 2021. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

Here is my blog post from last week:

Mural Creation. Downtown New Kensington, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. April 5, 2021. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men`s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever- growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty.

This quote from the architect Daniel Burnham produces a lot of Google results. However, I learned about this from Adam Selzer’s Mysterious Chicago livestreams. Selzer taught me that Burnham spoke these words at an urban planning conference in London in October 1910.

So, today when my husband came back from his lunchtime walk around Parnassus and downtown New Kensington, he told me something.

He said, “Hey, they’re putting up that mural downtown right now.”

Mural Creation. Downtown New Kensington, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. April 5, 2021. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

We’ve known for awhile now that community leaders planned for a mural in downtown New Kensington. In fact, here is the story from the local media that told Jonathan and I almost everything that we knew about the mural.

You will be able to see this mural as you finish crossing the bridge that locals call “The New Kensington Bridge” (technically the C.L. Schmitt Bridge) over the Allegheny River, into downtown New Kensington.

It’s being added to the side of a building right next to the scene of a devastating multi-building fire that happened a few years ago. In fact, my husband worked at the scene of this fire as a volunteer firefighter. In my opinion, the fire seemed to be pretty heartbreaking for so many people. So, I’m happy to see something pretty created here.

I’m so happy that I headed downtown and took photos of the mural-in-progress.

Every single one of you who comes here to look at my photos is fantastic and I love you all. For those of you who dream bigger than I do, “God Bless You!”

Mural Creation. Downtown New Kensington, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. April 5, 2021. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)
Mural Creation. Downtown New Kensington, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. April 5, 2021. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)
Mural Creation. Downtown New Kensington, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. April 5, 2021. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

Nor’easter in New Ken?

Beer Garden at Voodoo Brewery, downtown New Kensington, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. December 16, 2020. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

I joked in a prior post that Krampus brought me a new camera for Krampusnacht.

In reality, I received a new camera for Christmas. The camera arrived on Krampusnacht. I tested it today during our first snowstorm of the winter.

I actually took these photos several hours ago. We have even more snow right now. The snow is still falling.

Alcoa Aluminum Smelter in Voodoo Brewery’s Beer Garden. December 16, 2020. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

You should see above a photo of the Alcoa aluminum smelter that now sits in Voodoo Brewery’s beer garden in New Kensington.

This relic sat for decades at Station Square in Pittsburgh. (Station Square is a dining and shopping district along the Monongahela River, directly across said river from downtown Pittsburgh.)

The property owner at Station Square no longer wanted it.

Now, Alcoa actually plays a role in New Kensington’s history. HUGE role.

So, a month ago, crews moved this smelter 20 miles to the beer garden on Fifth Avenue, New Kensington.

Pittsburgh’s loss. Our gain.

Here’s an article from the Trib about the Alcoa smelter if you want to read more about it.

To be honest, I have eaten out at Station Square many times. I went there for boat trips on the river when I was in high school. This smelter actually stood next to the dock that we used for these trips. I don’t remember EVER seeing the smelter during my trips to Station Square. I’m sure that this was because Station Square just had so much other things to see. Also, because back in the olden days, I wouldn’t have actually cared about an Alcoa smelter. I never had any interest in industrial history when when I was high school. (The only reason that I remembered Henry Clay Frick was because Emma Goldman’s boyfriend shot him during the Homestead riots.) I never cared about Alcoa until I met Jonathan Woytek and he brought me to New Kensington.

Now that this smelter sits down the street from my house, I am sure that I will have plenty of opportunities to check out the smelter as I sip on my Voodoo beer. Maybe take a few selfies in front of it.

Not now, of course. We are living through a snowstorm and also a global pandemic. But soon.

Catoris Candies, Fifth Avenue, New Kensington. December 16, 2020. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)
This block is caddy-corner from the Beer Garden at Voodoo Brewery, downtown New Kensington. December 16, 2020. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)
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