Covering 8,500 square feet, Lend Me Your Ears was The Sprout Fund’s largest community mural. The original design only included the side facing 5900 Penn Avenue, but when the community group learned that an adjacent building was to be torn down and that the mural would become the new gateway for the community, they raised the funds to extend the mural, covering both sides of the building. The mural stood as an icon in the East Liberty neighborhood for more than a decade.
In addition to a massive canvas, artist Jordan Monahan, age 19 at the time, was given great freedom in designing the mural. With direction from the community group, Monahan chose a small number of highly spirited images to create a striking and vibrant gateway for East Liberty. The children depicted were from the community, and segments of the old marquee signs from the Enright and Regent theaters were placed where the two walls came together. Rather than utilizing the traditional dove image, Monahan used pigeons as a symbol of peace because of the plethora of pigeons coasting through the sky over East Liberty. The diversity of the community was expressed through the many colors of the television test pattern running through the mural. By limiting explicit references and letting the images do the work, Monahan created a graphic landmark for East Liberty, incorporating the attitude and identity of this neighborhood into an engaging piece of public art.
Dedicated in September 2004, Monahan was assisted on the commission by Alison Zapata. The Sprout Fund’s community partners on the project were Novum Pharmaceutical Research Services, East Liberty Development Inc., the East Liberty Quarter Chamber of Commerce, the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, Whole Foods Market Pittsburgh, and 720 Records.
Future Plans for the Mural Site
Alphabet City Development is collaborating with the Kelly Strayhorn Theater and other community partners to commission new art for 5900 as well as additional public art works in the East Liberty business district. Further details on the new commission can be found at kelly-strayhorn.org.
For more information about the building development, please visit eastlibertynow.com.
Photos Credit: Rob Larson
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GigaPan Photos Credit: Rob Larson