The mural near the Busway is ‘so much more than art’

Article in Pittsburgh Courier

WILKINSBURG RISING—Neon Coleman-Beauford is elated as Hebru Brantley puts the finishing touches on his mural, “Flyboy,” on Wallace Avenue in Wilkinsburg. (Photo by Emmai Alaquiva)

There’s a new resident in Wilkinsburg.

Meet “Flyboy.”

Flyboy sits taller than any human and can be seen for blocks.

He’s got certain powers no human would ever have. After all, he’s a superhero.

Flyboy is the name of the character that was illustrated on a building at the corner of Wallace Avenue and Pitt Street in Wilkinsburg, near the Busway. The mural was created by Hebru Brantley, an internationally-known African American artist from Chicago.

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust presented Brantley’s gallery show, “I wish I knew (how it felt to be free)” at the August Wilson Center last year. The Trust brought Brantley back to the area this year to do the mural. The mural is a project of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

“Yesterday, there was a moment where there was an African American kid walking along the street,” Brantley told the crowd at the April 28 unveiling. “He stopped at the wall, and I was standing across the street watching his interaction. I didn’t engage him, but you saw in that moment where he connected with this wall, and whatever that message was for him, it was impactful. He slowly walked down the block taking apart the piece and really engaging with it. More than anything, that’s really my intended purpose.”

Marita Garrett, Mayor of Wilkinsburg, told supporters she was among those in a small group searching for the right spot for the mural to be located. One day, she looked toward the Wilkinsburg Busway and saw an empty building.

“The sun just hit right here,” she said.

Hebru Brantley

“I truly believe that a community needs arts and the culture, that’s essential to any community. If you don’t have that in your community, then what type of community do you really have,” Garrett said.

Flyboy is a character you can’t miss. If one grabs a bite to eat along Penn Avenue, they will see the mural. Headed on the “Fast Bus,” also known as the “P1” or the “EBA?” One is sure to see Flyboy.

Brantley has been recognized nationally for his public works and solo shows in Chicago, London, San Francisco, Miami, Los Angeles and New York. He’s collaborated with Nike and Adidas, to name a few. Brantley has a Bachelor of Arts degree in film from Clark Atlanta University.

Brantley told the New Pittsburgh Courier that Flyboy is all about empowering Black communities.

“It’s a lot to be said when you enter into African American communities and there’s a lack of representation in these settings (films, comics, cartoons),” he said. “So for me, it’s important to sort of create a character that can stand and be a hero (to African American audiences) and be a symbol of empowerment.”

“It’s so much more than art,” Garrett said. “What it signifies to our youth is that you can truly be anything that you want to be and that you should strive for excellence