So I’m at home, minding my own, watching the news when this story came on about a young, black, female artist who is currently painting a mural downtown.
Immediatly, I thought “Oh wow! Pittsburgh’s doing a Black Lives Matter mural? That’s dope” (but I was wrong). Following the story a bit further, it wasn’t a mural of the movement but a movement with a colorful yet similar message.
The artist is Jayla Patton and the mural is titled “Colorful Growth/Soft Waves”, now showing on Penn Avenue, downtown, between 9th and 10 Streets until early November.
I found her online and immediately reached out to her via Instagram to set up a meeting. She didn’t hesitate and invited me down for a chat.
We decided to meet Saturday morning which worked out perfectly because the weather was picture-perfect, to say the least! Perfect because even with an overcast, the colors on the mural screamed “Here I am! I’m what you came to see!”
I parked my car, paid the meter ($4 for a freakin’ hour? Really, Pittsburgh?), and walked towards the mural on Penn. I looked around to see if I can spot Jayla and there she was; a brown-skin girl, full of focus and inspiration, already working.
“Hey, Jayla! I’m Ki Ki!” I muffled from under my facemask. “Oh yeah! Hey!” I can see that she was smiling from her eyes looking up at me. We said hello with our elbows (because you know…the Rona) and we started making small talk.
I thanked her for agreeing to see me as I know she’s been bombarded by media all week. After explaining what I wanted to do and why, she was like “ok, cool”. No questions, no odd looks from above her bandana facemask. We were good to go.
Before I arrived, she had been trying to remove some smudges from the mural caused by rain, foot traffic, whatever. So I told her I would take some video and photos before we started the interview. “Ok, cool” she happily shrugged.
As I’m taking pictures and video with my iPhone, I thought, “damn, I’m in Pittsburgh, my hometown, about to interview a street artist who is creating a mural with a message that so fitting for the days we’re living in right now. One message that is well overdue for this city! Who would have thought?”
I must admit, I was a little nervous. All I kept thinking about was, how am I going to do this holding a selfie stick? And then, I dropped my cards in the water! Dammit! That’s so embarrassing!
While on a phone call, Jayla walked over to me and handed me a towel to wipe off the street wet from my notes. If that wasn’t GOD telling me to chill out, I don’t know what was!
I put the cards in my pocket and said “f” it! Let’s do this!
The Takeaway: Meeting Jayla was super sweet and super awesome! Her energy was soothing and I was moved by her inspiring message that if we just stop trying to over talk one another, accepting faults and failures (in the video she calls it something else with the letter “f”), we can make beautiful, colorful sounds and waves that can heal this world. Sounds a little kumbaya but you get what I’m saying, right?
Next time you have some free time, grab your masks and the kids for a teachable moment. Jayla should be there to answer any questions you may have!
Shouts to the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership for doing this!
Here’s my one on one with artist, Jayla Patton: