A New Gandhi Mural in Squirrel Hill

By Premlata Venkataraman

In late October, Som Sharma, a long-time resident of Monroeville, told us of a 15’ x 20’ mural of Mohandas Gandhi. This mural was painted on a wall in Squirrel Hill by OM, a student organization at CMU. Via e-mail we contacted Vijay Jayaram, President of OM, an organization committed to Hindu spirituality and culture at CMU that spearheaded the project. Their website states their mission: “To provide a venue for students to enjoy the richness of Hindu spirituality and its associated culture… [and] learn about the universal ideals of the Hindu dharma.”

Gandhi MuralOM’s members wanted to “permanently memorialize Mohandas Gandhi in Pittsburgh” through a large mural, which required multiple skill sets, commitment and hard work so that “students could appreciate the legacy and enduring relevance of Gandhi’s message.”

Working with MLK Mural, a Pittsburgh-based organization that paints murals around the city and the Squirrel Hill Urban Council, OM at CMU held a design contest for proposals from artists and designers. They selected the design submitted by Adelaide Cole, a senior Art major at CMU. MLK Mural’s director Kyle Holbrook gave OM-CMU all the artistic and technical details and support needed for creating the mural.

The rest was all a labor of love for the students and volunteers who joined them in this mission. Most of the mural painting was completed on Sunday, October 6th when AHINSA had organized the Gandhi Day at Frick Auditorium (Story here). MLK Mural completed the work with critical finishing touches and weatherproofing, which took several days.

From start to finish, it took two months. MLK Mural took responsibility for finding the location and obtaining permits. When Holbrook of MLK Mural approached Mr. Victor Barboza, who owns Coriander, the Indian restaurant on Murray Avenue, he readily gave the OK to use the outer wall of his restaurant for the mural. Barboza is from Karwar, Karnataka and grew up in Mumbai. Gandhi’s commitment to peace and nonviolence made it easy to get community support.

OM and MLK Mural made the on-site painting of the mural open to anyone. Students from CMU and Pitt, citizens from Squirrel Hill, and even random passersby participated. The actual painting was done on the weekend so as not to conflict with classes. But the students did spend lots of their free time earlier to plan, promote and get the job done.

“We at OM thank MLK Mural for all their help in finalizing the design details, and finding a nice place for the mural.  We also thank Mr. Victor Barboza for generously giving permission for using his restuarant’s outer wall for the mural,” said Jayaram.  ♦

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