The 10.27 Healing Partnership is taking its message to the streets — and windows.
In an effort to promote local businesses and encourage community members to imagine an area free from hate, the 10.27 Healing Partnership has partnered with Uncover Squirrel Hill and neighborhood store owners to disseminate peaceful messaging through art.
Highlighting local businesses by placing colorful and impactful artwork in store windows was driven by a desire to create dialogue, said Maggie Feinstein, the 10.27 Healing Partnership’s director. “This project is a way to display the community we all want to create together, even while we are socially distant.”
COVID-19 has brought numerous challenges to small business owners in Pittsburgh and across the country, including fewer customers and shifting standards for operation. As of Aug. 31, more than 163,000 businesses had closed nationwide since March 1, according to a Yelp analysis.
While some professionals, such as lawyers, architects and accountants, have managed to weather the pandemic, owners of restaurants and retail are among those hardest hit.
Within Squirrel Hill, restaurants, retail, professional and financial services help make up the Squirrel Hill Business District. A representative task force, Uncover Squirrel Hill, advocates on behalf of business owners and liaisons with local officials. In years past, Uncover Squirrel Hill also hosted Squirrel Hill Night Markets, CommUNITY Day, Upstreet Halloween and the Holiday Wine Walk. Due to COVID-19, though, those events, which promote local merchants and provide community members fraternizing opportunities, were canceled in 2020.
In working with Uncover Squirrel Hill, the 10.27 Healing Partnership wanted to draw attention to local businesses that may be getting fewer customers these days, said Feinstein.
“We are all community, and especially as a community created around 10.27, the local businesses have been such amazing supportive allies, and have been so impacted,” she said.
It’s important to “see them and recognize them in different ways.”
In store windows along Forbes Avenue and throughout Squirrel Hill, displayed artwork includes bright pictures and designs drawn by children. Some of the pieces were created during Uncover Squirrel Hill’s Festive Friday event, a program of the Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition that invites merchants to bring “the best of their shops and restaurants outdoors” and encourages passersby to safely patronize these businesses.
On Nov. 13, the 10.27 Healing Partnership operated a table during a Festive Friday event and provided poster boards and markers for people interested in creating art geared around the theme “No Space for Hate.”
Justin Sigal, president of Little’s Shoes, received a cheerful piece of art containing a bright yellow smiling sun shining down on friends walking hand in hand. The picture was prominently displayed in Little’s storefront on Forbes Avenue.
Joining the project, and hanging up the piece, were easy decisions, explained Sigal.
“We love doing community-oriented projects, whether just for fun or like this when it has a healing perspective,” he said. “To walk our street and see children’s artwork in the window makes people smile.”
As part of the community-oriented project, artwork is rotated and new pieces will be regularly created. Follow-up prompts will continue to reinforce the “No Space for Hate” message but allow creators to explore other ideas as well, explained Feinstein.
Following Oct. 27, 2018, the business district responded “in amazing ways with support and encouragement,” said Feinstein. Showcasing these merchants is another way “for us to be creative and see each other. In some ways it’s another opportunity to bring community to businesses and businesses to community.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at email@example.com.