Janel Young emerging as an artist locally, nationally

Created art for popular Pittsburgh bus stop, Arts Festival, U.S. Tennis Association

by Rob Taylor Jr.
Courier Staff Writer

The most popular bus stop in Pittsburgh has become a sight to see.

On the corner of Smithfield Street and Sixth Avenue, Downtown, Pittsburgh-born artist Janel Young transformed the “P1” (or to the seasoned generation, “EBA”) “East Busway All Stops” bus stop into a colorful, space galaxy-themed piece of art entitled, “RESPECT.” Using a blend of the colors blue, purple, magenta and others, the artwork is meant to convey that each person should show respect for another at all times.

“The artwork is supposed to reflect COVID challenges and how Pittsburgh is dealing with them,” Young told the New Pittsburgh Courier as she was working on her design, June 20. “Things keep changing (with the COVID restrictions or non-restrictions), so I wanted to do something that would be a little more evergreen. The concept is, respect is more important than the (COVID) rules. Wearing a mask or staying six feet apart, even if those things keep changing, the respect for each other should stay the same.”

JANEL YOUNG, who grew up in Beltzhoover and attended Schenley High School, was commissioned to create a painting at the popular bus stop at Smithfield Street and Sixth Avenue, Downtown…one of her many artistic creations around town. (Photo by Rob Taylor Jr.)

Port Authority of Allegheny County halted all buses and riders from using the bus stop for five days in June so that Young could create the piece. Port Authority and Smart Growth America commissioned the artwork.

Young said she held an online survey of local PAT bus riders, and they wanted to see art and complex imagery, so they have something to look at while they wait” at bus stops, she learned. “Also, bright colors is uplifting, and I want my work to be fun and also tie in the (COVID) safety messaging as well.”

JANEL YOUNG’S “RESPECT” mural being created at Smithfield Street and Sixth Avenue, Downtown, where the P1 East Busway All Stops bus picks up passengers. The Schenley High School graduate worked on the creation in June. (Photos by Rob Taylor Jr.)

Not surprisingly, the arts is celebrated and appreciated here in Pittsburgh. Of course, Andy Warhol comes to mind. So does the Carnegie Museum of Art. Black artists in Pittsburgh are increasingly getting more attention—and funding via grants. Philanthropic organizations such as The Pittsburgh Foundation, RK Mellon Foundation and The Heinz Endowments are major financial supporters of local artists of color.

Earlier this year, Young was one of four Black artists who designed a Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh library cards to commemorate the library’s 125th anniversary. She also curated a piece called “Pathway To Joy,” which stretches along Fort Duquesne Boulevard between Sixth Avenue and Stanwix Street, something she made just in time for last month’s Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival.

Young, 29, grew up in Beltzhoover and attended CAPA for middle school, Schenley for high school. She studied business marketing at Penn State University and relocated to New York City to work in public relations. Now, she has returned to Pittsburgh, looking to take the art world by storm.

Other artistic creations credited to Young include “The Home Court Advantage Project,” where she painted an entire basketball court at a place she’s oh so familiar with, McKinley Park, in Beltzhoover. She told the online website Very Local Pittsburgh that she was very fond of seeing her artwork shown on ESPN last year at the U.S. Open (tennis), in New York City. Her painting, entitled “Be Open To…”, was pictured behind tennis legend Serena Williams courtside at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Young has also made history as the first artist ever commissioned to design Yahoo!’s Black History Month logo, which she did this past February.

PICTURED ABOVE IS PART OF JANEL YOUNG’S “RESPECT” mural created at Smithfield Street and Sixth Avenue, Downtown, where the P1 East Busway All Stops bus picks up passengers.

“Port Authority is proud to have a one-of-a-kind piece by Janel Young, an extremely talented local artist,” voiced Adam Brandolph, spokesman for the Port Authority. “Her piece, ‘RESPECT’…reminds us all to be a bit more mindful to others, particularly during difficult times. We are honored to be able to have her work at the busiest bus stop in the region, and thankful to Janel and everyone else who helped make it happen.”

Sarah Aziz, director of festival management for the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, called Young’s “Pathway To Joy” mural “the perfect tentpole public art piece” for the 2021 Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival. “The colors, shapes and message of ‘Pathway To Joy’ brought our festival-goers together in a truly special way and we are so grateful to Janel for sharing her gift with us.”

“I believe my work is important, but it’s difficult to say how important,” Young told Very Local Pittsburgh. “I think it’s important for me to be able to represent myself, as an individual, but also Black people, women, and Black women. To create work that represents us, especially in a place like Pittsburgh where we may feel unseen or unheard.”

 

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