Kellen Stepler | Staff Writer
Art can do a lot of things. It can make our surroundings more beautiful, it can express and communicate emotions and it can move and impact a community.
The Mac Miller memorial mural in East Liberty does all of those things.
Miller, born Malcolm J. McCormick, grew up in Pittsburgh’s Point Breeze neighborhood and graduated from Taylor Allderdice High School. The rapper died of an overdose on Sept. 7, 2018.
The mural, painted a week before the one-year anniversary of Miller’s death, is organized by the Moving the Lives of Kids (MLK) Community Mural Project.
The MLK Mural project was founded in 2002 by artist and muralist Kyle Holbrook, a Wilkinsburg native. According to the MLK Mural website, Holbrook’s vision “was to use public art as a way to reach kids over the summer months to do positive community work when they were not in school.”
Miller helped to paint a mural with the group in 2008. The mural, located at 250 Paulson Ave. in East Liberty and entitled “We Fall Down but We Get Back Up” features portraits of prominent East Enders.
The project took Miller, Holbrook and the others about two weeks to complete. Miller’s contributions to the group sparked a friendship between Miller and Holbrook. Whenever Miller would come to Pittsburgh, he would provide backstage tickets for Holbrook and Edward Rawson, another member of MLK Mural.
Holbrook also recalls times when Miller was younger, “I would always have talks with him about how much I believe in him and that I’m 100% sure he will be a star.”
In 2016, the two hung out backstage at Pittsburgh’s Stage AE and a year later when they saw each other, Holbrook says that Miller told him he went solo because of a conversation they had when he was at MLK.
“When I would see him he would always give me a hug,” Holbrook said.
Although Holbrook painted the mural, he says the project would not have been possible without his staff and many of the children that participate in MLK Mural. According to Holbrook, they wanted to do something to publicly honor Miller, “so people can see and be reminded of his greatness.”
To create the murals, it takes a true collaborative process between artists, schools, community groups, foster homes, juvenile justice halls, churches and after-school programs. According to the MLK Mural website, “As of 2019, as many as 45,000 young men and women have participated in MLK’s Murals.”
Holbrook’s mural painting style encourages community members and outsiders to contribute and participate in creating the mural. The public was invited to add their own touches to the mural before its completion.
“The mural will last 25 years, so kids that are born 15 years from now can know about a Pittsburgh legend and be inspired,” Holbrook said.
The 25-foot Mac Miller mural will stand alongside the mural Miller helped to create on Paulson Ave.
Holbrook says that the memorial mural is important because Miller is a part of Pittsburgh’s history and can make kids now and in the future believe in themselves and follow their dreams.
“[Miller] definitely was a person who cared about the city and the kids in it,” Holbrook said.
To date, MLK Mural has more than 200 public art pieces in Allegheny County with murals painted in 43 countries and 27 states.
Most recently, MLK Mural painted the Roberto Clemente mural at the Clemente Museum in June.
In addition to the mural, Pittsburgh has found other ways to remember Miller’s life. On Friday, Sept. 6, fans from around the world gathered at Frick Park’s Blue Slide Park playground to celebrate Miller’s life.
The Blue Slide Park event was organized by the Mac Miller Memoir, started by Marc Andre Lauzon and Cody Lee of Montreal, Canada, and Zach DiMartini of Shaler. The three met on social media as fans of Miller, and created the Twitter page, “Mac Miller Memoir.”
“We want to have Malcolm’s legacy and his name continue on for many years to come,” DiMartini said.
The event’s setting at Blue Slide Park was not a coincidence. Blue Slide Park was Miller’s debut album, and DiMartini says it had a “large sentimental value to him and everyone else that has listened.”
“Plus, every time he came home he would always post on social media that he was at Blue Slide Park,” DiMartini said.
Miller’s legacy will live on in the city of Pittsburgh in many ways.
“[Miller] loved his city and all the sports team here. He referenced Pittsburgh a lot in his songs and all his fans knew about it and would always travel here and visit places he mentioned in his lyrics,” DiMartini said.