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Carrie Furnace canvas

“Nature can surge from impossible conditions,” Jose Weslly Manrique said standing amid a partially cleared field around Carrie Furnace in Rankin. He was one of three graffiti artists from Leon, Mexico, who joined five other graffiti artists from Pittsburgh and Chicago to paint the Hemisphere Conversations Carrie Furnace Mural on a concrete retaining wall, now the site of a curated “gallery” of legal graffiti.

“I have never seen anything like Carrie Furnace,” said Mr. Manrique. Pittsburgh’s history is rooted in labor similar to the history of Leon, Mexico, although the factories in his hometown are smaller, according to Mr. Manrique.

“Industries die, but art lives forever,” Stephanie Garland of Chicago said of the mural theme. Graffiti artists incorporated the history of the site along with elements of the natural landscape into the mural. The mural is part of the Hemisphere Conversations Urban Arts Program organized by Caitlin Bruce, Oreen Cohen and Shane Pilster in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh and Rivers of Steel Arts.

Omar Ramirez of Leon, Mexico, wanted to create an image that was visible from a distance and full of bright colors. His piece “Steel Worker” was inspired by a 1955 photo by Life magazine photographer W. Eugene Smith that he had seen earlier in the week at the Heinz History Center. “I’m grateful to be able to interpret some of your culture … This history is impressive,” he said.

— Rebecca Droke

Jerome Charles of Lawrenceville finishes “Don’t Do Bad Stuff,” his section of the Hemisphere Conversations Carrie Furnace Mural Saturday, April 29, 2017, at the Carrie Furnace in Rankin. Charles, who previously did graffiti art illegally, says “painting is very zen” when you aren’t looking over your shoulder and have time to paint. (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)
Graffiti artists work to complete their pieces in the Hemisphere Conversations Carrie Furnace Mural Saturday, April 29, 2017, at Carrie Furnace in Rankin. (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)
Style writer Karina Soto of Leon, Mexico blows on wet paint as she works to complete her piece in the Hemisphere Conversations Carrie Furnace Mural Saturday, April 29, 2017, at Carrie Furnace in Rankin. Soto, who painted “Kif,” her graffiti artist name on the mural, incorporated the structure of Carrie Furnace along with organic shapes representing nature in her piece. (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)
Stephanie Garland, left, of Chicago and Karina Soto of Leon, Mexico, work on their pieces of the Hemisphere Conversations Carrie Furnace Mural Saturday, April 29, 2017, at Carrie Furnace in Rankin. Garland, who has been painting for 25 years and goes by the name of “Stef Skills,” says her piece is about nature reclaiming an industrial site.
(Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)
Jose Weslly Manrique of Leon, Mexico puts finishing touches on his piece of the Hemisphere Conversations Carrie Furnace Mural Saturday, April 29, 2017, at Carrie Furnace in Rankin. “I have never seen anything like Carrie Furnace,” said Manrique. Pittsburgh’s history is rooted in labor similar to Leon’s history, although the factories are smaller and made with much less metal in his hometown, according to Manrique. The machinery in his mural represents the shared history and the deer symbolizes freedom, he said. He’s considered one of the pioneers of graffiti in both Leon and more widely Mexico, according to Caitlin Bruce, one of the organizers of the mural project. (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)
Omar Ramirez of Leon, Mexico puts finishing touches on his piece, titled “Steel Worker,” which is part of the Hemisphere Conversations Carrie Furnace Mural Saturday, April 29, 2017, at Carrie Furnace in Rankin. His piece was inspired by photos of steel workers he saw at the Heinz History Center and by the history of the Carrie Furnace, which he learned about during a tour earlier in the week. “From the hard work of labors comes the strength of a nation,” says Ramirez, who goes by Orion in the graffiti arts community. (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)