This region is blessed with a wealth of opportunities to see great art: the Warhol, the Carnegie, Mattress Factory, St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church, etc. If you’re not familiar with the latter, it’s home to 22 hauntingly beautiful murals created by Maksimilijan “Maxo” Vanka who immigrated to this country from Croatia and painted the murals in 1937 and 1941. The murals depict the immigrant experience of his countrymen as they fled their war-torn land and became part of the labor force in this region. Vanka was a pacifist and many of the murals reflect his thoughts on war and social injustice.
In 1991, The Society to Preserve the Millvale Murals of Maxo Vanka (SPMMMV) was created to address the deteriorating condition of the murals. SPMMMV is dedicated to raising public awareness and investment in their future and to mitigate damage to the murals. Additionally, there are lighting issues:
Docents once used flashlights to illuminate Vanka’s works during tours. They now use two portable Klieg lights.
“It’s still not efficient, but it’s better than flashlights,” Doering said.
Since 2009, the preservation society has raised enough money to clean and restore 10 of Vanka’s murals and map plans to better illuminate the works.
“We’ve had a lighting design completed for them,” Doering said. “Part of this lighting scheme is to better light the church.”
Lighting designer Rob Long of Clear Story Creative will offer a preview of the new lighting during “Cocktails & Conversation.”
The estimated cost of the new lighting system is about $100,000, Thomas said.
You can help them preserve and properly light these masterpieces by attending the “Cocktails & Conservation” fundraiser on Friday, March 6th at the St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church in Millvale. The event will be hosted by actor-writer and Pittsburgh native David Conrad who is a big fan of the murals. Tickets start at $50 and include cocktails, heavy hors d’oeuvres, program and dessert and can be purchased here.
Additionally, the Panza Gallery in Millvale is featuring an exhibit, “Behind the Murals: Histories and Other Stories” through March 27. You can also take a 45-minute Docent Tour of the murals on Saturdays at 11:00 AM, 12:00 Noon and 1:00 PM.