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'The Legacy of Butterflies' takes flight in new East Liberty mural

"The Legacy of Butterflies," a new mural in East Liberty, was unveiled on Wednesday night.
Julia Zenkevich
90.5 WESA
"The Legacy of Butterflies," a new mural in East Liberty, was unveiled on Wednesday night.

There’s a new piece of public art in East Liberty. The Pittsburgh-based language learning company Duolingo unveiled a mural called “The Legacy of Butterflies” on Wednesday night.

It’s the first piece of public art to come out of Duolingo’s Community Arts program, which was established in 2020.

The mural has been in the works for nearly two years.

“Public art is a long, arduous process,” said Kendra Ross, Duolingo’s head of social impact. “And one of the hardest things to do, and why this mural took a while, is you’ve got to find a place to put it first. And there aren’t unlimited amounts of people who are going to let you put something on their building. You also have to get permits. That means dealing with bureaucracy. It’s expensive. And then, for the artist, it really has to be a labor of love.”

“The Legacy of Butterflies” was created by two Pittsburgh artists, Natiq Jalil and Alison Zapata.

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It depicts long-time East Liberty resident Cecilia Price-Knight, who owned the Jamaican restaurant Impressionz, surrounded by butterflies. Also on the mural are the names of other “East Liberty matriarchs.”

Though it was a neighborhood staple, Impressionz shut down in 2016, not long after Duolingo moved to the area. Price-Knight said gentrification and rising rents forced it to close.

“We were doing our level best to excel, to do well, to try to build a legacy. But it was interrupted by the unfair treatments,” she said.

Jalil and Zapata called the mural a celebration of Price-Knight and other prominent women in East Liberty.

As part of the mural reveal, Duolingo also premiered a new installment of Pittsburgh filmmaker Chris Ivey’s "East of Liberty" series. The film focuses on Price-Knight and the creation of the mural.

Now, Duolingo is looking to expand their arts program.

“We want to open it up for any kind of artist, no matter the medium, who cares about East Liberty, are working in East Liberty, are doing work that centers East Liberty,” said Ross.

Duolingo also plans to support arts organizations in and around East Liberty with microgrants.

“Community art is not just public art,” Ross said. “We want to give out microgrants to other artists and small arts organizations who help develop artists, who train artists, who want to do work here in East Liberty and keep it a great community for everybody — a local community for everyone and not just for certain people.”

See “The Legacy of Butterflies” on the side of the East Liberty Place South building on Penn Avenue.

Julia Zenkevich reports on Allegheny County government for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at