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A new mural — and fresh funding — for Warhol Museum initiative

"Anatomy of the Human," a mural depicting several large faces.
Bill O'Driscoll
90.5 WESA
Artist Mikael Owunna (with large scissors) at the ribbon-cutting for his mural "Anatomy of the Human."

The singular artwork of locally based Mikael Owunna has provided Pittsburgh with another big mural. And this one also represents part of a new pledge of corporate support for The Andy Warhol Museum’s ambitious Pop District initiative.

The photographic mural dedicated Tuesday, titled “Anatomy of the Human,” depicts four human faces against a starry background. Owunna said each face represents a different aspect of the human soul as conceived in the cosmology of West Africa’s Igbo people.

That belief system is the inspiration for much of Owunna’s photographic work, which he creates using special equipment and ultraviolet light to photograph Black models adorned with fluorescent paint.

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The new mural is 27 feet tall and runs for 94 feet alongside an office building across West General Robinson Street from the museum. Owunna, whose work has been recognized internationally, said this is his largest work to date — bigger even than “Playing the Cosmic Strings,” his 2021 mural on the side of Heinz Hall.

“It’s really one of the greatest honors of my career,” he said Tuesday. “Particularly as a queer artist in Pittsburgh, to have this work at the institution that’s dedicated to the legacy of fellow queer Pittsburgh artist Andy Warhol. It blows my mind, and it’s such an inspiration.”

Owunna also chairs the city's Art Commission.

Public art is one piece of the Pop District, a 10-year, $60 million development project targeting the museum’s corner of the North Side. Along with public art, it includes The Warhol Academy, which offers fellowships to young professionals in digital content creation, filmmaking and post-production; the Citizens funding will create 28 new fellowships, the museum said in a statement.

“By joining forces with the Warhol Museum, we are very committed to foster the creativity and diversity that fuels Pittsburgh’s workforce and cultural infrastructure,” said Brendan Coughlin, Citizens’ vice chairman and head of consumer banking, at Tuesday’s event.

The Pop District also includes plans for a 1,000-capacity concert venue and event and office space catty-corner from the museum at its intersection of General Robison and Sandusky Street. That project received approval from the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment earlier this month.

Seed funding for the Pop District, as announced in early 2022, included $15 million over three-and-a-half years from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, and $10 million over four years from the Henry L. Hillman Foundation.

Bill is a long-time Pittsburgh-based journalist specializing in the arts and the environment. Previous to working at WESA, he spent 21 years at the weekly Pittsburgh City Paper, the last 14 as Arts & Entertainment editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and in 30-plus years as a journalist has freelanced for publications including In Pittsburgh, The Nation, E: The Environmental Magazine, American Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill has earned numerous Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. He lives in the neighborhood of Manchester, and he once milked a goat. Email: