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New mural about gun violence awareness, Pittsburgh synagogue shooting unveiled in Squirrel Hill

 A painting of a building on a brick wall.
Isabella Abbott
90.5 WESA
The new mural in Squirrel Hill by artist Kyle Holbrook depicts the Tree of Life synagogue building and 11 stars representing those who died in the 2018 shooting.

A new mural about gun violence awareness was unveiled Wednesday morning in Squirrel Hill.

Local artist Kyle Holbrook created the piece on Phillips Avenue, which commemorates the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, the largest antisemitic attack in U.S. history.

On Oct. 27, 2018, gunman Robert Bowers killed 11 people from three congregations who had gathered to worship in the Tree of Life synagogue. A jury on June 23 convicted him of all of the 63 federal charges he faced in connection with the mass shooting.

Having dealt with gun violence far too much after losing 46 friends and acquaintances to it, Holbrook said it’s important to spread awareness of its impact.

“As an artist, as a muralist, I think it’s my duty to draw attention to social issues,” Holbrook said.

The mural includes symbols and colors that, Holbrook said, represent the tragedy and trauma of gun violence, such as an orange stop sign and 11 stars and hearts to represent those who died in the synagogue shooting.

“Orange is the official color for gun violence awareness, so we wanted to use that, and we wanted to today pay respect and create a memorial in this,” Holbrook said. “I mean, this is an important time in our city but also in our country.”

He said his goal is to make the mural accessible.

“We wanted to keep it simple and an appropriate color; a powerful color for memorials is purple. I like to use purple as an artist, aesthetically purple and orange together,” Holbrook said. “But we don’t want this to be a bunch of different images and a bunch of colors … we want this to be easily understandable.”

According to the Pew Research Center,in 2021, more than 48,000 people died from gun-related injuries in the U.S. Holbrook said he wanted to add hands to his artwork to incorporate this human side of the issue of gun violence.

“I’ve been painting a lot of hands because it’s the hands and the people who are being hurt and being killed,” Holbrook said. “It’s also the hands that are shooting the guns.”

The synagogue shooting trial is now in its next phase, in which the jury is considering whether Bowers should be sentenced to life or receive the death penalty.

Moving Lives of Kids Mural Project, founded by Holbrook in 2002, sponsored this artwork. He said the organization uses art to reach kids in the summer to do positive community work when they’re not in school.

Isabella is a rising senior at Duquesne University majoring in multiplatform journalism and communications and is a division one rower on their women's rowing team. She's had many articles published as the Features Editor for Duquesne's student-run newspaper, The Duquesne Duke. In her free time, she enjoys running, watching new shows and reading.