rivers of steel

Transformative arts in education: Rivers of Steel engages students and communities through impactful murals

In the photo above, courtesy of Renee Rosensteel for Rivers of Steel, a Propel Braddock Hills Middle School student works on a mural evoking school pride.

What was art class like for you when you were in school? Maybe you learned some techniques to paint or sculpt with clay and got at least a bit of a chance to express yourself. But for many people, school art classes weren’t usually a transformative experience.

That’s what makes Rivers of Steel so different. This nonprofit transform arts in education into something dramatically different for students, and its impact stretches far beyond artistic proficiency. Their practice engages youth with one another and with the community. In the process, it fosters collaboration and civic pride for the creators of a public art piece and for community members.

What is the surprising medium they use for this engagement? Graffiti murals.

rivers of steel
Teaching artist Max Gonzales and students work on the “Once a Duke, Always a Duke” mural at Duquesne Area Middle School. (Photo courtesy of Shane Pilster for Rivers of Steel)

Evolving out of Rivers of Steel’s interpretation of the postindustrial history of the Carrie Blast Furnaces, the nonprofit organization has developed a range of programs to engage youth in creative placemaking — and vivid graffiti making — in and out of school.

Last week our friends at PublicSource ran a great story all about Rivers of Steel. When we read it, we thought it would be valuable to share it with our Kidsburgh readers.

To discover more about Rivers of Steel, click here to read the full PublicSource story about this inspiring nonprofit arts organization.