Thomas Jefferson alumni give school spirit to old structure
An old structure – probably once used as a concession stand – at Gill Hall Park now screams “TJ” with its inspiring new black and gold Jaguar facade, thanks to the efforts of two Thomas Jefferson High School alumni.
Kaylee Rowland, 19, and Alex Folino, 18, both 2021 graduates, volunteered around 30 hours at the park this summer to create a mural on all four sides of the structure in a bid to bring it back to life.
âI love being part of the whole process (from) from start to finish, seeing something come together from what was once just an idea to actually seeing the end product,â Rowland said. about his love for art and design. âOne of the coolest things of all time is seeing my designs being used by other people and creating something that they love. It’s a whole different experience when your job is in the world for that others can see and appreciate it.
The idea for the project came from Rhiannon Miller, board member of the Jefferson Hills Recreation Initiative. While visiting the park, she noticed that the structure was “filthy and disgusting” and that it would need a facelift. She pitched the idea to the Recreation Council, where it was suggested that she work with high school students to make it happen.
Miller secured funding from Zacur Construction for supplies and worked with Kirk Salopek, art department coordinator at TJ, to recruit students for the project.
Salopek immediately thought of Rowland, a student in his commercial design class last year.
âShe took him out of the park regularly in class. I spoke with her about this project and she ended up taking charge of the whole project, âsaid Salopek.
Rowland took the lead and created a Jaguar inspired design. She recruited Folino, who, along with another student, had worked together on a mural inside the school last year. Salopek taught her a sponging technique that was used for the base of the mural to create a “fur-like” texture, she said. They then used a spotlight to shine his designs onto the building at dusk for plotting.
Rowland and Folino, both of Jefferson Hills, spent 11 days over the summer painting the booth.
âI loved every second – except maybe not the hot weather – but it was awesome,â Folino said. âFor me, it was about leaving my mark in the community.
Folino, who grew up with an interest in art thanks to Adam Gebhardt’s class at Jefferson Elementary School, found his passion participating in TJ’s football, swimming and track teams.
He hopes the young people will see the mural and realize – like him – that they can do whatever they want with life.
âWhen you think of TJ, you instantly think of football, as it should be. But TJ is more than soccer, it’s a whole community of different sports, academics and what we’ve done is showing other kids that you don’t have to go to TJ just to play sports. You can go and be whatever you want. You can be a teacher, you can be an artist, âFolino said.
For Rowland, the project helped bridge the gap between high school and college. She certainly wasn’t ready to leave TJ yet. His last year had been spent helping the West Jefferson Hills School District in many ways. She has designed logos for the district’s human resource facilities and departments and has created several designs for the West Jefferson Hills Foundation for Education to use on the stadium covers they sell.
After graduation, it allowed her to stay involved in school for a bit longer and âdo something really cool for the communityâ.
Miller and Salopek were impressed with the outcome of the project.
âThey definitely went above and beyond,â Miller said.
Salopek hopes the project will encourage more students to pursue their passion for art.
âYou can see all the pieces coming together for these kids. They can create something that is theirs and then give it to the community for them to keep, âhe said.