Painting a city’s portrait, one neighborhood at a time

Painting a citys portrait, one neighborhood at a time

By Jack Trainor / Staff Writer

Local artist Ron Donoughe has earned a reputation for his Pittsburgh cityscapes since he moved to Lawrenceville in the ‘80s, drawing attention from filmmakers and local admirers alike. Known for his Lawrenceville and Downtown scenes, the Pennsylvania native is now expanding his talents beyond his corner of the city. 

In an ambitious project he calls the “90 Neighborhoods Project,” Donoughe has been painting scenes from all 90 of Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods in alphabetical order since last September. But painting is only half of the project. 

The other half, perhaps the most important part of the project to Donoughe, is his blog, where he posts a photo of every painting and a blurb about his visit to each neighborhood. 

The project has become more of a social experiment,” Donoughe said. “What happens when an artist just shows up randomly and starts to work, and how do people respond to that?” Apart from discovering the character of places he’s never been to before, Donoughealso interacts with people from each neighborhood through his project, which “has been a greater learning experience” for him. 

These interactions not only make the trips more memorable for Donoughe, but they also work some magic on the art. 

Once, when he was painting a church in Mount Oliver, a man approached Donoughe and told him how he had been baptized in that very church and shared the history of the neighborhood — all without Donoughe having to ask. These interactions are what make the project so valuable to Donoughe. 

“That’s why I didn’t work from photos,” he said. “That give and take really gets into the spirit of the painting. You get more passionate about it, because there’s a story behind it … I almost hate to see it end.” 

Once all 90 neighborhoods are painted, Donoughe is unsure what he’ll do next. He has a mural project in Cambria County that he will begin to work on once all 90 neighborhoods have been painted.

But even after he visits Windgap, the project’s final neighborhood, Donoughe intends to return to those that he feels need more work and start over. “I’m not ready to call it quits just yet,” he said.