Local artist to begin new murals in downtown Pittsburg

Jordan Meier
Morning Sun
Artist Jenna Spencer beginning prep on her eighth mural in downtown Pittsburg on Wednesday, Feb. 3.

PITTSBURG, Kan. — In recent years the once bland walls of downtown Pittsburg have become significantly more colorful. Old brick buildings have become canvas as bright, colorful murals now cover and bring new life to the once monochromatic walls.  

From the “Greetings from Pittsburg” postcard-style mural on the side of the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce office to the mural on the south side of the Frisco Event Center depicting the historic Frisco Train Depot, these eye-catching art pieces are thanks to the efforts of a local artist, Jenna Spencer.  

“I had no idea that this is what my focus would be after graduating with a fine arts degree from PSU in 2015,” Spencer said in a press release from the City of Pittsburg.  

With a ladder and paintbrush in hand, Spencer has been transforming the downtown area one mural at a time.  

“I love the process,” she said, “and the satisfaction I feel when it’s done and that I can revisit it.”  

During the week and while she isn’t painting the walls of downtown, Spencer, who was born and raised in Pittsburg, works as the office manager for Memorial Auditorium.  

She also paints sets and is involved with local theatre productions, which she said she loves doing but pointed out that all of that art is temporary.  

“Once the show is over that’s it, it's destroyed,” she said.  

Spencer has been a lifelong artist and said she has been drawing and making art since she was four.  

“I’ve always been making, drawing or painting something,” Spencer said.  

While she does a lot of drawing and painting, Spencer said she likes doing a little bit of every type of art. In fact, her degree from Pittsburg State University is in 3-D art.  

“I’d spent so much time when I was younger doing 2-D things,” she said. “I wanted to venture into 3-D.” 

But after she graduated, Spencer has found a passion for large 2-D scale art projects like the ones she has created downtown. In fact, since her first mural, Spencer has gone on to create seven more—they are dotted around the Pittsburg and four state area—and she’s about to add four more to her portfolio.  

This week, the City of Pittsburg announced that Spencer, with the help of the Pittsburg Downtown Advisory Board, had been commissioned to paint four new murals in downtown Pittsburg and also released Spencer’s rough sketches of the pieces.  

The first will be on the side of the Copy Products building on south Broadway — which Spencer started prep work for on Wednesday — and will feature sunflowers and plants surrounding the words “Downtown Pittsburg”.  

Sketch of Jenna Spencer's mural to be painted on the side of the Copy Products building in downtown Pittsburg.

“I have great pride in our Pittsburg community,” Spencer said in the press release. “I feel honored to get to decorate it.” 

In addition to approving the project, the board also approved a grant of $3,850 to be used to cover the cost of time and materials.  

City of Pittsburg Community Development Specialist Brittan Brenner, who serves as liaison to the DAB, said in the press release that by using unallocated funds the board was able to help fund the project and said she feels the idea was well worth the investment. 

“The Downtown Advisory Board has long wished to be a part of bringing more art to the downtown area,” Brenner said in the release.  “They recognize the impact local art has on tourism and economic development and have always thought they should be a part of making these projects happen.” 

In addition to the grant given to Spencer, the board is looking to establish a permanent grant program to award matching grants for murals in the coming years to generate more public art around Pittsburg.  

Spencer will begin working on the “Downtown Pittsburg” mural more in March as the weather gets better and hopes to have them all four done by mid-summer before it gets too hot.  

“It all depends on the weather,” she said.  

Jordan Meier is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. She can be reached at jmeier@morningsun.net