Following in the footsteps of a student-led revitalization, the Perennial Project is a new effort to continue the beautification of Brownsville.
“The most important thing was the kids,’’ said Joe Barantovich, referring to Brownsville Area High School Students in Action, whose partnership with the Redevelopment Authority of Fayette County and Brownsville Borough Council led to a new stage for Snowden Square in 2017.
“That stage was a culmination of nearly 10 years worth of students going through high school and working on it from conception to design to implementation to handing it off to the borough,’’ said Barantovich.
A Republic native who moved to Brownsville as a youth and returned for summer vacations during his 40-year teaching career in Florida, Baratovich resettled in Brownsville after his retirement.
He teamed up with Laura Patterson of Merrittstown, a landscape architect and owner of Exquisite Design Studio, for the Perennial Project.
Patterson, who worked with Brownsville students as part the original design team with McMillen Engineering, talked about her late grandmother, who was from West Brownsville.
“One of the last times my mother and I brought her to Brownsville before she died, she cried,’’ said Patterson. “That has sat with me now for a while and I – just like Joe – know it can be so much more. There’s still life here.’’
Realizing the borough has a limited budget and staff, they offered help.
“We worked with them, letting them know our intentions,’’ said Patterson. “They were excited to have us engaged.’’
Organizers enlisted the assistance of Brownsville Area Superintendent Dr. Keith Hartbauer as well as individuals, businesses and organizations like the American Legion. The project gained support from Fayette Chamber of Commerce, Brownsville Chamber of Commerce and Fayette County commissioners.
A cleanup day attracted 100 volunteers.
“Everybody was thrilled that something was happening and they could be a part of it,’’ said Patterson.
Planting day followed, offering a boost of color. And the art installations began.
Barantovich and Patterson met with Brownsville art teachers Brian Nicholson, high school, and Angela Capuzzi, middle school, and students to identify projects that included a piece of interactive art: angel wings attached to a wall in Snowden Square where the public can stop by for photos. They were made by Signs Plus in Morgantown, whose owner is a Brownsville native.
Students painted a mural of a piano with colored keys with permission of the owner of nearby Cast Iron Gallery.
Students also created water bottle sculptures, inspired by the work of famed glass artist Dale Chihuly, who saw it on social media.
Brownsville Free Public Library collected water bottles and BARC allowed the sculptures to be displayed in a downtown building they own, along with large Love balls donated by William Peterson of Team Humanity and signed by local people.
Banners featuring photographs from cleanup and planting days hang on redevelopment authority-owned buildings with a reference to Love Brownsville, also made into a hashtag and represented on a large Google pin sculpture in Snowden Square.
On top of this, Barantovich and Patterson said local groups have been hosting events: a flag-raising ceremony by Brownsville Military Honor Roll Committee in June, a Kids’ Day in July and a Community Day in August. Plans are in the works for an Octoberfest.
“It’s brought back a sense of pride in the community,’’ said Patterson. “There’s a new level – I really believe – of hope and new vision for the future that encompasses everybody who lives in Brownsville.’’
For more information on the Perennial Project or to make donations, contact Barantovich at firstname.lastname@example.org.