When the owner of Hugo’s Restaurant and Catering in West Brownsville decided to give his dining room an artistic face-lift, he faced a dilemma.
“I don’t know about art,” said Ron White, owner of the Route 40 restaurant.
Thankfully a friend did, suggesting he find an artist at a local college to paint a mural.
Todd Pinkham, an associate professor at California University of Pennsylvania, answered the proverbial call. Accustomed to painting murals, Pinkham had just finished the largest mural he had ever painted on the walls at the car ferry in Fredericktown shortly before he started the project at Hugo’s.
The two men talked, and White decided he wanted things that were important to him on the two connecting walls as well as notable landmarks in the area and scenery.
White’s daughter-in-law took photos of landmarks like the convocation center at Cal U. with the Monongahela River beside it, Nemacolin Castle in Brownsville and the Lane Bane Bridge. Pinkham was also provided with photos that were personal to White, including his Cadillac and his dog.
Since the restaurant is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, Pinkham worked on the project those two days beginning on May 17, typically painting from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
He said COVID-19 presented a challenge, but not in the way one might imagine. The price of paint and art supplies – if they were even available – tripled in price as the pandemic continues to push people toward new hobbies.
“That was kind of a little worry to me,” Pinkham said. “But I could mix whatever I didn’t have.”
He finished the mural last month, and White said he is pleased with the results.
“The customers love it,” he said. “I’ve had so many compliments, you can’t believe it.”
Pinkham said the mural was a fun experience, mixing not only paints, but history with the landmarks and individuals in the mural to create a strong, everlasting sense of family and community. He even included a man fishing, an activity Pinkham had enjoyed in the area when he was younger.
“I got a sense of his family, and I tried to put that in as a human interest,” Pinkham said. “This is a family restaurant, families are eating here together; it’s a wholesome hometown kind of thing.”
As for White, he said the results are invaluable.
“Like I said, I don’t know about art, but people who do know about art look at it, and they say it looks like it’s worth $10,000.”
Pinkham’s other work will be available for viewing during upcoming art shows at Curio Cool (www.curiocool.com) in Zelienople and Boxhart Galleries (boxheartgallery.com) in Pittsburgh.