Story by Debbi Casini Klein | Video by Louis D’Aria
Vanessa German is an artist and performer, determined to make her neighborhood of Homewood a safer place, especially for the children.
It began a few years ago on her front porch where Vanessa German did her art. She would paint and sculpt, and kids would gather around after school, watching and participating. In this violence-stricken area, it became a safe haven for them.
“I call it Love Front Porch because I believe in the power of love,” Vanessa said. “I always think about how Martin Luther King said there is a power in love that the world hasn’t discovered yet.”
It kept the kids off the streets and engaged in something creative and fun, and away from the violence. And as the popularity of The Love Front Porch grew, Vanessa needed more space to include more kids. Fortunately, the vacant house across the street was lent to her, which is now known as The Art House.
The kids in the neighborhood love being at The Art House with Vanessa; it is a bright spot in their day. But Vanessa has seen too much violence first hand in her neighborhood, and knew more had to be done.
Then one day she had an idea –to make signs that could perhaps help eradicate some of the violence. “Stop Shooting – We Love You” signs that are now peppered all over Homewood and surrounding areas.
“I thought to myself, one day somebody with a gun could be driving and all of a sudden just see this sign that says ‘stop shooting, we love you’ and so experience a shift, just in the confrontation of a sign saying we love you and maybe they would think about being loved by somebody and that would be enough to make them keep driving straight instead of turning left or right to go and shoot somebody”
Her idea has also spread beyond Pittsburgh, with signs now popping up in many states all across the country.