Whimsical Washington Square

Johno and Tom stand in front of one of Johno's paintings.
Artist Johno Prascak and Washington Square resident Tom Irr pose for a photo.

Vibrant reds, yellows and blues dance across the Pittsburgh skyline, circle around the Kaufmann’s Clock and detail a group of birds ready for flight. 

The images—with a modern take on Pittsburgh and its iconic places by artist Johno Prascak—now greet folks entering the Washington Square Condos at 750 Washington Road. 

The artwork is one of the first steps members of the condo unit owners’ association are taking to modernize the common spaces in the 39-year-old building. In October, the association held an event to introduce Prascak and his work to the building’s residents. 

“There’s a story behind every one of the paintings,” said Cheryl Irr, who spearheaded the building’s unofficial decorating committee. “They make you happy. He’s a very upbeat, happy person and it comes through in his art.” 

Decorating committee members pose for a photo
Members of Washington Square’s unofficial decorating committee pose for a photo.

While many of the condos inside the building–which houses 123 one-, two- and three-bedroom units and 17 commercial spaces—have been upgraded since the 1980s, decor in the common spaces still had an ’80s vibe. Many of the tables and mirrors that greeted residents on each floor, along with floral arrangements, have been there since Joan Lang moved in 28 years ago. 

“Within a reasonable budget, we wanted to give it a refreshed look,” said Lynn Lachut, president of the owners’ association. 

“It needed some refreshing,” added Ann Simmons, who has lived there for two years. 

Members of the association decided to start with new art to upgrade the hallways and main entrance on Washington Road. They quickly learned this wasn’t their area of expertise. So, they recruited Irr—whose husband Tom is on the board—to tackle the project. She found other “fashionable” people in the building that wanted to help. 

They wanted something that told the story of Pittsburgh. The first thing that popped up on a Google search was Prascak. 

“His technique was so interesting. He uses sand from the Monongahela River and enamel and that’s how he paints,” Irr said. 

She gathered the decorating committee and headed to Prascak’s South Side studio. 

Denise Sedlak, who has lived in the building for nine years, loved them at first sight. 

For Lang, who has more of a traditional style, it took visiting Prascak’s studio to fall in love with the art. 

“We all universally loved what he did,” Irr said. 

Johno speaks with a group of residents in the Washington Square common area
Artist Johno Prascak chats with residents in Washington Square

Prascak’s art has appeared as a backdrop for KDKA’s Pittsburgh Today Live, is showcased at the National Aviary and even appeared on the set of NBC’s hit sitcom, Will & Grace. 

The decorating committee worked with Lee Heckman Custom Framing on Beverly Road to mat and frame the pieces at Washington Square. 

They’re excited to showcase the new art and want people in the community to know that “this is a great building to live in,” according to Irr.