Alex Chaffins de Vandergrift knows how to charm and disarm.
Chaffins, Vandergrift’s unofficial muralist, is known for his large, colorful works depicting positive messages.
The most recent mural by the self-taught artist is an underwater scene featuring a mermaid. It’s painted on his garage at home.
Last year, Chaffins was tasked with finding a creative solution to a profanity mural that appeared on the back of The Center on Franklin.
Chaffins, 34, was commissioned by owner Chloe Kruse to paint over the marks, which consisted of more than 20 racist marks.
“I saw the opportunity to fight hate and use art as a weapon,” said Chaffins. “I painted a ‘See no evil, Speak no evil and Hear no evil’ theme to cover up what was swastikas and racial slurs.”
On a recent visit to this mural, Chaffins noticed some cool graffiti painted above his work.
“I’ll cover this,” he said, noting that he doesn’t know who continues to leave graffiti, which is illegal, in some parts of the borough.
“I would like to show them how to make money with it – not do illegal stuff, but show them how to do legal murals,” Chaffins said.
Kruse said she supports Chaffins and his mural mission.
“Alex is a local, like-minded artist that I love to support. He has murals all over town, ”Kruse said.
Other murals at Vandergrift include a pet-themed mural located inside the local non-profit Tiny Cause building and a beach mural on Jefferson Avenue.
During the pandemic, Chaffins painted a covid-themed mural titled “Wash Your Hands,” encouraging people to practice good hygiene.
Vandergrift Police Chief Joe Caporali said he did not know Chaffins, but noticed his artwork in the borough.
“His art covers existing graffiti, covers horrors and beautifies buildings,” Caporali said.
Chaffins’ most recent mural, completed last week, is located inside the Redstone Highlands retirement home in Greensburg.
Chaffins said he had loved art since he was 5 years old.
“I wanted to be a designer, but I didn’t know how to make a career out of it,” he said. “I’m still a hungry artist and I’m living the term to the fullest.”
His murals are typically priced at $ 10 per square foot, plus the cost of supplies.
Chaffins said he always gives a discount to nonprofits.
He says he will paint any size mural.
“I think great works of art are more powerful,” Chaffins said. “You might stumble upon it (art), and that’s why I’m doing it.”
Chaffins works in his childhood home, where he has a music and art studio.
He is the owner of ARTifacts Creations, a visual arts marketing company.
A former student of Kiski Area High School, Chaffins studied at the former Art Institute of Pittsburgh for one semester. He left town to live and work in Texas, Maryland, and Florida, then returned to Vandergrift.
Chaffins wears a T-shirt emblazoned with “Product of the Grift”, in reference to his hometown of Vandergrift. “I love the Grift,” he said.
His message to anyone who creates illegal graffiti in the borough?
“Love is stronger than hate,” Chaffins said. “Always.”