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Muralist Have a Art -- Why NEPA? image
July 18, 2023
Muralist Have a Art -- Why NEPA?
Michelle Johnson

"I wasn’t sure what kind of artist I wanted to be. All I knew was I wanted to paint at least one outdoor mural."

Dreams really do come true, and for Have a Art, it all culminated in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

From the time he was in elementary school, the Queens, New York native aspired to be an artist. While everyone else was playing video games, he was working on his craft. He knew the goal was painting outdoor murals – art that would outlive him and be his legacy. As a kid, he’d even ask his dad, a New York firefighter, to rent him a billboard to paint.

Without formal art training but a passion to draw and paint, he got his first opportunity at 19 to paint an indoor mural at a pet store. For $50 he painted two dogs and by his own admission, the painting was horrible. He aspired to do better and continued to learn painting indoor murals for schools, businesses and a motorcycle club.

But after a decade-long career in New York, Have a Art was looking for a change. He found that in NEPA, relocating to Forty Fort. And as he did before, he found full-time work outside of art but continued to pursue his passion on the side.

Then, three years ago he was laid off and decided it was time to go all in on his aspiration. And it paid off. His first outdoor mural, a tribute to Frank Sinatra, can be seen on the back of the White House Diner in Forty Fort. He hasn’t stopped since. His works can be found across Edwardsville, Kingston and Wilkes-Barre, including those he completed with the Street Art Society.

We got an up-close look at some of his paintings, including his current project of a Spartan and Trojan horse and he answered the most important question of all – Why NEPA?

How long have you lived in NEPA?

I’ve lived in NEPA for 8 years, roughly.

What do you love about your town?

I love how accepting they are to beautifying the area with various different forms of art. And I enjoy the location. Where things are. It’s not too far from a suburban area versus a city area versus a woodsier area. If I want to go hiking or I want to go shopping, everything is like a ten-minute drive away.

What’s your favorite NEPA restaurant?

Margarita Azul. Every time I go to Margarita’s I get the same dish, the same drink. I want to try other things but when I see it on the menu, I’ve just got to get it. I don’t know what the dish is called, it’s a fish, and the drink is called a Vampira, I believe. There’s a lot of different places, but that one comes to mind immediately.

What’s your favorite thing to do in NEPA?

Hike. I like to go hiking in quieter areas where I can have peace and just be alone with my thoughts. But then obviously the more visually pleasing areas are also nice for that reason. I like to go to Seven Tubs for fun. Ricketts Glen. Sometimes I bring my paint. I’ll try to set up a spot where I won’t interfere with anybody else’s hike. Then I’ll either paint some scenery or sometimes I’ll just paint something else that’s not scenery. I’ll try to have some food there. When I paint on canvas, I enjoy wine. And when I paint a mural, I’ll have a beer.

What’s next for you?

Traveling. More. I’ve already painted overseas. Last year I went to Mexico to paint a mural for a resort that was opening. It was all-expenses-paid. But now I want do that more. Like 5-6 times a year. I want my work scattered around the globe.

Where do you see NEPA heading in the future?

I see good things for NEPA. I believe that there’s going to be new innovative things to pop us as far as events. There’s going to be more art and murals. Also, more art education outside of the traditional educational system. I think it’s on the rise. I really do. This new generation is focused on positive change.

I think as far as art goes, here’s the thing. There is no city worth going to that doesn’t have murals. I’m not saying murals make a city. I’m just saying, once your city is that city, it’s just going to attract art. You understand?


Well, NEPA is fairly new to the art scene, as far as murals go. I mean, Fine Arts Fiesta’s been doing it forever. But as far as the murals go, they’ve only been popping up over the last like what, eight years, or so. For Pittston, they have a head start. Wilkes-Barre, Kingston, Forty Fort is like brand new to it.

You want to be there when it starts. You want to be there once the ball gets rolling. Because I could go to Philly and I could be a needle in a haystack. But I think it’s a closer relationship to do it here and be a part of that. The building of it. So, that’s Why NEPA.