Save Maxo Vanka

OUR MISSION IS to conserve and protect for permanent public exhibition the nationally recognized Maxo Vanka murals within St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church in Pittsburgh, enabling the immigrant artist’s “gift to America” to serve as an enduring catalyst for community engagement and education, inspire social and cultural dialogue, celebrate diversity, and forge connections through reflections on the extraordinary American experience.

OUR VISION IS to establish a lasting national monument to America’s storied immigrant experience, utilizing the ongoing conservation of the historic Maxo Vanka murals to create a nexus for community engagement, education and socially and culturally oriented programming that evokes reverence for the past and inspiration for the future.

The Society to Preserve the Millvale Murals of Maxo Vanka

Created to raise awareness and educate the public about the murals and their significance to Pittsburgh’s history, and their depiction of America’s immigrant experience, SPMMMV was incorporated in 1991 as an independent 501(c)(3) organization.

Because of the Society’s efforts, the murals have received historical designations by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation and the National Register of Historic Places.

SPMMMV also manages the tour program, staffed by trained volunteer docents, during our regular Saturday hours and private tours by special request. We’re also responsible for the fundraising effort to facilitate immediate conservation and lighting of the murals.

Since 2009, SPMMMV has raised nearly $1.5M from generous individuals and institutions making it possible to conserve and light 12 of Maxo Vanka’s 25 stunning murals and related programming. Public interest, awareness and access to the Murals increases each year through the Society’s efforts and with the support of the community.

Team Vanka

Anna Doering, Executive Director

Becky Gaugler, Director of Education and Interpretation

Sarina Johnston, Coordinator of Operations & Program

Rikke Foulke, Foulke Fine Art Conservation, Lead Conservator
Rob Long, Clear Story, Lead Lighting Designer
Jeff Slack, Time & Place LLC, Preservation Consultant
Dr. Sylvia Rhor, University Gallery/University of Pittsburgh, Lead Curator, Vanka Collection
Michelle King, Learning Instigator and Love Activist, Educational Consultant

Administrative Office
15 Maryland Ave.
Millvale, PA  15209

Mailing Address
24 Maryland Ave.
Millvale, PA  15209

412.408.3180 (Office/Voicemail)

Board of Directors

Julia Bubanovich, Vice President
Nora Davidson, Secretary
Steffi Domike
Christine Erimias
Matthew Falcone, President
Maya Haptas
Jennifer Novotny Mulrooney
Gregory Null, Treasurer
Rita Perstac
Shanae Phillips
Hannah Arnold Smith
Andrew Stefanick, Docent Manager
Meredith Stepp
Kayla Washko
Kate Zidar

David Demarest, Ph.D.*
Sam Iusi
Diane Novosel
Mary Petrich


Volunteers are the heart of Vanka Murals. Meet the people who bring Vanka’s art to life.

David Bennett

David Bennett, Docent

“As a Rick Sebak fan, I eagerly watched his 1989 Documentary “Holy Pittsburgh.” After that, as a volunteer for Venture Outdoors, I led several hikes that included a stop at the murals. Each time I came back, I learned something new about the murals, and I kept wanting to know more.”

Aaron Ciarkowski

Aaron Ciarkowski, Docent

“I had read a write up in the newspaper about the murals and went to visit. I was amazed that these impressive works of art existed relatively unknown in the city. I wanted to know more about the story behind them and share the experience with others.”

John Davis

John Davis, Docent

“Love at first sight. I found out about the murals when I saw the banners in Millvale.”

Jona Dumbelton

Jona Dumbelton, Greeter

“I learned of the murals from the public history department at Duquesne and am a Millvale resident. They are extremely relevant to many of todays sociopolitical issues, but also make me feel really connected to the community of the past. The texture of the neighborhood changes but the murals are a great way to remember how we fit into Millvale and Pittsburgh as a whole.”

Lorinda Hayes

Lorinda Hayes, Greeter

“My family history in color.”


Ray McGogney, Docent

“I attended evening program. Impressed by intensity and war/social messages.”


Diane Novosel, Docent

“I’ve been a lifelong (since Baptism) member of St Nicholas Parish.”


Lorry Perkins, Greeter


Taylor Roberts, Greeter


Emily Ross, Docent

Dr. Kenneth Rozycki

Dr. Kenneth Rozycki, Docent

“Overwhelmed! My family joined St. Nicholas Parish when I was just a child. I went to parochial school here so I grew up with them.”


Inga Schmidt, Greeter


Micky Sedota, Greeter

Jami Shelton

Jami Shelton, Docent

“Fifteen years ago, some friends brought me to see the murals on a Radical Pittsburgh Peoples History tour, prior to my moving to town. The murals have since been my favorite historical destination to share with friends and family.”

Andrew Stefanick

Andrew Stefanick, Docent Manager

“I grew up as a parishioner and have been in the presence of the murals from before I can remember.”


Page Thomas, Docent

“I was curious how one person completed this amount of work . – my wife introduced me to the murals.”

Advisory Council

Susan H. Brownlee, former executive director, Fine Foundation
David Conrad, Writer and Actor
Rene Conrad, Executive Director, New Hazlett Theatre
John Halderman (Vanka Family), Assistant Counsel, Exelon Corporation
Marya Halderman (Vanka Family)
Kathryn Heidemann, Dean of Faculty and Chief Academic Officer at the Cleveland Institute of Art
Michelle King, Educational Instigator and Love Activist
Danielle Linzer, Director of Learning and Public Engagement, Warhol Museum
Sara Jane Lowry, Nonprofit Consultant and former Board Member
Eric Menninger, Nonprofit Consultant
Christine Mondor, Principal/Founder, EvolveEA
Mary Navarro, Nonprofit Consultant
Judith Hansen O’Toole, Executive Leadership Consultant
Ronald Poropatich, MD, Professor of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh and Member, St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church
Jackie Smith, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology, University of Pittsburgh
Rev. Nicholas S. Vaskov, Director of the Shrines of Pittsburgh
Jane Werner, Executive Director, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
Scott Wolovich, Executive Director, New Sun Rising


We are grateful for the support of these contributors who’ve given generously to help us save and share the Vanka Murals:

Private and Family Foundations
Anonymous (2)
Battle of Homestead Foundation
Bessie Anathan Charitable Trust
Bracher Family Revocable Trust
Fine Foundation
Grable Foundation
Heinz Endowments
Robert F. & Joan Marie Klein Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation
Opportunity Fund
W.I. Patterson Charitable Trust
The Pittsburgh Foundation
Snee Reinhardt Charitable Trust
John & Helen Timo Foundation
Seldon & Susan Whitaker Fund of the Pittsburgh Foundation
United Steelworkers of America

Citizens for the Arts in PA
Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission

Matching Gifts
BMS Foundation
BNY Mellon Community Partnership
Buhl Foundation
Exelon Foundation
IBM Corporation Matching Gifts Program
Illinois Tool Works Foundation
Oracle Corporation
Peoples Natural Gas
PNC Foundation

as of 12/17/2020

Message to our community

The Society to Preserve the Millvale Murals of Maxo Vanka stands in solidarity with the Black community and against the violence, racism, social injustice and abuse of privilege that we continue to witness in our country and the world that have taken the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many more.

Maxo Vanka’s murals includes universal and timeless commentary on societal issues. His paintings tell many stories, but they were also meant to illuminate and challenge painful truths, to call-out injustice, to provoke difficult conversations, and to inspire change. It is disheartening to acknowledge the extent to which their relevance has yet to fade.

Stewarding and sharing the Vanka Murals are not enough. As an organization, we must commit to the hard work; the inward and outward facing actions that help us live, grow and honor the power and meaning of the Vanka Murals.  We must and we will:

  • actively listen and help to amplify the voices that need to be heard now and in the future.
  • increase inclusivity among our Board, Advisory Council, staff and volunteers.
  • ensure that diverse perspectives and lived experiences are reflected in our interpretation of the murals.
  • collaborate to create community conversations inspired by current events and themes within the murals that lead toward honest recognition of injustices and produce positive strategies and actions.
  • expand revenue-sharing and awareness-raising partnerships with community organizations working on issues that resonate with the themes of the murals such as social and economic injustice, immigration, violence and more.

Our eyes, ears, hearts and minds are open to other ways we can contribute to our community and beyond and help make positive change happen. SPMMMV stands as a partner that will advocate for and work toward creating a more just society.