Pittsburgh-based social service group looks to expand into former Braddock church

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A vacant former church in Braddock will soon be reborn as a community center and a transitional living space for formerly incarcerated people and those battling addiction. But it is seeking help to achieve its goals.

Adrian Buckmaster

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Heliotrope Foundation

Artist Caledonia Curry, known as Swoon, donated the church to Za’Kiyah House.

The building’s owner, internationally acclaimed artist Caledonia Curry, known as Swoon, plans to donate the building to Za’kiyah House, a local nonprofit that operates sober homes in Homewood and Braddock. But Curry has pledged to start by replacing dozens of the building’s wood-panelled windows.

Her Kickstarter campaign surpassed her initial $50,000 goal, and plans to reach a stretched goal of $75,000 on Thursday. Ronna Davis-Moore, founder of Za’Kiyah House, said a total of $100,000 was required to replace the building’s 38 custom windows and two previous large stained glass windows.

Davis-Moore said the building, which will be renamed The Sanctuary, will house a social hall, a sanctuary and three two-bedroom apartments.

“We wanted to create a sanctuary-like space, a place where they come and feel safe, a place where they come to enjoy the views and get what they need,” Davis-Moore said.

Rhona Davis-Moore

Jack Kleinhart

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Heliotrope Foundation

Ronna Davis-Moore is the founder of Za’kiyah House.

Davis-Moore was an incarcerated man who worked in social services for many years. The initiative to become Za’kiyah House began in 2016 with an informative street event called “The Restoration of Frankstown.” In 2018, she opened a house for men in Homewood. It was followed by Donelle’s Safe Haven, a women’s home in Braddock, which was also donated by Curry and her Heliotrope Foundation.

“Our mission is to reduce homelessness, drugs and alcohol, and recidivism,” she said.

Curry also comes from a family traumatized by addiction and incarceration.

“I think the Za’kiyah house is a very compassionate group of people who are more than willing to do the work and make sure no one falls through the cracks,” she said.

Curry lives and works in Brooklyn. She is known for her large-scale portraits rooted in street art. Her work has also been exhibited in galleries and museums around the world.

While she had her first gallery show in Pittsburgh in 2020, her Pittsburgh connections date back to around 2007, when she and a group of friends working as Transformazium acquired Braddock Church and turned it into a community arts center. In addition to renovating buildings to prevent demolition, the group has initiatives such as Braddock Tiles, a ceramics and work skills program for youth in the area.


But Braddock Tiles ended in 2018, and Curry said the church has largely been dormant since then. However, repairs continued and a new roof was completed. However, before she can hand the building over to Za’kiyah House, windows must be replaced, including two former stained glass windows whose successors will feature decorative metal latticework designed by Curry.

Curry said all windows should be finished by the end of the year. Davis-Moore said the temple’s next priority will be refurbishing the building’s social halls, followed by apartments and the temple.

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