We’re proud to introduce a new series: Riverview Teacher Spotlight! There are more than 90 teachers at Riverview working hard each day to make sure students are ready for everything the world throws at them, and we hope this series will get you to know them even better!
We begin our new series by casting a light on Junior-Senior High School Learning Support Teacher Mr. PJ Smerdel, whose recent hobby of painting has brought nostalgia to countless people.
A teacher at Riverview for 23 years, Mr. Smerdel has taught English, math and history at the District.
In a previous life, Mr. Smerdel was also a talent scout for a major music label!
His passions are myriad: Mr. Smerdel loves fine art, music, theater, sports, science, his wife Kat and, of course, teaching!
"With COVID around and the gyms closed, I got bored,” Mr. Smerdel said, and his wife suggested he restart an old hobby – painting! Soon he started putting brush to canvas.
His pop-art focused on aging and nostalgia quickly became something that resonated with many. Old-looking or rustic items typically forgotten are among Mr. Smerdel’s favorite items to highlight. He’s turned a photo of a beat-up mailbox into a beautiful period piece. Mr. Smerdel did the same for an old Ford Truck from the 60s in a grassy area, slowly embracing rust. In fact, it helped Mr. S set the name of his hobby: Rustpop by PJ!
The unlikely art business has been getting numerous requests from people across the region wanting similar custom paintings. He painted Kaufmann’s Clock in Downtown Pittsburgh for a customer, and he recently completed a painting of the Oakmont Clock.
Prints of his art are now available at Lil Birdy’s Antiques & Decor in Butler, but he’s also taking commissions!
Check out and follow his instagram page to follow his burgeoning art journey (@rustpop_by_pj)!