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Arts, Sports & Culture

With Grant, City of Asylum Hopes to Create Public Works of Art, Literature

A local arts group hopes to use a grant to turn Pittsburgh into a canvas promoting freedom of expression.

ArtPlace America awarded a grant to the City of Asylum/Pittsburgh to launch its newest project, the “Garden to Garden” Artway.

City of Asylum/Pittsburgh spokeswoman Elizabeth Baisley said the artway will create spaces where literature and art are visible to the public as they walk along the streets of Pittsburgh.

“We plan to bring the public space into life in a joyful kind of walkway that celebrates both the liberating power of creative expression and draws tourists and residents alike to our redeveloped district,” Baisley said.

The project will take vacant properties and public spaces and make them into works of art with messages.

The artway will connect City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s Alphabet City literary center in the former Garden Theater complex and Alphabet Reading Garden on Monterey Street.

Baisley said some of the installations may involve live readings, but many of them will also include visual arts.

City of Asylum/Pittsburgh is working with the Pittsburgh Office of Public Art to commission artists and writers to create the installations.

Baisley said since City of Asylum/Pittsburgh began in 2004, it has integrated literary based public artwork into all of its writers’ residences, the best known being “House Poem” by Huang Xiang.

The nonprofit provides housing for writers who have been persecuted for their works in other countries and have sought asylum in the United States.

“The fundamental point of the exiled writer residency is that this person is able to continue being a writer, and we particularly focus on literary writers, the point being that they continue to write and their voice is not silenced, and they are free to express themselves,” Baisley said.

When Huang Xiang was finally free to express himself, he was so excited to publish his poems that he published them on his house, according to Baisley.

“That was the genesis of our idea for making our writers’ residencies works of public art, and so all four of the houses that we have redeveloped here on Sampsonia Way integrate the work of visual artists as well as literary artists,” Baisley said.

Baisley said City of Asylum/Pittsburgh hopes the artway will inspire conversations about how to make Pittsburgh a better place and how to value freedom of expression as citizens and human beings.