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Building Innovation is a collection of stories by 90.5 fm WESA reporters about the Pittsburgh region focusing on efficient government operation, infrastructure and transportation, innovative practices, energy and environment and neighborhoods and community.

Office Of Public Art Aims To Make Pittsburgh Inviting To Immigrants Through Installations

The Office of Public Art

The Office of Public Art is aiming to make Pittsburgh more welcoming to newcomers in immigrant neighborhoods with public art installations. 

The Peduto Administration, OPA and the Department of Public Planning are teaming up to seek grant money from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for public art projects that will improve the quality of life in immigrant communities.

"Welcoming Pittsburgh," an initiative of the mayor’s office that collaborates with new immigrants, will work with the OPA and community organizations to find artists and plan installations.

The projects will be focused in recently-settled immigrant neighborhoods. With growing Bhutanese, Burmese, Iraqi, Somali and Mexican populations, Office of Public Art Director Renee Piechocki said she sees an opportunity to capture the spirit of these neighborhoods with art.

Growing immigrant communities identified by the Allegheny County Department of Human Services include Monroeville, Castle Shannon, Baldwin and Oakland. The neighborhoods for the public art projects have yet to be selected.

Credit Allegheny County Department of Human Services
Allegheny County Department of Human Services

The OPA will know if they have received the grant in late 2016.

In the meantime, the OPA has reached out to newer immigrant communities in different ways.  

With Nepalese being one of the fastest growing immigrant groups in Pittsburgh, the OPA saw an opportunity to include Nepalese residents in the public art experience.

“For the first time, we had a Nepali interpreter at one of our tours and we did very specific outreach to people who live in the Nepalese community. We had about 50 people attend that tour, 40 of whom were Nepalese,” said Piechocki.  

Piechocki said many regulars who participate in the walking tours have embraced new residents. 

“We have a lot of regulars who come to all of our tours and they were absolutely delighted to have new people coming who had not been on a public art tour before. I think a lot of goodwill and understanding came out of that experience,” she said.