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A Fashion Show On City Steps? New Event Shows Creative Ways To Interact With Stairways

Bike PGH
People gather at the top of a staircase on Pittsburgh's Northside. The city has nearly 800 sets of steps.

Pittsburgh has hundreds of sets of steps — more than any other city in the United States. A new event series, “The Steps We Take” will highlight these staircases with music, art and parties.

The multi-weekend gatherings in the West End, Troy Hill, Fineview and Polish Hill will all include public displays that incorporate the vertical nature of stairs. Historically, Pittsburgh’s steps have served as connectors from hilltop neighborhoods to lower-elevation communities, helping residents traverse the city’s tough terrain.

The four neighborhoods were chosen by Bike Pittsburgh and the city’s Office of Public Art earlier this year; community groups then picked a local artist to match what the neighborhood wanted to create. For example,  the Polish Hill Civic Association worked with artist Merritt Chase to create laser-cuttings of Polish designs.

“You usually see [those designs] around that community,” said Alexandria Shewczyk of Bike Pittsburgh. “Each one is so unique and so custom to the community.” Polish Hill will hold the first event this Friday, Oct. 4.

Credit Bike PGH
The weekend events will include interactive art and block parties in an effort to draw attention to some of the city's crumbling staircases.

In Troy Hill, artists Danny Bracken and Erin Anderson collected residents’ accounts of the neighborhood’s history for inclusion in a mobile app. Visitors walking up the stairs and using the app will get to hear a resident’s memory of a specific place or experience in Troy Hill.

“You might pass by and an audio blip will pop up and say, ‘Hey, I went to school here at this old abandoned school building and now it’s this new thing,’” Shewcyzk said. “It’s really neat.”

The West End’s artist Bradford Mumpower coordinated a fashion show to take place on the neighborhood's stairways. In Fineview, visitors can interact with wearable art.

“It’s a really cool way to show these [stairs] still connect communities and we want to celebrate that,” Shewczyk said. “People love the stairs in Pittsburgh, it’s such a unique thing to our city.”

Many of the city’s stairs are in disrepair, and Shoezik says she hopes the projects will bring attention to the need for infrastructure improvements.

A full list of the Steps We Take events can be found here.