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City Moves Ahead On Big Slate Of Public-Art Projects

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90.5 WESA
The City of Pittsburgh's public art in parks includes this sculptural fountain in Mellon Park.

More public art is coming to City of Pittsburgh parks and other public spaces, courtesy of funding the scale of which the city has not seen in decades.

The city this week began accepting applications from artists for $500,000 in projects in its five regional parks, including Frick, Schenley, Riverview, Highland and Emerald View; those funds are part of an Allegheny Regional Asset District (ARAD) Art in Parks grant. City officials said another $300,000 will go toward other projects later this year.

“It’s a really important opportunity to carry on some more large-scale public art that we haven’t really seen in the city in the past several years,” said Sarah Minnaert, who heads the city’s Public Art and Civic Design office.

The application process for the Art in Parks project opened this week. Artists and artist teams are asked to submit not proposals, but rather their qualifications. Selected artists will then be matched with specific parks to develop proposals in a process that will include public input, said Minnaert.

“We’re trying to keep the call as broad as possible to really solicit as many diverse artists as we can get, so that we have the strongest pool of applicants so that we can utilize this grant money to make the strongest impact in the parks,” she said.

The projects can be anything from object-based sculptures to site-specific installations or landscape works, Minnaert said. Interested artists can find more information here.

All the $800,000 is tax money, though none of it is new spending per se. ARAD is funded by proceeds from the county’s one percent sales tax, and the Art in Parks initiative (which included additional funds for county parks) was part of ARAD’s RADical ImPAct Grant Program, announced in 2019.

“We look forward to this project bringing a renewed sense of vitality to our public spaces by making a part of our everyday lives,” said RAD executive director Rich Hudic in a statement.

While city residents will have opportunities for input after the artists are chosen, said Minnaert, residents can get involved online now through the Art in Parks EngagePGH page.

The other $300,000 is from the city’s Percent for Art ordinance, which sets aside one percent of expenditures on construction and renovation projects on municipal buildings for art. Future calls for artists this year will include Percent for Art projects in various municipal buildings, other city parks, and on the Bus Rapid Transit project, which encompasses multiple neighborhoods.