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Gainey to appoint new members to revamped Pittsburgh art commission

Sarah Kovash
90.5 WESA
In recent years, the Art Commission has made some high-profile decisions, including removing the statue of Stephen Foster in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood.

Mayor Ed Gainey plans to appoint seven people to Pittsburgh’s newly revamped Art & Civic Design Commission.

City Council President Theresa Kail-Smith is set to advance Gainey’s appointees by formally nominating them on Wednesday. It’s likely that council members will interview the nominees after.

Gainey abruptly dismissed all five former members of the arts commission in November. He announced plans to split the commission in two shortly thereafter.

In December, Pittsburgh City Council approved the split. Now, the commission includes one committee that reviews public art proposals and another that looks at applications for building designs and other city-funded structures.

Gainey’s Civic Design Committee appointees are Ariam Ford, the executive director of Pittsburgh land use nonprofit Grounded Strategies; Lisa Carver, a principal with the architecture firm Perfido Weiskopf Wagstaff and Goettel; and Megan Zeigler, the vice president of planning and policy for the Green Building Alliance.

For the Public Art Committee, Gainey’s appointing senior program officer for arts and culture at the Pittsburgh Foundation Celeste Smith, resident multi-media artist at the Pittsburgh Center for Arts and Media Christine Bethea, multi-media artist Mikael Owunna and artist Tom Mosser.

Though the commissioners are appointed by the mayor, they must be approved by council before they can take up their unpaid volunteer positions.

Mosser, who runs Tom Mosser Design and the Lucas Paw, is no stranger to public art. He and Sarah Zeffiro created “The Two Andys” mural, which features famous Pittsburghers Andy Warhol and Andrew Carnegie in a beauty parlor, for the Sprout Fund in 2005.

“When you do something that the people can see when they’re driving by or walking by in public, it inspires a dialogue,” Mosser said. “It’s great to have artwork in somebody’s living room or art gallery at a museum, but when you have a piece of work that’s out in the public it just makes such an impact.”

Mosser said the new commission structure will open up opportunities for collaboration between artists and the city. And because he’s part of the first generation of committee members who will work under the new system, Mosser is going into the situation with an open mind.

“When you’re working on a painting or working on an art commission, sometimes you have some basic colors, a basic concept, but then the painting starts painting itself and you have to be ready to go in different directions,” Mosser said.

It’s unclear when the new commission members might get started. However, the commission’s planned Jan. 25 meeting has been canceled.

Julia Zenkevich reports on Allegheny County government for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at