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Pittsburgh Parks get eight new artworks courtesy of RAD program

A colorful mural celebrating the birds of Schenley Park. A climbable, undulating, bright-yellow fence-like structure near the Highland Park pool. An Emerald View Park sculpture that incorporates casts of the hands of Brashear High School students.

Those are three of the six new artworks in City of Pittsburgh parks, with two more scheduled for completion soon.

The pieces arrive thanks to Art in Parks, a program of the taxpayer-funded Allegheny Regional Asset District.

Along with their aesthetic appeal, the pieces are variously meant to foster a sense of place, appreciation of the natural world, or to build community.

Mayor Ed Gainey celebrated the works in a media event held Wednesday at Frick Park, where New York-based artist Matthew Geller’s “In Fields of Friends” sits alongside a popular paved path that runs behind the landmark Blue Slide playground.

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The piece resembles a carousel, with a decorative canopy crowning three double-sided benches — seating for up to 12 that visitors can rotate to face either each other or the nearby woods and rolling fields.

“It’s physically experiential,” said Geller. “Viewers understand there’s a place for themselves in it.”

Similarly designed to get people interacting with it and each other is “Together,” in Highland Park, the climbable fence by Brooklyn’s The Urban Conga.

Pittsburgh-based artist Suphitsara Buttra-Coleman’s mosaic-style “Birds of Schenley Park” honors local avians (and raises awareness about ecological threats to their survival). It’s a two-part artwork on a building next to the Schenley Oval Sportsplex.

Also focusing on nature in Schenley is local artist Ginger Brooks Takahashi’s “Drip, Seep, Run,” which highlights natural water systems along Hollow Run Trail.

The two new works in Emerald View Park honor local people. “Grit, Grow, Flow” is a three-part abstract steel sculpture by local artists Oreen Cohen and Alison Zapata (working as OOA Designs) that celebrates the role of women in Pittsburgh industry. Cohen said the sculpture, inspired by the early-20th-century labor poem “Bread and Roses,” incorporates steel roses whose petals were bent by hand.

“That’s what this whole thing is emulating, the hard physical labor of women at home and in the workplace,” said Cohen. The work overlooks the Point from where P.J. McArdle Roadway meets Grandview Avenue.

Philadelphia-based Ali Ruffner’s “A Monument to Pittsburgh Youth” is a sculpture and art bench that grew from her long-term engagement with Brashear students. The work incorporates castings of the students’ hands and ceramic tiles.

“Pictures of the Future,” a multi-component artwork addressing the landscape and history of Riverview Park by Tristan Surtees, Charles Blanc, and Steve Gurysh, is partly completed. The artists are based in Glasgow, Calgary, and Lawrence, Kansas.

And Pittsburgh artist Marlana Adele Vassar said her sculpture of a young Black girl in Highland Park is currently in fabrication.

More information on the projects is here.

Bill is a long-time Pittsburgh-based journalist specializing in the arts and the environment. Previous to working at WESA, he spent 21 years at the weekly Pittsburgh City Paper, the last 14 as Arts & Entertainment editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and in 30-plus years as a journalist has freelanced for publications including In Pittsburgh, The Nation, E: The Environmental Magazine, American Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill has earned numerous Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. He lives in the neighborhood of Manchester, and he once milked a goat. Email: