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00000176-e6f7-dce8-adff-f6f770520000The Allegheny Front is a radio program covering environmental issues in Western Pennsylvania. The Allegheny Front began in 1991 and continues to serve the community as the most insightful source of local and regional environmental news and information on the radio. The program explores environmental issues affecting the community through stories, interviews, news, and commentaries.

Pittsburgh Festival Turns Junk Into Art

Kara Holsopple
Allegheny Front


This month, Pittsburgh is hosting its first Re:NEW Festival, an art and performance event that’s all about reusing materials and environmental sustainability.

For example, one of the sculptures commissioned for the festival is fashioned from old street lights. Duquesne Light donated about 30 of them along with some other decommissioned fixtures for sculptors to re-imagine. Eddie Opat helped design the piece and says it’s inspired by pre-Columbian architecture.

“One of the main things we were trying to do is use this consumer infrastructure refuse to build something that nods to a culture that was sustainable in itself,” Opat says.

Over the weekend, Opat and others put the finishing touches on the sculpture, which is 18 feet tall and surrounded by office buildings in Downtown Pittsburgh’s Gateway Center Plaza. High school student Haydon Alexander was also down there learning to weld and work with metal in the Mobile Sculpture Workshop. When we visited with him, he was up on a ladder, securing light fixtures that have been refashioned into cobra heads.

“The general feeling of Gateway Center is sort of all the buildings are very sterile,” Alexander says. “And this piece follows some of the geometry we see in Gateway Center, but it’s more natural and more flowing. We’re using industry and urban elements to create something that has natural beauty.”

Opat’s sculpture looks a bit like a silver flower sprouting in the courtyard of these highrises. And it lights up. He says the piece is titled Almenara—Spanish for “beacon.”

“It’s a beacon for sustainability and moving forward,” he says. “And hopefully, [it will] inspire people to take things out of their conventional form and explore other options after their intended life.”

You can see Almenara at Gateway Center through October 9. And check out more about the Re:NEW Festival here.

Find more of this reportand others on the site of our partner, Allegheny Front