Public Art

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh’s Art Commission voted unanimously today to remove the statue of Christopher Columbus that has stood in Schenley Park for generations.

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

Meetings of the City of Pittsburgh Art Commission are not known for heated debates. Attendees are much likelier to witness polite discussions of the architectural details of a new building, or how best to renovate a city park. But a pending debate may not only be fractious, but could concern the powers of the commission itself. 

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

For years, it served as a kind of gateway to Wilkinsburg: a colorful mural depicting community members that spanned a railroad overpass on Penn Avenue, on the western edge of the borough’s business district.

Photo by Ashley Anderson / Office of Public Art

In normal times, theater-goers, music fans, and dance aficionados sit elbow-to-elbow in darkened halls for hours. Art-lovers crowd into gallery openings, spearing cheese cubes off plates and sipping merlot poured from the same bottle, one after the other.

It’s been less than a month since nonessential businesses shut their doors due to the coronavirus pandemic, but already the familiar mingling that accompanied art experiences seems almost surreally a thing of the past.

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

For its newest grant program, one of the region’s biggest arts-and-culture funders had allocated $2.5 million. But after winnowing the original pool of 44 applicants to 12, the Allegheny Regional Asset District’s board (RAD) decided it liked them all, and simply added enough money to give each group what it asked for.

The result will be new and highly visible art in town, from public art in the parks to a stage play built from stories drawn from the community.

Photo by Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA News

Njaimeh Njie spent three years on her public artwork “Homecoming: Hill District, USA.” This month, she completed the project’s final piece, a photo mural on the front steps of the Hill House Association’s landmark Kaufmann Center. But if a visit just hours after the installation is any indication, the work is already meeting its goal of connecting community members across time and space.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

A collaborative art project in front of the Tree of Life synagogue site in Squirrel Hill has been installed. #HeartsTogether: The Art of Rebuilding, includes 101 images printed on a windscreen that stretches in front of the building along Wilkins Avenue. 

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

Blaine Siegel lives in Allison Park, but his family is mostly in Miami, so he’s a fairly frequent flier. Still, his thoughts about airports and air travel were greatly expanded after he became Pittsburgh International Airport’s first-ever artist in residence, in February 2018.

Dominque Jouxtel

The very first Three Rivers Arts Festival, as created by the Women’s Committee of the Carnegie Institute, took place in June 1960. It ran four days, and drew 28,000.

Photo by Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA News

Ann Gurske has lived in Beechview for 58 of her 75 years. This fall, there was something new at the city-run Healthy Active Living Center where she often goes for lunch and socializing: a public art project.

Courtesy of the City of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh’s city parks might be popular, but they’ve got a lot of spaces that could be livelier – think of that blank concrete pedestrian underpass in Schenley Park, or the featureless reservoir jetty in Highland Park.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA


Most Pittsburghers notice the billboard while they’re watching the Buccos on the North Side. Soft light beams from a triangle slowly rotating within a rectangular sign on a rooftop in the downtown Cultural District. No words or pictures float through the display, just the revolving shapes.

Adelina Lancianese / 90.5 WESA

There's a decades-old mystery underfoot in Downtown Pittsburgh: small tiles placed in busy intersections that decry the media and ponder resurrection.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

If you're headed to the South Side from Downtown on the 10th Street Bridge, it's easy to spy four black geese painted onto the arch of one of the tall towers. The artwork, created by Tim Kaulen more than 20 years ago, is at risk as the bridge goes through a major rehabilitation.

Pittsburgh City Planning Department website

A map of Pittsburgh on the official city website is smattered with colorful, numbered dots, some of which cluster together in hot spots like Oakland and the North Side. Click the dots, and they reveal photos of public art--statues, plaques and pillars-- all with rich back stories, deep community ties. 

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The burden of history got about 800 pounds lighter on Thursday as the City of Pittsburgh removed a statue critics had called racist for decades.

Courtesy of Art All Night

Venues capable of displaying 1,000 works of art for less than 24 hours aren’t easy to come by. 

Photo by Jon Rubin

Alisha Wormsley didn’t intend her work of billboard art to be about gentrification. But her message reading “There Are Black People in the Future,” posted in big letters atop a building in the center of East Liberty, has become just that.

Courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

An acclaimed British photographer will guide some local students to document their own communities as part of this year’s Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

When James Simon moved into a three-story warehouse in the Uptown section of Pittsburgh in 2000, the area was much different than it is now. Simon said his street, Gist Street, was a hangout for sex workers, and the neighborhood had a dangerous reputation.

At that point, Simon was in the midst of a successful career as a sculptor and a creator of public art. He’d been living in Brazil, but was drawn back to Pittsburgh to help support his family.

It turns out that he had roots in Uptown all along.

Photo by Jon Rubin

The removal of a message from a billboard art project in East Liberty has sparked outrage – and inspired a community meeting to address issues surrounding free speech and public art.

*Updated at 6:02 p.m. Thursday, April 5

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

A summer music series, public art and spaces for local makers are all on the docket for Pittsburgh this year, according to the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.

The PDP says it expanded its arts programming in 2017, which included 300 days of Downtown programming, increased social media outreach and the launch of new events including Halloween's Fright Up Night. 

‘LOVE’ Returns: Philly Park Gets Its Sculpture Back

Feb 14, 2018
Matt Rourke / AP

"LOVE" returned to Philadelphia on Tuesday, just in time for Valentine's Day.

The famous 1976 Robert Indiana sculpture was brought back to its namesake downtown park on a flatbed truck after making a number of stops at parks and statues along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway before the reinstallation.

School children cheered and those gathered spontaneously sang the fight song for the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles as a forklift placed the sculpture atop a pedestal.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

Steven "Stevo" Sadvary is scoring and cutting glass in his Squirrel Hill studio, his sheepdog sitting by his side.

It's a unique place -- an otherwise unused level of a parking garage where several artists have set up work spaces. Panels and shards of brightly-colored glass are packed onto shelves lining the wall, and mosaics of all kinds hang on the walls and rest on tables. It's mostly Sadvary's own work, but occasionally one of his students' pieces. 

PIOTRUS / Wikimedia Commons

Pittsburgh’s controversial statue of composer Stephen Foster could soon be removed from its location in Schenley Plaza.

Pittsburgh’s Art Commission was tasked with deciding the fate of the statue, following public concern and petitions about the city-owned property. The piece depicts Foster seemingly transcribing the music of an enslaved black man, seated at his feet, shoeless.

At its meeting Wednesday afternoon, members of the nine-member commission agreed with the majority of public input received: that the statue is problematic, especially in its current location.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

It’s a 10-foot tall bronze statue on a four-foot tall granite base, that many Pittsburghers want to see moved.

The statue of Stephen Foster exhibited conspicuously in Oakland's Schenley Park, was first displayed in Highland Park.

PIOTRUS / Wikimedia Commons

The City of Pittsburgh’s Art Commission is moving forward with its process of reviewing a controversial statue of the composer Stephen Foster.

Petition Urges City To Move Stephen Foster Statue

Aug 29, 2017
Piotrus / Wikimedia Commons

An online petition to remove a controversial statue of one of Pittsburgh's native sons in Oakland has gathered more than 1,000 signatures.

Turning Trash Into Art To Save Urban Wildlife

Jul 27, 2017
Kara Holsopple / Allegheny Front

Rebecca  Reid knew it was a long shot, but she emailed Portuguese street artist Bordalo II anyway. She’d seen his large murals depicting wildlife on Facebook.

Modern-Day Revolution Celebrated In Philadelphia Street Art

May 30, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

Seeking to appeal to visitors more familiar with the words of "Game of Thrones" heroine Daenarys Targaryen than the writings of James Wilson, Philadelphia museums and historic sites are thinking differently, using creative art exhibitions and adding online components to their offerings.

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