A Letter from the Director
Dear Friends and Colleagues:
As those of us in the Northern Hemisphere experience the winter solstice, marked at 10:58 AM today, the Office of Public Art is pausing to reflect on both the accomplishments and challenges of the past year. For us and many of our family, friends, and colleagues, 2021 has been marked by continued change and adaptation, as our communities continue to reel from the upheavals of 2020. These upheavals include the earth-shifting events of the COVID-19 pandemic; the racially-fueled killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmed Arbery, Joseph Rosenbaum, and Anthony Huber, among too many others; the fractious 2020 election cycle and subsequent January 6th insurrection at the US Capitol; and the ongoing climate crisis and its widely felt devastation. For many, these events made explicit the myriad of challenges that face us as we strive to build a more just and equitable society for all people, and in turn have reenergized movements for civil rights and social justice in America.
At the Office of Public Art, our vision is for the Pittsburgh region to engage the creative practices of artists and catalyze community-led change. In 2021, this has meant engaging directly with the impacts of 2020’s upheavals, and reexamining how we fulfill our mission. We have emphasized the process of converting the potential of artist and community collaboration into meaningful action. We have relaunched programs that were stalled by the pandemic, and developed new ones to support the emerging needs of artists and communities. We have reexamined methods of artist selection and collaboration with our colleagues to model new practices and connect artists to opportunities that for too long have been out of reach. This past year, we launched two programs that specifically support artists from communities that have been historically marginalized from working in public space. These include the expansion of our Artists Bridging Social Distance in the Public Realm initiative to support nine projects led by artists who identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color, and the SEED Money pilot, a program designed by artist and consultant Jessica Gaynelle Moss to support emerging Black artists with funding for their first public art opportunity.
Through our work with the advisory group of the Pittsburgh Creative Corps (PCC), we have challenged ourselves to develop new methods for artist selection that can ensure that opportunities are created to support artists with limited experience working in public space. This led to a fantastic mural by artist Matthew Carroll, created in collaboration with artists Fran Flaherty and Max Gonzales at the PCC Studio, as well as the development of a nomination process that will be implemented for the next phase of the PCC Artist Roster, launching in January 2022.
For our team, being part of bringing these projects and programs to fruition demonstrates the potential power of work that is both creative and collaborative, and gives us hope for the future, even as we are faced with the multiple challenges of the pandemic, the climate crisis, and our country’s legacy of white supremacy. In these times, we are thankful for the partnership and support of our collaborators, and for the opportunities that we have had to learn, grow, and do better each day.
Thank you for being in community with us through 2021. We deeply appreciate the time, energy, and resources that each of you have contributed to supporting the collaborations between artists and communities to strengthen our region and catalyze community-led change. May you have a restful and restorative winter, and we look forward to working with you in 2022.
With warm regards,
Sallyann Kluz, Director
Office of Public Art
Year-End Update from the Program Areas
Civically Engaged Public Art
Office of Public Art’s (OPA) Civically Engaged Public Art program is grounded in equity and social justice and centers collaborations with communities that have been historically marginalized and underrepresented in civic processes. Each project is focused on a social need or cultural issue that has been identified by impacted communities, and develops from close collaboration between the artists and their community partners.
In 2020, OPA launched the Public Art and Communities program in partnership with Neighborhood Allies and the Borough of Millvale. The program is designed to support collaborations between community-based organizations and artists to develop place-based strategies and temporary artworks that respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. These projects will address the intersection between COVID-19 and other public health issues such as mental health, food insecurity, social isolation, and racism. This year the organizations selected the artists with whom they will be working throughout the program. The partnership teams are:
- Artist Jason McKoy with Etna Community Organization and Sharpsburg Neighborhood Organization
- Artist Nola Mims with Steel Smiling
- Artist Rell Rushin with Frogang; and
- Artist Lindsey Peck Scherloum with The Brashear Association
The four teams participated in a six-week Placemaking Academy program. This learning lab introduced principles of successful creative placemaking and nurtured relationships between partnership teams and collaborators. As we enter 2022, the teams continue to carry out their community engagement strategies and move into project implementation.
Informed by the continued impacts of COVID-19, our Artists Bridging Social Distance in the Public Realm initiative expanded in 2021 to support the launch of nine projects by artists who identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color. The projects, which span a range of media and discipline, respond to the current state of the crisis and propose new approaches to bridging social distance in the communities with which the artists identify.
This year also marked the launch of three works of temporary public art in our Environment, Health, and Public Art initiative. These projects by artists Aaron Henderson, Ginger Brooks Takahashi, and Mary Tremonte feature a series of site-specific installations, onsite projections, zines, and a Soil Health Education Cart that tell the story of the distinct yet intersecting environmental health issues of water pollution, air pollution, and lead toxicity in the Pittsburgh region.
Since 2019, OPA has been honored to partner with artist Alisha B. Wormsley and the creative team behind the Sibyls Shrine Residency. This past year, the revolutionary residency program supported over sixty Black creative mothers through four residency streams for Visiting, Home, Network, and Community Liaison Artists.
The Artist Services program aims to make public art more accessible and equitable in our region by increasing access to opportunities, tools, and resources for artists. In 2021, we launched three new initiatives that provide artists with opportunities in the public realm and build their capacity to succeed in the field.
Through OPA Office Hours, artists can meet either virtually or in-person with an OPA team member for application support, studio visits, or consultations about the newest public art opportunities. Artists can sign up for one-on-one individualized support by using a Calendly link that is publicized via artist calls, information sessions, in the OPA newsletter, and more.
OPA and the City of Pittsburgh’s Public Art and Civic Design Division (PACD) have begun a collaborative project to establish a framework to guide our relationship and to support the growth of the region’s public art ecosystem. The project, currently in the research phase, will begin by investigating the state of the field. In January, our team will disseminate an artist survey across the region. In February, we will host a series of artist focus groups. We encourage artists to make their voices heard and to tell us how we can better support their practices in the public realm.
Finally, in 2021 we launched the Pittsburgh Creative Corps (PCC) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the purpose of engaging artists to activate the public realm while providing them economic opportunity. An initiative of Riverlife and OPA, PCC is a coordinated effort to commission artists to fabricate and install public art, and create civic engagement programs in Pittsburgh. So far, over 700 people participated in direct engagement with the PCC, and we contracted with twenty-one artists for design services, resulting in eleven temporary public art commissions. In early 2022, a roster of pre-screened PCC artists will be released as a web directory. This database will feature artist profiles and serve as a tool for public agencies, private businesses, or other organizations seeking to commission artwork in the public realm.
In the first year of the pandemic, the Office of Public Art swiftly and deftly transitioned its programming to the digital sphere by launching several new programs that continued in 2021. This year, online programming has included: OPA Live! on Instagram, Public Art Training Camp, Winter Intensive training sessions, and online portfolio reviews with leading curators, artists, and arts administrators from across the country. Our online programs connected OPA to national and international audiences and attracted top public arts administrators and artists as speakers, including Che Anderson, Center for Performance and Civic Practice, Amina Cooper, Kendal Henry, Dr. Maria Rosario Jackson, Njaimeh Njie, Renee Piechocki, Alisha B. Wormsley, Janet Zweig, and many more.
During the summer of 2021, OPA brought back several in-person programs. We held dance and movement classes at the Allegheny Overlook Pop-up Park as part of the Pittsburgh Creative Corps (PCC) program, in collaboration with the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership and Riverlife. Featured classes by Flamenco Pittsburgh, the Sanskruti School of Indian Dance and Music, and YOGAMOTIF engaged intergenerational audiences in this pop-up downtown space. This engaging programming concluded with three Walk & Write tours designed and led by writer Sherrie Flick. The Walk & Write tours guided intrepid writers along the Allegheny River, across Downtown, and through the Allegheny Cemetery.
For 2022, we look forward to continuing the delivery of high-quality and engaging online programming, including OPA Live! Extended, a three-part Winter Intensive training series, and a call for cultural producers to host OPA Live! on Instagram. In addition, we are planning for an exciting spring and summer series of in-person artist-led programming as part of the Pittsburgh Creative Corps initiative.
As part of our mission to build capacity for artists to collaboratively shape the public realm and catalyze community-led change, the Office of Public Art provides a broad range of consulting and planning services through our Technical Assistance program area. We help clients identify opportunities within their operations and projects, and develop strategies for how to engage artists in those opportunities, including developing budgets, designing and implementing artist selection processes, and providing public art management services.
In 2021, we worked with both old and new clients to support their work in the public realm. Among these projects is our work with Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s District 11 to select Pittsburgh-based artist Brian Peters for the design of concrete sound barriers as part of the Route 28 interchange project at the Highland Park Bridge. This exciting project, which will be unveiled in 2022, integrates the artist’s design into the formwork that will be used to construct the sound barriers, and highlights the technical skills and craftsmanship of our region’s builders.
In Hazelwood, we are honored to work with evolve EA and artists Alisha B. Wormsley and Carin Mincemoyer to support the development of new bus shelter designs for the Hazelwood Green development site and Second Avenue corridor. For this work, we were hired by the Almono partnership, owners of Hazelwood Green, to manage design team selection and project development. The project, entitled Shelters for Migrating Species, is about providing temporary places of comfort for people, plants, and animals on the move.
As we look to 2022, our team is excited to consider how these projects and others can create opportunities for supporting the work of the region’s artists and expanding their practices.
March 1, 2020
OPA is seeking proposals from visual and performing artists for projects that aim to bridge the social distance created by efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.