Pittsburgh is home to a new wave of immigrants and refugees. To help newcomers connect with Pittsburgh and its residents, the Office of Public Art partnered with Welcoming Pittsburgh and the Department of City Planning to organize four artist residencies in the public realm. Over two years, four artists deeply engaged with four community-based host organizations that serve Pittsburgh immigrants and refugees.
Artist in the Public Realm Residencies with Immigrant and Refugee Communities
These Artist Residencies in the Public Realm supported a collaborative process to identify and address needs within the community. In the first year, the artists engaged with their host organization’s stakeholders and community members to build relationships and understand challenges. In the second year, the host organizations learned how to work with the artists to develop a collaborative creative project based on the first year of learning and engagement.
OPA collaborated with the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of City Planning (DCP) and Welcoming Pittsburgh (WP) to develop an open call for organizations interested in hosting an artist. Organizations applying for this program had goals that included increasing participation in civic life, building greater access to and understanding of American culture, raising awareness of Pittsburgh’s cultural resources, and learning how to collaborate with an artist.
The team interviewed applicants and ultimately selected four organizations based on their interest, goals, and capacity to host an artist:
- Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh
- Community Assistance and Refugee Resettlement program of the Northern Area Multi Service Center (closed December 2018)
- United Somali Bantu of Greater Pittsburgh
- Literacy Pittsburgh (formerly Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council).
We worked with our collaborating team members to develop a call for artists, which was circulated nationally and received over 60 applicants for the four positions. OPA hosted a first selection meeting that included the four host organizations, DCP, WP, and outside arts professionals. Each organization identified and then interviewed a shortlist of four artists, with support from OPA and the team.
Based on these interviews, each organization selected the artist with whom they wanted to work. The four selected artists – Christine Bethea, Molly Rice, Lindsey Peck Scherloum, and Mary Tremonte – were on board by May 2017.
During the first few months of their residencies, artists worked onsite with their host organizations several days a week, joining staff and community members for daily activities and meetings. This included participating in the refugee resettlement process by meeting new arrivals at the airport and sharing meals with community members.