City Controller Asks For Funding Of Public Art Project Promised For CONSOL

Jan 11, 2016

CONSOL Energy Center captured just before its completion in October 2009.
Credit daveynin / flickr

Nearly six years after CONSOL Energy Center's completion, officials say it still doesn't have the public art that was promised along with the building. 

The city controller's office is recommending the mayor and City Council push for funding to complete the art piece. 

Controller Michael Lamb released an audit of the Sports Exhibition Authority last month, detailing the revenue brought in by sports teams occupying facilities and land owned by the authority.

The audit noted CONSOL, home of the Penguins hockey team, was completed in 2010. Shortly after, an artist was selected for a $1.5 million dollar art project, which was to begin when funding was available.

Lamb said since then, both the Penguins and the SEA have claimed they don’t have the money.

“As of yet, there’s no funding in place. And again, it was a promise that was made to the community that we think needs to be acknowledged and something should be done about it,” he said.

Lamb said the art installation was part of the agreement that led to the construction of CONSOL.

“Some would say that the default position was that the Penguins were going to pay for it, absent other funding,” he said. “I don’t know that that’s clearly what they said, but between the Penguins and the local government and the SEA, the parties to this agreement, there was a commitment that funding would be secured. Meaning that if it wasn’t secured, one or all of them would step up with the rest.”

Lamb added that there were conversations with local foundations willing to support the project, but those talks date back to 2010.

PGH4ART, a group campaigning to update the city’s public art ordinance, and the Hill District Consensus Group have urged elected officials to increase public pressure to complete the project.

Carolyn Speranza with PGH4ART said the project will consist of community-driven public art.

“This kind of a project has real and meaningful impact on the people who live in Pittsburgh, the tax-paying residents, people whose community it is. It’s not an abstraction. It’s not conceptual,” she said.

Speranza wants the city’s 1977 “Percent for Art” law rewritten. The ordinance currently states that any new buildings or renovations paid for by the city, costing $50,000 or more, save 1 percent of the total to pay for art projects.  A City Paper report from 2013 said that many of the projects that fall within the "Percent for Art" law usually go unchecked. And the ordinance doesn’t apply to city authorities including the SEA, according to Speranza. 

Once funding is secured, the CONSOL project would include several vertical frames displaying thousands of images collected by the local community of the Hill District surrounding a series of rain gardens.