At the Greater Pittsburgh Art Council’s annual meeting today, Toby Fraley of Bridgeville was honored with the 2012 Mayor’s Award for Public Art. Established by Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl in 2007, the award acknowledges the power of public art in the community and celebrates those who are committed to supporting art in the city.
Fraley said his award-winning piece entitled “Robot Repair” was highly influenced by the memories he has of his father from when he young.
“Growing up, my dad collected a lot of popular science and popular mechanics magazines. It seemed like a reoccurring theme was always flying cars and robots in the future and this is kind of an altered reality where if that happened, which is sad it didn’t, and I think we’d get those things repaired today instead just throwing things away like we do anymore,” he said.
Renee Piechocki, Director of the Office of Public Art, said the process of selecting a winner for the award starts with the community’s input. “It’s an open call, we don’t have a panel that does nominations, we do a request for—basically like a request for nominations—and then everything that gets submitted is what goes to the Mayor,” Piechocki said.
She said the city has always had an appreciation for many genres of art, but one style in particular is becoming more prevalent. “What Pittsburgh is becoming increasingly known for is more social practice work where you may not have an object that sits out in a public space, but it’s more about an artist engaging with a community,” Piechocki said.
Fraley's artwork is being showcased on Sixth Street across from Heinz Hall. He said he chose that location because it is unique and showed promise.
“I kind of strategically aimed for this location because I knew it was going to be hard for anyone else to use as an actual business,” Fraley said. “It’s a really oddly-size space and it was really dilapidated at the time, so I thought the interest in that space would be smaller and that’s why I applied for it, to better my odds,” Fraley said.
Fraley added he has been invited to showcase his artwork at the SPACE Gallery in Pittsburgh in February 2014, which will be his first solo show.