Proposals Sought For Pittsburgh's New 'Art In Parks' Initiative

Jul 2, 2018

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.

A new city initiative aims to address the matter with art.

The city is now accepting artist proposals for Art in Parks, a pilot project to commission seven small-scale artworks in six parks. The works are meant to “engage the local community and activate these spaces ... that utilize themes such as health, play, active learning, and/or neighborhood identity,” according to a release.

The parks in the pilot are Schenley, Frick, Mellon, Highland, Riverview and Emerald. Each site get one artwork, except for Frick, which is slated for two.

Art in Parks is a collaboration between the city’s Public Art and Civic Design Division, the Department of Public Works and Citiparks.

The works can be in any of several media, including paint, wheat-paste, textile or ceramic tile. Art in Parks works are meant to be temporary; future rounds of the project will include other parks and other sites within them, said Yesica Guerra, the city’s public-art and civic-design manager.

A key idea is to activate the spaces, she said.

“These are pretty bleak spaces that are concrete areas that can be activated,” Guerra said. “This is a campus that can be activated and be experienced differently.”

The budget is modest: $7,500 per project.

One idea, she said, could be to decorate blacktop or concrete with simple designs that function as interactive art.

“You know, areas where kids can jump, like playful marks, where it tells you, ‘I can jump from A to B to C, and it will get me to like this scoring area,’ where it’s actually just within the work of art or the image, that the kids can actually follow around,” Guerra said.

But works could also be murals; weaving projects that incorporate existing fencing; or other displays.

Tony Cavalline, the city’s arts, culture and history specialist, said they wanted the submission process to be artist-friendly with no registration fee.

The online form, which closes July 20, includes photos of three selected sites in each of the six parks. Artists need to propose an artwork for only one of the three sites in any given park, Guerra said. The form also includes examples of similar projects done in cities around the world.

The idea is for the city to choose from among the proposals quickly so that the artworks can be in place by late September, she said, and see some use in the fall.