A new river will run through the Northside on July 25—River of Words is a temporary, ephemeral artwork of texts and words “hosted” by residents on the exteriors of their homes and gardens.

Commissioned by the City of Asylum and The Office of Public Art, River of Words is the first of five installations in the Garden-to-Garden Trail that connects an Alphabet Reading Garden on Monterey Street to a new Alphabet City literary center in the Garden Theater block of the neighborhood.

The project is a collaboration between three Venezuelan artists– writer Israel Centeno and visual artists, Carolina Arnal and Gisela Romero–with the goal to connect the neighborhood. Israel Centeno provided the words that Carolina and Gisela installed as “words in residence” on 40 properties in the neighborhood. Drawn in both Spanish and English, the words bear references to poetry, literature and Pittsburgh’s physical and cultural landscape.

The words exist by themselves and the ones in Sampsonia Way are linked by a drawing that connects the homes along the street, reflecting the way “human beings make contact with each other through the exchange of energy, affection, and knowledge.” In addition, several homes host entire poems and portraits on the facades of their homes.

The experience has truly been an immersive experience for the artists. “So far we have installed eighty words. Our experiences with the neighbors have been fantastic, with people inviting us in for drinks and snacks and conversation,” says Gisela.  

“We are getting to know people in the neighborhood, and they are getting to know us,” adds Carolina. “And as people talk to each other about the words they chose, they also get to know their neighbors in new ways.” 

Opening reception for River of Words will be free and open to the public on July 25 from 6:00-8:15pm at 318 Sampsonia Way in the Northside. Neighborhood tours of the installation will be conducted at 7:00 and 7:30.  River of Words will run through the end of the year, although many of the homes have requested to host the words beyond the exhibit’s run. For more information visit The City of Asylum.