With more than 800 urban staircases spread across our rolling hills, Pittsburgh has more sets of public steps than any city in America. Next month, these treasured landmarks will become the city’s latest venue for public art.
The city’s Office of Public Art and the advocacy group BikePGH will host Steps We Take, a series of public art events on and around four of the city’s unique stairways. The pop-up events and art shows will shine a spotlight on local artists and iconic Pittsburgh neighborhoods.
“Thousands of residents rely on these stairs for transportation,” said Scott Bricker, executive director of BikePGH, “and this project will highlight vital connections across the four communities.”
Featured projects will include:
-The landscape architecture and urban design firm Merritt Chase is collaborating with the Polish Hill Civic Association to create a series of vertical parklets throughout the vertiginous neighborhood. Polish Hill-based artists Gina Favano, Amalia Kalisz Tonsor and Caleb Gamble will assist with the project, which will include seating and art displays.
Two events are planned: The parklets will be unveiled at a block party along the Harding Way steps on Friday, Oct. 4. And a pierogi party will take place on the Phelan Way steps on Sunday, Oct. 6.
-Designer Bradford Mumpower and the West End Community Group are organizing an afternoon scavenger hunt and a fashion show near the Sanctus Street Stairs on Saturday, Oct. 5. In addition to Mumpower’s own creations, the day will feature work from six other local fashion designers. Get details and RSVP here.
-Fabric sculptor and performance artist H. Gene Thompson and the Fineview Citizens Council will hold two participatory performance events in Fineview — one at the Carrie Street steps on Friday, Oct. 11 and another at the Graib Street steps on Saturday, Oct. 12. The free performances are based around “wearable sculpture interactions” set to a house music dance track. The goal? To celebrate our potential to connect to one another in unlikely spaces. Learn more and RSVP here.
-Multimedia artists Danny Bracken and Erin Anderson are teaming up with the Troy Hill Citizens Group to create an audio tour of the neighborhood’s steps, plus a temporary sound and light installation on Rialto Street, one of the steepest in Pittsburgh. The installation will be up from Oct. 10-12 and visitors are invited to walk the Rialto Street steps on those evenings to experience it. The audio portion is already available for download here (though it doesn’t go live until the 10th) and will remain available for self-guided walks after Steps We Take ends.
“We are thrilled with the diversity of approaches that the selected artists bring to the project, and the enthusiasm with which the teams have embraced this initiative,” said Sallyann Kluz, director of the Office of Public Art. “What we are finding is that the collaborations are already creating conversations about how communities are connected, and in some cases are not connected, to each other, and about what these connections may mean for the future.”