Community leaders in Mt. Lebanon are turning barren public spaces into a showcase for blossoming young poets.

Last week, the Mt. Lebanon Office of Economic Development launched Haiku Uptown, a new public art project designed in collaboration with English students at the high school.

The project grew out of a desire to find wintertime uses for the concrete planters that hold flowers and other appealing flora during the warmer months on Washington Road, the township’s main business district.

“In the summer, it’s so pretty and lively,” says Susan Morgans, public information officer for the township. “In the winter, it gets so drab and depressing.”

Speaking to NEXTpittsburgh, Mt. Lebanon Economic Development Officer Eric Milliron explains that the inspiration came from similar public art projects he’d witnessed in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

It will add a splash of color to the planters,” he says, “but more importantly, a moment of inspiration.”

Milliron approached the Mt. Lebanon High School English Department about partnering on the project in late 2018. Of the hundreds of submissions his department received, 40 were chosen for display along Washington Road. Milliron noted that for the purposes of the project, students were permitted to break out of the traditional 5-7-5 syllable structure. (Technically, any mix of 17 syllables can constitute a haiku.)

Courtesy of Mt. Lebanon Partnership.

“If it’s successful, we hope to do this annually,” Milliron says. “We’ve already gotten a great response from the community.”

While the signs themselves were a fairly simple undertaking, Milliron says that they represent the early stages of a larger push to incorporate more public art into the Washington Road business district, which will hopefully inspire more foot traffic, even in the depths of winter.

Already in the pipeline: A proposal for what Milliron describes as a “gently morphing” light installation to be placed in the entryway to the local light rail T station.

NEXT likes this project/Hope it inspires more poems/poetry restores.