318 Sampsonia Way

July 25
6 – 8:15 p.m.

Pittsburgh’s newest public art project is getting set to launch on the Northside.

A community-wide installation that involves the participation of 40-plus Northside residents, River of Words marks the first work in a series of temporary public art commissions being installed along City of Asylum Pittsburgh’s new Garden-to-Garden Trail.

On Friday, July 25th at 6 p.m., attendees will be among the first in Pittsburgh to get a behind-the-scenes look at River of Words, meet the artists involved, tour the public artwork and learn about next phases for the project. Free and open to the public, the festivities will take place under City of Asylum’s Alphabet City Tent located at 318 Sampsonia Way in the historic Mexican War Streets.

The culmination of their residency with City of Asylum, Venezuelan artists Carolina Arnal and Gisela Romero will help celebrate the public launch of River of Words, which features text by Venezuelan author Israel Centeno. All of the artists will attend the reception and will speak about the project and their creative process. Staff from the Office of Public Art will conduct short neighborhood tours of the artwork at 7 and 7:30 pm.

Created as part of a cross-cultural collaboration with writer Israel Centeno and visual artists Carolina Arnal and Gisela Romero—who are all Venezuela natives and have been working in residence on Sampsonia Way in July—artworks for the project were selected during an open call, with a panel of Northside residents making final selections. Each artwork was developed during extensive collaboration with the Central Northside community, and each involves the use of language.

While developing the work, the artists invited community members to host “words in residence,” on the exteriors of their homes and gardens. The words, in both Spanish and English, are references to poetry, literature and to Pittsburgh’s distinct physical and cultural landscape. Featured words, which are made from laser-cut acrylic, vinyl or chalk, include everything from the names of Pittsburgh’s three iconic rivers to the term zombies.

The unique project also includes a drawing along Sampsonia Way that uses lines and words to connect homes along the street. The artists hope to use words and sentences as links between houses, to create a visual array of connections and relationships. In addition to words, several community members are hosting entire poems and portraits of poets on the facades of their homes.

The Garden-to-Garden Trail will connect City of Asylum Pittsburgh’s new Alphabet Reading Garden on the 1400 block of Monterey Street to its new Alphabet City literary center in the Garden Theater block of North Avenue. The .7-mile walk will be transformed and activated by artworks and resident artists, and will include temporary and permanent public art, free performances on public streets and in tented vacant lots and gardens, smartphone app tours, community-based artist residencies and workshops.