Program designed to expand artwork through Pittsburgh

By Joe Smydo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

With globe-shaped lights, a gently undulating walkway and glittering glass sequins on the chain-link side walls, East Liberty’s new pedestrian bridge is as much art as infrastructure.

People talk about how it’s “just not like any other bridge,” David Serbin, chief financial officer for East Liberty Development Inc., said.

Pittsburgh officials hope to encourage more of that kind of innovation — and to better infuse art into buildings, infrastructure and public spaces citywide — through a pair of initiatives announced last week.

Over the next 18 months, the city will develop ArtPGH, a plan for managing and growing the city’s art collection, expanding artists’ involvement in public projects, leveraging art for economic development and getting more art into neighborhoods. During the same period, it will develop DesignPGH, a plan for documenting and preserving architectural styles citywide.

“High-quality public art and urban design demonstrates to residents and visitors that Pittsburgh is not only America’s most livable city but one that plans and builds in a functional and aesthetic way,” Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said in announcing the initiatives.

ArtPGH and DesignPGH are part of the city’s comprehensive planning process, which also includes historic preservation, transportation and open space. By design, the plan’s components overlap, city planning director Noor Ismail said.

When officials talk about infusing more art into neighborhoods, they don’t mean bronze sculptures. They’re more likely to mean temporary exhibits, similar to Fraley’s Robot Repair, part of Project Pop Up: Downtown; interactive experiences, such as the Waffle Shop, an East Liberty restaurant and radio venture; and projects such as the East Liberty bridge, designed by Sheila Klein of Bow, Wash.

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