When the three-story video screen at Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12 was flicked on in 2004, it was greeted with praise and pride -- an outdoor visual reminder of the kind of work being turned out by the city's school for the creative and performing arts.
But now the $2.7 million screen on the building at Fort Duquesne Boulevard and Ninth Street, Downtown, is dark, as lights have burned out over the years due to corrosion, deterioration and exposure. For lack of maintenance, the electronic sign, which measures 30 feet by 21 feet, no longer displays student artwork or information about the school from its prominent riverside perch.
One school official who has made a preliminary assessment of the problem said it would cost $75,000 to revive the sign and $50,000 in annual maintenance thereafter. Replacing it could cost $1.2 million.
For as desirable as it would be to put the sign back into service, those are pricey fixes for a high-tech frill, especially in a district with severe financial challenges. Between June 2011 and July 2012, the Pittsburgh school board was forced to cut the budget by nearly $50 million, furlough 300 employees, close seven schools and increase class sizes.
It would be difficult for the school board to defend spending money on CAPA's video screen while cutting fat has turned into cutting bone elsewhere in the school district.
Perhaps an arts- or education-based angel will come to the rescue -- or maybe a Downtown corporate benefactor that wants to see colorful visuals of student artwork electrify the nighttime cityscape again.
Short of that, though, fans of the CAPA sign should be willing to endure the darkness a bit longer.