Artist chosen for Mellon Park memorial

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The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy has chosen a Brooklyn artist from among 89 competitors to create a memorial artwork for Mellon Park's walled garden as part of the park's $1 million restoration.

Artist Janet Zweig has found a sensitive solution to a challenging problem: Create an artwork that commemorates Ann Katharine Seamans, a talented young woman who died tragically, and design it for a setting that is already an important work of landscape art in its own right.

For the walled garden in Mellon Park, Ms. Zweig is designing a piece that will embed softly glowing lights in the garden lawn, representing stars in their precise pattern over Pittsburgh when Ms. Seamans was born in November 1979.

Ms. Zweig's work is designed to honor the life of Ms. Seamans, a dancer and artist who from childhood on enjoyed spending time in the garden with her family and friends.

Ms. Seamans was 19 when she died on Oct. 14, 1999 in a car accident. She was a resident of Point Breeze and a sophomore at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn.,.

Ms. Zweig said she got the idea after spending time with Ms. Seamans' friends and family. Two of her friends described how they and Ms. Seamans would sometimes lie on their backs in the walled garden and look up at the stars.

The project "respects the historic design and enhances it with a little bit of special magic," said Meg Cheever, president of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, which is overseeing the restoration.

The brick-walled garden was conceived in 1929 for the Richard Beatty Mellon estate by the prominent country house landscape designer Ferruccio Vitale.

Ms. Seamans' parents are filmmakers Joseph and Elizabeth Seamans, long associated with WQED. Mr. Seamans is an independent documentary producer-director and Mrs. Seamans is on the staff of Family Communications. For many years she played Mrs. McFeely on "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood."

Ms. Zweig is a senior critic at Rhode Island School of Design. She will speak at Ellis School, Ann Seamans' alma mater, at 6 p.m. on April 24.

The project is being funded by private donations and is part of the almost $1 million restoration of the walled garden. It will begin this summer and likely won't reopen until the memorial's dedication in spring 2010.

Architecture critic Patricia Lowry can be reached at or 412-263-1590.


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