Hidden during the day, artwork transforms Mellon Park at night
June 4, 2010 4:30 AM
Joe Seamans of Point Breeze examines a "star" embedded in the lawn at Mellon Park Walled Garden in Shadyside.
By Meredith Skrzypczak Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Visitors to Mellon Park's restored Walled Garden might not notice the more than 100 black granite discs hidden in the grass, flush to the ground.
If they do see them, they will find an inscription of the name of a star or planet on each.
The discs are part of an art installation that is almost invisible during the day, but at night transforms the garden grounds into the night sky as it appeared when Ann Katharine Seamans was born in 1979.
The project is in memory of Ms. Seamans, of Point Breeze, who died in a car accident in 1999 when she was 19.
The recently renovated Walled Garden is set to open June 12.
New York artist Janet Zweig created the memorial artwork, which is called "7:11AM 11.20.1979 79°55'W 40°27'N." Light shines from the granite markers on the ground through fiber optics to depict stars in the sky. Visitors can walk up stone steps and get a view of twinkling lights in the rectangular lawn as they look down at the garden. Or, they can take a step back along the perimeter of the garden to catch a glimpse of the lights shining through the blades of grass.
The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, the city of Pittsburgh, volunteers and Ms. Seamans' family worked together on the nearly $775,000 project.
After about a year of construction that began in 2009, the garden now features, in addition to the art installation, restored iron gates by Samuel Yellin, new steps, new plantings, a renovated lawn and lighting improvements, among other features. It also will have Wi-Fi for visitors who want to sit under its flowering trees with a laptop.
Elizabeth Seamans, Ms. Seamans' mother, is just as excited for the daytime garden as she is about the art piece.
Mrs. Seamans won't be offended if the public doesn't notice the memorial for her daughter and actually prefers the fact that it is somewhat hidden.
"Ann was our motivation to getting going, but we kind of want everyone to find their own meaning and beauty and have their own family memories and their own experiences in the garden," she said.
Also, adding new portions of pathways and more places to sit makes the garden user-friendly, said Susan Rademacher, parks curator for the conservancy.
"The garden really now has finally been designed for public use," she said.
Many project details had to be worked out along the way. Sandstone to match the existing variety was found in a quarry in Tennessee. Light filters were changed so the art installation matched the light emitted from night stars.
Philip Gruszka, the conservancy's director of parks management and maintenance, said the outpouring of help from close to 100 volunteers and others associated with the project truly made it a collaborative effort.
"The number of folks who participated in the project is phenomenal," he said.
Mrs. Seamans has been visiting the garden every day to see the renovations through. Like most gardens, this will be a "lifetime of work," she said.