Pittsburgh plans to brighten Market Square during winter

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When the bright lights and cheer of the winter holidays and New Year's have faded, when the cold of a Pittsburgh winter has really set in, Market Square can become a bit dreary.

But the city hopes to brighten the square for the next few years with temporary art installments to run from February through April, when activity in the recently renovated Downtown square tends to slacken, said Morton Brown, public art manager for the city.

"What we are charging artists to do is enliven the space," he said.

Last week, the city put out a call for artists of all media to design art for the square or to submit proposals to have already finished works placed there. Supported by a grant from the Heinz Endowments and an anonymous donor, the city is offering stipends of $50,000 to $75,000 to build and install the art in the square.

Mr. Brown said the temporary art initiative may be the first of its kind in the city and will allow the city to display more works of art.

"When you make temporary art programs, then you're opening it up for more artists," he said. "It's almost like an outdoor gallery where you're revolving out art regularly."

He stressed that the city is open to arts in many media: from performances to light installations to traditional sculpture and even social engagement art, a mode of contemporary art that involves creating scenarios for the public to interact. But the art has to "leave no trace," meaning it has to be able to be removed at the end of its run. Safety is also paramount, Mr. Brown said.

Because artists will be able to keep their work at the end of the display period, the stipend represents a bargain.

The temporary program represents an expansion of the city's public art program, a once robust department that had its own office in the Oliver Building in the early 20th century. But the program was deflated by the Great Depression, Mr. Brown said, and it wasn't until 2008 that the city hired a full-time staff person to manage and expand its public art.

Mr. Brown, hired in 2009, is the city's second full-time public art manager in several decades. With the help of consultants, he is working on a comprehensive public art plan that will become a component of a broad-based 25-year plan that touches on everything from parks to transportation.

A jury appointed by Mr. Brown, which will include Downtown stakeholders, will select the works to be displayed from February to April in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Artists should submit applications to the Office of Public Art by 5 p.m. Sept. 20.


Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee.


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