Mellon Park

I’ve been playing a lot of Ingress lately– it’s an augmented reality game made by a Google spinoff that involves capturing territory anchored at portals. The portals are places of interest in the real world– historical markers, libraries, post offices, and… sculptures :)

So ingress got me to spend some time in Mellon Park looking at the sculptures. There are 4 major works: Untitled (January Sprinter) by Thomas Morandi, Five Factors by Peter Calaboyias, Steel Cityscape by Aaronel deRoy Gruber, and Celebration by Clark Winter.

January Sprinter

January Sprinter

Five Factors

Five Factors

Steel Cityscape

Steel Cityscape

Celebration

Celebration

All of these are fairly recent transplants to this park. Looking at January Sprinter, something finally clicked and I realized it was one of the sculptures that Discovering Pittsburgh’s Sculpture says is at the Squirrel Hill Library. I had walked around that library before, looking for sculptures, but there aren’t any– and January Sprinter and Five Factors are both from there, and were apparently removed when the library expanded in the 1990s.

Or perhaps I just read the plaque.

Or perhaps I just read the plaque.

Five Factors, January Sprinter, two other sculptures from the Squirrel Hill Library, and Steel Cityscape were actually lost for a while. They were eventually found in city storage under the 62nd Street bridge:

Your city at work, ladies and gentlemen. The Five Factors sculpture in Mellon Park today is actually a replica that Calaboyias remade because the original had too many dents.

Steel Cityscape was originally at the City-county building in 1978, then was in a park where the David Lawrence Convention Center is now by 1985. It was painted purple at one point! I haven’t been able to find any pictures of its purple state or any mention of why it’s not purple anymore.

Celebration was at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts originally, and now is on Penn Ave on the site of the former Reizenstein School. The school is currently being demolished to make way for Bakery Square 2.0. I’ll be keeping an eye on what ends up happening to Celebration.

Posted in East Liberty | 4 Comments »

Maz

Maz and the Pittsburgh Skyline

Maz and the Pittsburgh Skyline

Bill “Maz” Mazeroski is most famous for winning Game 7 of the World Series with a home run in 1960. ESPN has ranked this as the greatest home run of all time.

This statue, dedicated in 2010 on Maz’s 74th birthday, is a larger-than-life depiction of him rounding second base (watch the video). It was sculpted by Susan Wagner and based on a photograph taken for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. While this event took place at Forbes Field in Oakland, the statue is outside of the Pirates’ current home, PNC Park. They did bring a section of the Forbes Field wall over to put between the statue and the river, though (and there is a plaque near the former site of Forbes Field commemorating this occasion as well). You can also see that they tried to make the stone look like the dirt in the infield:

Maz, wall, and dirt

Despite having a statue, being in the hall of fame, and being honored in countless other ways, Maz remains humble and quiet. He never misses an opportunity to honor his teammates as he’s being honored. I like that, and I think it makes him deserve having a statue even more.

Plaque describing the moment

Plaque describing the moment

When the statue was dedicated, the plaque erroneously stated the count was 0-1 and remained that way for at least 7 months. It’s now fixed though, and correctly states that the home run was on a 1-0 pitch. I can’t see any evidence of correction, nor can I find any reference to when it was amended. I’m glad it’s fixed now!

I love the pure joy in this statue. He looks like he’s about to take off in flight and go for a glide above the river.

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Abraham Lincoln

abe-front

I drive by this statue about once a week but I’m either late or it’s dark. It’s in a weird place near where “the old William Penn Highway meets the old Lincoln Highway” (this is how we give directions in Pittsburgh); without much else around it. There’s a great picture on page 34 of the Wilkinsburg Historical Society’s book– you can see Lincoln on the right side in the grass. I can only see it for a second as I drive past so I was never quite sure it was Lincoln until just recently when I had time to stop.

The statue was unveiled on June 9, 1916 during a celebration for the completion of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company’s elimination of several undesirable grade crossings. I’ll direct you to Chris Potter’s joke about that, but actually it was a big project of lowering the street and raising the railroad tracks undertaken because many people died at the railroad crossings. Check out the photographs in chapter 6 of the book by the Wilkinsburg Historical Society of the construction. Who knew?!?

abe-base-front

The base reads “Erected by Wilkinsburg Schoolchildren June 1916″.

This statue has quite a history all by itself– it was stolen in 1981, broken off at the ankles by a drunk couple who then buried it in a field in Westmoreland County. They later fessed up and paid for the statue to be put up again.

Alfonso Pelzer sculpted this and there are 6 other copies– Middlesex, NJ; Brighton, MI; Boise, ID; Wooster College in Wooster, OH; Detroit, MI; and Fremont, NE. The ones in Wooster and Detroit have been stolen at various times as well.

It’s made of copper sheeting hammered into a die by W. H. Mullins Co; it was created to look like cast bronze but be lighter and cheaper. It only weighs about 80 lbs, which explains the ease with which it can be stolen. Then, in 1992 it was found laying in the grass, broken off at the ankles again from unknown causes. It hung out in the municipal building for a while. In 2001, Ol’ Abe got a steel skeleton and a fence around him to keep him around for a lot longer, hopefully. The Wilkinsburg Historical Society has had a wreath-laying ceremony at the statue on Lincoln’s birthday every year since the 2001 rededication.

abe-feet
I did not notice anything that would have indicated the statue had been damaged– the restoration by James Shipman with help from students was done very well.

There’s a surprising amount of discrepancy online in the dates and details of the ups and downs of this statue’s lifetime– does it weigh 80 lbs or 150 lbs? Was it restored in 2001 or 2002? Did it cost $700 or $900 originally? I tried to find the most agreed upon set, but apologies if I’ve gotten something wrong.

abe-silhouette abe-and-fence

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Columbus vandalized again

For some reason the Columbus statue in Oakland has been the target of more vandalism this year than in years past. Columbus’ controversial legacy that includes discovering the “new world” from Europe’s perspective as well as bringing diseases to and enslaving the indigenous peoples of the Americas has also made this statue “probably the most popular piece of art that gets defaced for some reason” according to Pittsburgh public works director Rob Kaczorowski.

Apparently it was easier to clean up this time due to an anti-graffiti coating the statue got after the last defacing. I am against any damage to any public property, and while I can understand the feelings of the vandals, this is not an effective or appropriate way to vent those feelings. If by any chance those who committed this crime are reading this, stop hiding behind your spray paint and express yourself in a more mature way. Organize a protest, an educational event or start a movement to get rid of the statue if that is what you want. Graffiti is just going to be cleaned up again.

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Walking to the Sky

Walking to the sky

Ahhh, a modern sculpture with some controversy. “Walking to the Sky” is a stainless steel and resin sculpture by CMU alum Jonathan Borofsky. It was erected in the middle of “the cut” on May 15, 2006 and is one of the most obvious things on CMU’s campus.

Described by the artist as “a portrait of all of humanity rising upward from the earth to the heavens above — striving into the future with strength and determination” and “a symbol for our collective search for wisdom and awakened consciousness”, it just doesn’t live up to its goals for me. It looks like they’re walking up to the end of the pole in order to jump off, which would be a different outlook on humanity. I guess I tend to like sculptures that are either realistic or abstractly symbolic, rather than the realism plus literal symbolism here.

I didn’t get to take any pictures in 2009 when it was partially removed to be strengthened because it had started moving in the wind; I remember riding by on the bus and wondering what was going on.

I was surprised to learn while researching this post that CMU’s Walking to the Sky is a copy. The original is in Texas after a stint in Rockefeller Center, and there is another copy in Seoul. There are also variations with only one person apiece in Kassel, Germany and Strasbourg, France.

Another thing that bothers me about this sculpture is the built-in admirers:
Admirers
It just seems a bit… cheeky. The 3 life-size figures at the base, staring up at the rest of the sculpture, can easily be mistaken for real people at a distance. It seems like the part of the sculpture on the ground is perpetually playing the prank of staring up at nothing just to see how many people it can get to stare up at nothing with it.

on campus

The students at CMU also did not like the sculpture when it was proposed and installed originally– mostly due to the prominent location the sculpture was given with little input from the student body. It also seemed to provoke a lot of negative reactions– from “vaguely phallic” to “it defines us as a leading university that doesn’t believe in physics”. It’s also been the object of at least two temporary “modifications” presumably made by mischievous students.

The trustees and President of the university believed in the positive symbolism of the sculpture and its relevance to CMU’s goals, had a forum with the students about the location, and have honored a distinguished alumnus. Student dislike of the sculpture seems to have died down as new students come in, and Walking to the Sky seems here to stay.

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Joy of Life

This statue has so much beautiful movement implied– I love the way the figures are leaning back as if they are holding each other up as they celebrate.

From Discovering Pittsburgh Sculpture:

These men with their arms locked together [represent] the strong and the weak; the affluent and the poor; the educated and the underprivileged; this is one society, one community.

I only wish it was in a more accessible location!

It used to be at the intersection of Penn and Highland, but in 1990 it was moved to its current location behind the East Liberty Presbyterian Church at Baum Blvd and Whitfield Street. It’s right in the middle of the intersection on this little island. It really deserves to be somewhere where people would walk near to it, sit next to it, etc.

It was moved when the East Liberty Mall was opened to traffic. I wish I had been in Pittsburgh when there weren’t cars allowed in that area– one of the things I like most about European cities are the pedestrian zones, and this statue in particular would fit right in.

It’s going to be interesting to watch as the East Liberty neighborhood continues to evolve– the building on one side of the sculpture is under construction, as are many others in the area.

In Discovering Pittsburgh Sculpture, the fountains in the middle of the circle and around the circle look a lot higher than they were when I went to take pictures last month. I don’t know if they just weren’t turned on all the way or if the fountains were modified for the move.

It’s made out of Cor-Ten steel that rusts to form a protective layer– it’s the same material that the USX tower is made of.

Cantini has many of his works around the city, especially at Pitt. While doing research, I found this great story about someone meeting him. From that and the other things I’ve read about him, it seems like he was a really interesting person.

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“Arch”: The Robot Made of Bridges

Arch's right side

Arch's right side


Commissioned by the City of Pittsburgh as part of the celebration of Pittsburgh’s 250th birthday, “Arch” is a robot made of Pittsburgh’s bridges. It was created by Glenn Kaino, a “shrewdly nonsensical” artist married to fashion designer Corey Lynn Calter.

The Transformer-like sculpture is made of steel and fiberglass and stands 20 feet tall looking out over the river at PNC Park.

Installed in August 2008, Arch was slated to remain in his location at the corner of Seventh Street and Fort Duquesne Boulevard for six months. He’s still there, though, I took these pictures of him on March 5, 2010. I haven’t found any information about why he’s still around, but I’m glad. Arch makes me smile every time I go by.

UPDATE SEPT 2011: Arch is gone! He’s in a studio in Ohio being restored since he wasn’t meant to last. Since everyone loves it, though, they’re looking for a new site for him to return to. BoringPittsburgh.com has the scoop!

I love seeing Pittsburgh’s bridges in a different context– they’re so familiar yet surprising as a robot. He’s got the Smithfield Street Bridge for his right upper arm that evokes muscles, and one of the arch bridges (Birmingham, perhaps?) as his turtle-shell back.

Arch at night

Arch at night

He’s gotten a lot of reactions from locals and tourists alike, which I think is another testament to its success. It’s definitely not a sculpture that just blends into the landscape! It’s also really accessible to a wide range of people– abstract or historical sculpture isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but in my searching of opinions about Arch on blogs, I haven’t found a negative reaction. Sure, auto blog Jalopnik thinks it’s scary, but scary awesome, not scary bad.

It’s been seen as having many interpretations such as a “a bridge to the future, a bridge to the past, or Rick Sebach’s Bridge to Nowhere”. One visitor said it was the most delightful thing in downtown Pittsburgh! I think my favorite reaction to this is from OMGPittsburgh– Arch is a serendipitous reminder “to keep us questioning JUST HOW MUCH we, Pittsburghers, know about this amazing city we call ours”.

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Posted in Cultural District, Downtown | 28 Comments »

Sculpture News

I haven’t gotten over to see it yet, but a new statue of Fred Rogers was unveiled on the North Side this month! It is bronze and was sculpted by Robert Berks, who also did the statue of Mayor Caliguri that I’ve been meaning to get to. The one of Mr. Rogers is in a similar style, which has a little abstractness to it. Some peope don’t particularly care for it and would have preferred something more realistic, notably Jimmy Kimmel who said on his show that it makes Mr. Rogers look like a mud monster.

Also in the news this morning was a column from a former Post-Gazette writer demanding her Gene Kelly statue. From what I can tell on the internets, the reasons the statue has not been made a reality since its announcement in 2001 include location issues, approval from Kelly’s widow, and funds. We’ll have to see if Barbara Cloud’s column can get the ball moving again, but mentions in her column in 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2007 didn’t seem to do the trick.

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George Washington and Guyasuta: Point of View

gw

I did not recognize George Washington in this bronze sculpture done by James West on Mt. Washington. I suppose I can be forgiven, seeing as how I never met the guy in person. He is also not wearing his iconic powdered wig. The view he and Guyasuta have from up there is amazing; I would even posit the best view that any sculpture in Pittsburgh has (and I swear that I wrote that before finding this PopCityMedia article).

Guyasuta was a leader of the Seneca tribe who has also had a Boy Scout camp and fire department named in his honor. He and GW met in 1770 along the Ohio River and negotiated about trade, that the Seneca wanted, and settlements that violated the Royal Proclamation of 1763 that they didn’t. Washington only wrote in his diary that they parted as friends.

Sad worn-out sign

The sculpture was erected in 2006, so Discovering Pittsburgh Sculpture doesn’t have anything to say on it ;) I thought I saw Our Boy Mayor Ravenstahl in the accompanying sign, but I couldn’t be quite sure… seeing as how most of it has worn away already. Your city at work, ladies and gentlemen!

The statue was cast at A.R.T. Research Enterprises in Lancaster, PA, which happens to be where I grew up.

I’m really amazed at how quickly the bronze has aged! Take a look at the color of the statue when it was put up in 2006 versus now, just 3 years later:

Statue in 2006
photo courtesy of the Post Gazette
2009, with patina
2006 2009

I’m amused that from the angle that I took the 2009 picture there, it looks like they are kissing. I like that interpretation better than the “mood… of tension and balance” that PopCity sees.

James West is a local developer, which can be somewhat of a dirty word in Pittsburgh, but West seems to be one of the good ones. His efforts fundraising and creating this sculpture and then donating it to the city have helped make this park a beautiful piece of green space on some prime property. He’s also a member of Hiram’s Riders, a Pittsburgh motorcycling club. He has hopes that the symbolism of resolving personal differences will inspire people to do the same, perhaps working on marital differences while watching the sunset and then going to have a nice, expensive dinner at one of the Mt. Washington restaurants. Sounds good to me!

The statue is part of the Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation’s efforts to improve the parks in the area. The materials for the statue cost about $130,000, covered by private donors, while the city donated the land, material for the base and a handicapped-accessible sidewalk.

Guyasuta's face

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Christopher Columbus

christopher columbus

The statue of Christopher Columbus in Schenley Park was one of the first mysteries of Pittsburgh for me when I started at Pitt. Why would there be a statue of him HERE? He was never anywhere near Pittsburgh!

I now know that there was an effort started in 1909 at the first celebration of Columbus Day to erect a monument to him in Pittsburgh, and that it took almost 50 years for the funds to be raised (pg 182). Most of the fundraising efforts were headed by the Sons of Columbus of America, an organization founded from combining 3 other organizations. It has chapters across the country but the headquarters remain in Pittsburgh.

 
Sun carved on the back

The statue is bronze and is one of Frank Vittor’s many sculptures around Pittsburgh. Anthony Vittori, his brother, did the granite base. I think I actually like the base better– perhaps it’s because it’s easier to see! Columbus is too high. I love this sun on the back of the base.

The ship on Columbus’ right side has a pattern of one forward C and one backward C alternating on it, which I didn’t notice until I read about it at this site devoted to memorials to Columbus.

 
detail of one of the boats with the cathedral in the background

As you can see in this picture, it’s quite close to the University of Pittsburgh, but it’s not where the original permit applied to put it. Apparently they wanted it to be where Schenley Plaza is now, which was denied because it would interfere with the “grand entrance” to the park as a memorial to Mary Schenley. This is pretty funny since the grand entrance didn’t get completed until just a few years ago and was a parking lot for quite a while.

 

Poorly stitched together photos of the restoration plaque

The piece was restored in 1992 for the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ journey at a cost of $150,000. It was vandalized in 1997, just before 505th anniversary celebrations were held there, and painted red with the words “505 years of resistance” as a protest (allegedly) made by Native Americans against the idolization of Columbus. I’ve never really understood why he was so famous– he didn’t set foot on the continent, he wasn’t even the first to do so, and he didn’t get where he was trying to go in the first place!

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