Bike Pittsburgh and Office of Public Art Announce Artists Selected for City Steps Initiative

Photo by Peter Pawlowski

Communities will work with artists to activate their steps in October 2019

Bike Pittsburgh (BikePGH) and the Office of Public Art (OPA) are pleased to announce the selection of four artist and community teams who will collaborate to design and implement events activating city steps in neighborhoods across Pittsburgh. The artist and community teams include:

  • Fineview Citizens Council with artist H. Gene Thompson to create a series of performances and activities that engage fabric sculptures created in collaboration with the community.
  • Polish Hill Civic Association with landscape architect Nina Chase of Merritt Chase to prototype new step-scape elements to enhance and support the community’s use of the steps.
  • Troy Hill Citizens, Inc. with artists Danny Bracken and Erin Anderson to develop an audio-visual tour of the neighborhood’s steps drawing on community histories.
  • West End Community Group with fashion designer and artist Bradford Mumpower to engage the steps and surrounding neighborhood as a platform and runway for fashion.

The teams are collaborating on developing their initial project ideas, which will be shared with their communities in late summer. Launching on October 4, 2019, Steps We Take will be a ten-day celebration of this unique feature of Pittsburgh’s landscape. The temporary activations will create excitement, awareness, and engagement around city steps and the City Steps Plan, which was released by the City of Pittsburgh in 2018. The initiative is designed to activate the City-wide conversation about city steps, and generate new types of activities that can continue beyond the life of the project.

“We are thrilled with the diversity of approaches that the selected artists bring to the project, and the enthusiasm with which the teams have embraced this initiative. Pittsburgh is passionate about its steps, and the city steps present a fantastic platform for artists and communities to activate and to use to foster civic dialogue.”

Sallyann Kluz, Director of the Office of Public Art

“What we are finding is that the collaborations are already creating conversations about how communities are connected, and in some cases are not connected, to each other, and about what these connections may mean for the future,” said Sallyann Kluz.

“Everyone knows Pittsburgh has challenging topography, but they might not know that Pittsburgh has hundreds of public staircases that serve the vital purpose of connecting our hilly neighborhoods without the need for a car. Thousands of residents rely on these stairs for transportation and this project will highlight vital connections across the four communities.”

Scott Bricker, Executive Director at BikePGH

Participating organizations were selected through an open application process in spring 2019 that was facilitated by BikePGH and OPA. Once selected, the four organizations participated in the artist selection process, interviewed the candidates for the projects, and identified their final artist. The organizations will receive a stipend of $2,500 for their participation, and each artist or artist team will receive an artist fee of $3,500, and will have a budget of $15,000 to implement the events. Additional production support and project management will be provided by BikePGH and OPA. 

Pittsburgh has approximately 800 sets of steps – more public staircases than any other city in the United States. The steps are an important and under-resourced connection between communities, which thousands of residents rely on for transportation and recreation. Nearly two-thirds of the steps are in low- or moderate-income areas and many are located in the City’s hilliest neighborhoods. Many of these neighborhoods also lack strong public transit resources. Maintenance of the steps has proved an enormous financial and logistical challenge — some staircases are in such disrepair and built in such intricate surroundings that repairing them equates to undertaking a small bridge repair project. 

This program is generously supported by the Hillman Foundation.

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