Where Are They Now? | Temporary Public Art & Placemaking

Jul 30, 2018

The Temporary Public Art and Placemaking (TPAP) Program is a partnership between Neighborhood Allies and the Office of Public Art. During the pilot, a series of six temporary works of public art have been created in each of our target neighborhoods. Here’s a look at how these projects are harnessing creative cultural potential, and helping to reenergize and reshape how residents imagine their neighborhoods!

Each of these projects are the result of in-depth collaboration between the artists and the community­ based organizations (CBOs) who were selected to participate in this program. The vision, form, location, installation duration, and materials for the projects have been determined through the collaboration of the artists and communities. In addition to developing works of temporary public art, artists and CBOs have participated in the Placemaking Academy, a series of ten workshops designed by OPA and structured to deepen public art and placemaking skills. The Academy is part workshop, part design studio, and part training session. The Academy trained and coached the artists and CBOs on the process of implementing temporary public art and placemaking projects. The process gave the organizations and artists the necessary knowledge base, networks, and training to execute future public art and design projects.

Thank you to the Hillman Foundation and The Heinz Endowments for your generous support of these projects!

Hilltop Waddle | artist James Simon with South Hilltop Men’s group

Simon created 44, ceramic penguins for the Southern Hilltop communities of Allentown, Beltzhoover, and Knoxville. Groupings of penguins have been installed in selected spots throughout all three neighborhoods. The sculptures are based on various species of penguins such as the Emperor and King penguins, and are approximately 2 to 3 feet tall. Each penguin was custom-made, reflecting different characteristics and personalities. Because of how penguins live and survive, Simon states that the creatures are symbolic of friendship, loyalty, sacrifice, sharing, and living harmoniously – qualities that he and community members wanted to highlight in regard to the development and future of the Southern Hilltops. For more information, visit tinyur PA-Waddle.

Watermark | artist Ann Tarantino with Millvale Community Development Corporation, Millvale Community Library, and the Society for the Preservation of the Murals of Maxo Vanka

Inspired by the water that runs through Millvale – a crucial part of its history and identity –Watermark connects community assets such as Riverfront Park, Grant Avenue Pocket Park (GAP Park), and the Grant Avenue business district with a single  blue line. Viewers  who follow  the line in  its entirety can appreciate the beauty of the Allegheny River at Riverfront  Park, experience a light and audio installation at GAP Park (which sits directly over Girty’s Run), and find other unique perspectives throughout Millvale. Watermark is a wayfinding tool that enhances the gateway to Millvale, increases community enjoyment, and celebrates local waterways. Tina Walker, an MCDC board member, describes the artwork’s impact: “Following an entire year of engagement with community leaders, residents, business owners, government officials, artists, community organizations, and funders, this initiative has brought newly found excitement to Millvale; has changed relationships, and has helped to create new friendships. With ease of accessibility, it has prompted many opportunities for everyone to socialize, shop, exercise, and enjoys the sights and sounds of nature, and invokes a deeper understanding of the impact that public art has in our community. By bringing attention to the environment, the initiative has stimulated thoughtful imagination and lively discourse by encouraging people to reflect on the importance of the flow of water through their community… its peacefulness, its meanderings, and our connections to it. It has raised awareness of Millvale’s bond to its watershed, and the importance of water to the past, present, and future of Millvale and all of Pittsburgh.” For more information, visit tinyur PA-Watermark.

Come Over, Come Eat, Come Play | artist Jennifer Chenoweth with Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation and the Wilkinsburg Community Art and Civic Design Commission

Come Over, Come Eat, Come Play is a multilayered endeavor that includes community engagement, and a survey of historic buildings with a special focus on churches. Chenoweth’s work in Wilkinsburg began with community meals, dance parties, and other pop-up events as a way for her to meet residents of the neighborhood, and for residents to meet each other. Chenoweth also drew the local churches on table tops and placed the tables throughout the neighborhood to begin conversations about architecture, culture, and history over meals, meetings, and sometimes games. Her goal throughout the engagement period of the project was to bring people together, garner trust, and find out what makes Wilkinsburg unique. Come Over, Come Eat, Come P/aywill culminate in a tour of Wilkinsburg’s historic buildings, with arts programming at each stop. The tour is scheduled for October 13, 2018. For more information, visit tinyur PA-ComeOver. 

Larimer Stories | artist John Pena with the Larimer Consensus Group

Pena spent the first phase of the project interviewing and recording personal stories from long-term Larimer residents. He began with one-on-one interviews, and then moved toward organizing interviews/workshops in which the groups collectively shared an informal history of the neighborhood. These informative workshop and interview sessions inspired Pena and the LCG to organize a senior luncheon. During the luncheon, participants selected quotes from the interviews that best represented the experiences of Larimer residents. The seniors and Pena then designed a structure to present these short, neighborhood narratives. The narratives will be displayed on a metal billboard with text that will change every two weeks. This process will allow the history of Larimer, and the residents’ perspectives, to unfold over time. For more information, visit tinyur PA-Larim erSt ories.  

Homecoming | artist Njaimeh Njie with the Hill House Association

In conceptualizing the work Homecoming, Njie wanted to focus on the narratives of Hill District residents. She began by conducting a series of informal interviews to better understand how residents felt about their neighborhood. During the initial conversations, Njie discovered that Hill District residents wanted to see documentation that recognized authentic and positive stories from the neighborhood. To accomplish this, Njie gathered oral histories, photographs, and accessed archival materials. As she researched, Njie discovered connections throughout stories from the Hill District, and the emergent theme that interested the artist the most was the idea of home. Njie explored how Hill District residents have made the neighborhood their home over time, and eventually decided that she wanted to tell the stories of Hill District residents. Her installations concentrate on the concept of visually gathering past and present residents in locations around the neighborhood. For her installation on the outside wall of the August Wilson House, Njie designed a sitting room as the fictional space to place several figures. Njie photographed individuals from the neighborhood, and combined her work with images of people from old photographs, to create a new image that reflected the neighborhood’s history. Njie is currently working on installations for two other sites in the Hill District. In describing her work Njie said, ”Through images I first and foremost want to honor the everyday folks who have made the Hill [District] the rich place that it is. Through text excerpts from the oral histories, I want to use space to communicate residents’ experiences, questions, and reflections in their own words. Overall these installations are a symbolic way of connecting people across space and time, and they hopefully represent how honoring lived experiences can be a start to imagining a better, more equitable future.” For more information, visit tinyur PA-Homecoming .

Homewood Dream Big | The East End Arts Team with Legacy Arts Project

The concept for Homewood Dream Big began with conversations between the East End Art Team and the community. The East End Art Team organized ten free workshops, and provided materials for individuals to create glass mosaics and flags with Adinkra symbols. During these workshops, the East End Art Team talked with residents as they created artwork. The conversations revealed feelings of sadness and traumatic experiences among  younger  participants;  however, older residents articulated a sense of resilience. From these conversations, the East End Art Team was inspired to use the African word Sankofa which emphasizes that knowledge from the past should not be forgotten in order to move forward. Sankofa was a way in which to connect the sentiments of both younger and older Homewood residents. The resulting project was two­ fold: hundreds of individual flags with Adinkra symbols were created throughout the community, and eight mosaics will be installed in different Homewood locations, such as: The Shop, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Homewood, The Legacy Arts Project, and N’sideout Spaces. For more information, visit

Top Header Image Photo Credit: Prototyping Larimer Stories by artist John Peña, photo by OPA