“Pittsburgh has a soul you can see” -Alexandre Arrechea

Have you seen these public art installations in downtown?

This work is outside Gateway Center in downtown Pittsburgh.

This work is outside Gateway Center in downtown Pittsburgh.

This work is outside the David L Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh

This work is outside the David L Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh

Thanks to the Cultural Trust, I recently had an opportunity to interview the man behind the works -internationally renowned Alexandre Arrechea.

This is the plaque outside one of the pieces:

Description of the No Limits Pittsburgh Cultural Trust exhibit.

Description of the No Limits Pittsburgh Cultural Trust exhibit.

This only gives part of the history of this amazing artist. Here is a link to the official press release that tells his history. I wanted to use the interview opportunity to explore his philosophy on art and his thoughts on Pittsburgh.

photo courtesy of alexandrearrechea.com

photo courtesy of alexandrearrechea.com

Tell me a little about yourself .

I became an artist very young. I studied in Cuba my whole career until the very early days of the 90s. I used to collaborate with Los Carpinteros, until after 12 years I started to make my own work and started to focus on architecture and spaces. I love to control spaces. What is interesting for me is to try and bring a new angle or a new aspect to architecture.

No Limits – the work displayed in Pittsburgh – is the most well known of my more recent projects but a lot of my previous work is just as important because I was building everything towards No Limits. What it accounts is more about the process than results. I had done something like this prior back in 2010 in Times Square. It involved video projection rather than a physical thing. The projection was on the Nasdaq LED screen and it showed a wrecking ball that hit the building and bounced back. (!! how cool !!) That idea of a projection that represented an idea of wrecking a building – which you don’t want to do – at least was representative of the moment the project was presented which was so near to the economic collapse of 2008. It was to call attention to that specific building and what it represents. Before that, I developed a very small project that was a lead in to No Limits. It was a house made out of stainless steel that was linked to the Dow Jones – when the Dow went up or down the piece would expand or contract. So that idea of trying to link architecture to an event was a break through for me.

If I were to tell you that two of the pieces here – one being the Seagram building and the other Met Life –  were turning into coils and they are, for me, some sort of fire hoses. Fire hoses define the building because you would need to use the hose to maintain the building. That is the type of thought behind this particular project and what I have been building through the years. I’m now working on a book that will be published in the fall that will show my work leading up to No Limits.

I’ve seen a lot of people stop and congregate around the no Limits pieces and try to figure them out.

Great! That really pleases me a lot!

I was pursuing with No limits an invitation for people to play with the work. Sometimes we feel that reality is out there and we are unable to change things. I think on the contrary we are totally culpable to change things in our environment. What you think is permanent is not and that feeling of being able to change things is something I want to encourage people to feel.

You’ve always been into warping space?

Yes that’s always been there. I always further explain this by talking about a specific project. I remember when I was invited back in 2004 to do an exhibition in Havana by some friends that own one of the alternative spaces to exhibit art. It was a very tiny space. When they invited me, I wanted to make something that extended the invitation they gave me to others. The idea at the time was to build a new tiny gallery inside the main gallery so I can invite other artists. That alone was a commentary on the lack of alternative spaces in Cuba. That idea of always trying to expand the notion of space is something I have been pursuing since the early days.

Continuing with that I remember this project I did with a museum in Spain called Free Entrance. The name turned everything into a big fight with the museum because they didn’t want people to think they were given entrance to the building for free. The project was a video camera at the entrance to the museum so the people coming in were recorded. I then edited that information and build sort of a wooden stadium inside the museum. I placed large screens throughout the stadium that should show how people would enter through the initial entryway but the stadium would actually remain empty. The idea would create a weird situation but I’m making commentaries on how the museum is not a place to count how many people come there but the experience with the art. That’s what really matters – how art would change people and not the museum.

Another project like this was a project I created in Havana. I invited basketball teams to do a game and we went to this court near our neighborhood. While they were playing I recorded everything that was happening. Then later, I took the backboards out and replaced them with large screens. I invited the players and people to come so they could see ghosts of the game surrounding them. It brought issues of what it is like to participate in something and not change the result. I always want to make you think of where you are in the moment. It’s always important to know the context.

What do you think of our fair city?

I’m amazed and thrilled! I was given a tour around the city and taken to that hill where you can see everything. You are able to see all the beauty. Pittsburgh is an amazing city. You come here with your preconceptions of what the city is about but when you are here it is a blast. How the old architecture survives next to the new is a dialogue that is amazing for me. That the city has a soul that you can see is amazing. The fear we all have is that past architecture will give way to new to create a place that can be beautiful, but that old essence is gone. You don’t want that for any city especially for a city like Pittsburgh.

Thank you very much to everyone at the Cultural Trust for this interview opportunity! They have been doing a great job in enriching the lives of people that work and live in downtown.

call for Pittsburgh artists to make bicycle racks to be installed in the Cultural District

–I know my posts have been erratic recently. They will be for a bit in the run up to the wedding. I do have a large story on the amount of people living in downtown that I’m working on, though.

I had to post this straight from the press release. How cool is this?




Request for Qualifications Deadline: November 30, 2014

Pittsburgh, PA—The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust announces the second phase of the bicycle rack project, the first phase being completed in September 2014, with the installation of five artist-designed bicycle racks throughout the Cultural District. The Trust invites Pittsburgh-area artists (residents of Allegheny County) to design and develop functional bicycle racks to be located along the Penn Avenue corridor from the David L. Lawrence Convention Center (11th Street) to Stanwix Street. This second phase of the project will produce five bicycle racks, with the potential for more to follow.

The deadline for the request for qualifications is November 30, 2014.


Each selected artist receives a fee of $3000 to create a unique and functional bicycle rack. This fee covers the costs for design, fabrication, finishing, and transportation of the completed bicycle rack to the installation site. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is responsible for the cost of installation and naming plaques.

Specifications for Design

The bicycle rack finish is to be galvanized steel (either raw and/or powder coated), aluminum, or stainless steel. No other finishes, including hand-painted finishes, will be accepted.
Each bicycle rack will be limited to two bikes.
The bicycle rack should support the bikes in at least two places, including one wheel.
The bicycle rack must allow for ease of locking utilizing a commonly used “U” lock or longer cable lock.
Each bicycle parking space is easily accessible without moving another bicycle for access and maneuvering.
Base plates should be a minimum of 1/4” thick steel with the ability to be bolted to a concrete pad in four places.

All bicycle rack designs must adhere to all Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards for protrusions in the right-of-way, including the ability to detect the rack with a white cane. To be detected by a white cane, the protruding or leading edge of the rack shall be 27” or less above the sidewalk surface, and between 27” and 80” above the sidewalk surface, protruding or leading may overhang a maximum of 12”.
The top of the bicycle rack design must be a minimum of 36” tall. Except for the bicycle rack supporting brackets, the shortest section of the bicycle rack must be a minimum of 27” tall, tall enough to be perceived by pedestrians and avoid tripping hazards.
The space between the rack features must be larger than 9” and smaller than 3.5’ to avoid children trapping their heads.
The design must not include sharp edges.
How to Apply

Each artist must submit the following for consideration:

A minimum of five images of completed works from his or her portfolio
A brief artist statement (no more than one page) on his or her approach to this project
Three references with contact information
Artists who have previously applied to the program and were not accepted are welcome to apply again.

Please share request for qualifications files using wetransfer.com, and send them to staggs@trustarts.org.

Project Timeline

Request for Qualifications deadline is November 30, 2014.
Notification to selected artists for proposals is January 30, 2015.
Proposals to be received by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust on March 31, 2015.
Notification of winning proposals to artists by April 30, 2015.
Installation of bicycle racks by August 7, 2015.

Ten Ways the GLCC is building Community in Downtown Pittsburgh

Guest Post submitted by Sue Kerr, Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents


Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ Community Center is called the GLCC (Gay and Lesbian Community Center) and is located at 210 Grant Street, just a block away from the City-County Building. The GLCC is open 7 days a week with a range of programming open to everyone in the community – LGBTQ persons and straight allies.

The GLCC was founded in the mid-1970’s as a support phoneline with the help of Persad Center (founded in 1972) and formally incorporated in 1981. For nearly 35 years, an all-volunteer team has provided programming and supports to the LGBTQ community. You can read more about the history of the GLCC.

Our location in Downtown Pittsburgh expands our capacity to be a physical community center for our Downtown neighbors (residential and workforce) as well as the regional LGBTQ community. We have many programs and services that contribute to a healthy, vibrant Downtown community. Please consider stopping by to learn more. Our doors are open to everyone.

How is the GLCC building community in Downtown Pittsburgh?

1. Open Doors – The GLCC is open 7 days a week (all-volunteers) for people to stop in with questions, seeking services, or wanting to access our resources. The main exception is Friday evening when we are a youth-only center (plus adult advisors.) But we are very accessible as a resource in terms of our phoneline, online presence and our actual physical hours. Stop by – 210 Grant St, Monday – Saturday 12-9 PM, Sun 12-6 PM.

Current and former chairs gather at the GLCC

Current and former chairs gather at the GLCC

2. Social & Recreational Opportunities – The GLCC has many programs that are open to the public for a very modest donation of $2 or what you can give. All our listed on our calendar. These include:

  • Open Mic Night
  • Movie Night
  • Board Game Night
  • Monthly Potluck

3. Health Resources – The GLCC has services open to anyone in the community. Mayor Peduto recorded a PSA for our HIV testing services. Health services include:

    • Free, confidential testing for HIV and STD/STI’s Thursdays from 5-9 PM
    • Wellness classes (see calendar)
    • Healthcare for the Homeless Clinic – Monday 1-3 for neighbors experiencing homelessness
    • Referrals to clinical services and other low-cost programs.

4. Library Resources – the Jim Fischerkeller Library is the 3rd largest LGBTQ collection in the United States. We have over 9,000 items which are free to borrow during regular hours. We also occasionally make duplicate copies available for sale for a nominal donation.

5. Youth Programs – if you have youth in your Downtown family, youth visiting your Downtown home or youth working at your Downtown office, the GLCC has enriching programming at no cost. LGBT youth, questioning youth and allied youth are welcome. These programs include:

  • Friday Night Drop-In from 7-10 PM for ages 13-18. A safe space for social activities, educational workshops and being yourself.
  • Persad’s Real Time – Tuesday and Friday 5-7 PM is devoted to youth ages 13-22 in need of more structured support. Activities, workshops, snacks and more are available at no cost.
  • SAY is our outreach programming for homeless youth ages 13-24, both LGBTQ and straight. SAY has hours Monday – Thursday from 12-3 PM with a range of services.
Joe Wos from Toonseum leads a workshop for youth one Friday evening

Joe Wos from Toonseum leads a workshop for youth one Friday evening

6. LGBTQ meetings and groups – We host or have information on an array of LGBTQ friendly 12-step meetings. We also host regular meetings for various LGBTQ groups. Our community calendar has detailed information.

  • eBIcenter is a regular meeting of the bisexual and non-monosexual community. They have a Tea gathering at the GLCC and social activities in the community.
  • Men’s Gathering is a group of GBTQ men who meet every other Sunday for socialization and support
  • T to T is an ever other month social gathering for transgender individuals and their families.
  • sisTers is a monthly meeting for trans women
  • NEXUS organizes quarterly events for LGBTQ elders 50+ and distributes a weekly eblast with other events

7. Connections – The GLCC helps the most vulnerable in our community through Cathy’s Closet, a pantry of sorts for personal care items and winter gear and clothing. We also host a liaison from the Allegheny County Department of Human Services on a weekly basis to make programs and information more accessible to the community. We know that some of our neighbors Downtown can benefit from these programs, as well as the larger LGBTQ community.

  • From Sept to March, we accept donations of gently used or new winter items including coats and blankets. We distribute year round and work with 20+ partner agencies to get items into the community. Our drives are ongoing because the needs are ongoing so we were able to get blankets and sleeping bags to the community during the harshest days of this bitter cold winter.
  • Organize a collection at your worksite, place of worship or residential community. From blankets to toothpaste, we can put your items to good use supporting neighbors.
  • If you know someone in need, please refer them to us. You can send them our way or you can reach out on their behalf and collect items for them. Dignity is an important value to us.
Monthly volunteer orientation

Monthly volunteer orientation

8. Meeting and Event Space – the GLCC has several spaces available for rental needs from meetings to community events. We’ve hosted Tupperware parties, book clubs, yoga workshops, crafting groups and more. Fees are typically $2/person, but can be negotiated.

 9.  Resources and Referrals – For well over 30 years, our phoneline has been THE resource for the LGBTQ community. Every day we receive calls from parents whose kids have come out to them, from kids whose parents have come out to them and everyone in between. We can help you find a sports league, a list of LGBTQ friendly therapists, or even a support group. If you don’t know where to start, try us and we’ll help you figure out the next step.

10. OUTrageous Bingo – the best time you’ll have all month is at OUTrageous Bingo. For 16 years, volunteers have been organizing this fundraiser that benefits the GLCC and Shepherd Wellness Community. Bingo is currently held at Rodef Shalom Congregation in Oakland on Saturday evenings Sept through June. For $15, you’ll have an outrageous time in this family friendly, saucy gathering whether you are a bingo novice or an expert. Learn more via this great story on WESA recorded in 2013.

Finally, the GLCC has multiple opportunities to promote YOUR business, services and events to tens of thousands of people in the region. While we do not accept paid advertising, we can share your information on our Community Calendar which will in turn be shared via our social media tools. You are also welcome to bring printed information to the GLCC and leave on our information table. We do have promotional opportunities available through OUTrageous Bingo and other special events. It doesn’t have to be LGBTQ specific – simply welcoming to the LGBTQ community. The GLCC can be your conduit to the regional LGBTQ community.

For more information on any of these opportunities to tap into the resources of the GLCC, please contact us at:

210 Grant Street (Lower Level) * Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Phone: 412-422-0114 
www.glccpgh.org * info@glccpgh.org
Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest/Tumblr @GLCCPgh
Step outside the door and feel the bustle.

Step outside the door and feel the bustle.

a brief interview with the director of the Pittsburgh Office of Public Art

I can’t begin to state how incredibly grateful I am for everyone that has agreed to answer my email interview requests.

Each time I send an email for one of my brief interviews, I look to get a little information about the office or person that has an impact on life in downtown. There are so many opportunities that I could run these interviews for years…

The latest one was granted by Renee Piechocki, the Director of the Office of Public Art. There is a lot of personal investment in this interview as the office’s publication Art in Public Places is what got me started on blogging in downtown

Photo of visitors to Congregation by KMA in Market Square | courtesy the Pittsburgh Office of Public Art

Photo of visitors to Congregation by KMA in Market Square | courtesy the Pittsburgh Office of Public Art

How did the Art in Public Places publication get started?

From Renee: The Office of Public Art started in 2005, with the mission of providing technical assistance and educational programs in the region. One of our first goals was to create awareness and appreciation of the public art that already existed in Pittsburgh, specifically Downtown where there was the largest collection of projects, including the North Shore. I worked with Chuck Alcorn, who was an intern at City Planning at that time, to go into every building, every lobby, every alley, in the neighborhood in addition to consulting archives at the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon, and the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. It was an exciting project for me, since I had just moved to Pittsburgh in 2003. Doing this research gave me the opportunity to learn more about the city. Everyone on my committee thought it would be a quick project, thinking perhaps there would be 30 projects. Well, there are over 80 works of art in public places in the first addition! It was a surprise to everyone.

I have the third edition of the book and use it constantly. Is a new edition being planned?

From Renee: We will print a fourth edition when our copies of the third edition run out, and we raise the money to print a new edition. In addition to the printed copies, people can download a free PDF from our website, www.publicartpittsburgh.org. For those who want to learn even more about the projects in this book and other works in the region, they can visit www.pittsburghartplaces.org, our initeractive website that features profiles of works of public art and places to experience the arts in the region.

Photo of visitors to Congregation by KMA in Market Square | courtesy the Pittsburgh office of Public Art

Photo of visitors to Congregation by KMA in Market Square | courtesy the Pittsburgh office of Public Art

What kind of feedback have you received?

From Renee: This book has been very popular with many different groups. We go through about 9,000 copies a year. People who are from Pittsburgh are happy to see works they know about, and learn about things they have never seen. People who are visiting are surprised to see such a strong collection of projects. Everyone from my staff brings copies of this to meetings and events, and they get picked up right away. Plus, all of our editions have been beautifully designed by Pittsburgh firms. We worked with Landesberg Design for the first two editions, and Little Kelpie for the third. Every edition has received rave reviews from people who care about graphic design.

I used it to discover things in downtown I never new existed. What has been your favorite discovery?

From Renee: It is truthfully not possible for me to pick a favorite. So many of them are beautiful and compelling. What I am very happy about is that there is more and more temporary art projects being commissioned in Downtown Pittsburgh. The Three River Arts Festival’s projects, Congregation in Market Square Public Art Program, and Knit the Bridge are a few that I loved this year.

OPA's 2013 Bike Tour on the Northshore | photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Office of Public Art

OPA’s 2013 Bike Tour on the Northshore | photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Office of Public Art

What is your favorite piece of architecture? Mine is the Union Trust Building. (would love to be a part of the remodeling if you have a connection haha)

From Renee: I’ll see what I can do! I love Mellon Square Park. The City of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy deserve a big shout out for all of the effort that went into the recent renovation of that park. I go to yoga Downtown, and when I get of class and ride my bike home, I pass the fountain on the corner of Oliver Avenue and Smithfield and am so happy I live in a city where modernist architecture is appreciated. My second favorite is the Smithfied Street facade of the Smithfield Liberty parking garage, which to me is known as Guggenheim Pittsburgh.

Curator Brian Land leads a tour of Chairs for Six by Scot Burton | Photo courtesy the Pittsburgh Office of Public Art

Curator Brian Land leads a tour of Chairs for Six by Scot Burton | Photo courtesy the Pittsburgh Office of Public Art

What would you recommend first to someone that is looking to tour downtown?

From Renee: If they were the kind of people who like to get prepared and have lots of data, I would suggest the visit Pittsburgh Art Places to create a profile and make their own tour. If they wanted suggestions from other people, and you wanted to see projects that show the diversity and excellence in the what you can find Downtown, I would include Jenny Holzer’s For Pittsburgh, Tony Tasset’s Magnolia’s for Pittsburgh, the Louise Bourgeois fountain and seating at Agnes Katz plaza, Romare Bearden’s Pittsburgh Recollections, Jerry Caplan’s Pittsburgh People, John LaFarge’s Fortune on her Wheel, Sol LeWitt’s Thirteen Geometric Figures, and Informationlab’s Cell Phone Disco.
What kind of events do you have coming up?

From Renee: We always have events? I am writing this a few hours before our public art pool party, which is starting at 3pm at Jack Stack Pool. Next Saturday, August 16th we are hosting a public art bike ride as part of Bike Fest. We have a new series of guided walking tours planned for the next six months. You can find out about those, and more, at publicartpittsburgh.org

weekly photography challenge from Pittsburgh: texture

I loved this week’s challenge. There are a ton of different ways I could interpret it in an older city like Pittsburgh.

PPG place closeup Pittsburgh

Liberty ave Pittsburgh from our apt Pittsburgh view up seventh from apt with consol energy center

I also have a few more brief interviews coming. It’s been crazy with the wedding preparations, so things may be a bit scattered for the next few months. :)

I’ve got a few guest bloggers lined up for the next month. If you are one of them…thank you! :)

weekly wordpress photography challenge from Pittsburgh: summer

Hey everyone,


I was going to take an extended break from social media with our wedding coming up, but there is so much great and awesome stuff going on…

Here is my latest entry for the WordPress challenges. It’s an action shot I took at the PPG fountain in downtown Pittsburgh. I have more posts coming very soon.

PPG fountain downtown Pittsburgh