Tag: art

Pittsburgh’s Beauty off the Beaten Path: Shady Liberty Pedestrian Bridge

Shady Liberty, pedestrian bridge designed by Sheila Klein
Nadine Champsi

Nadine Champsi

I am a doctor turned write-at-home-mom who runs the Pittsburgh Mommy Blog and is editor of Kidsburgh. I have two wonderful young children and am happily married. My interests include cooking, green-living, gardening, being in the outdoors, listening to great music, checking out the city's cool art, coming up with creative things to do with my kids, and having as many adventures as I can!
Nadine Champsi

In my Pittsburgh’s Beauty off the Beaten Path series I describe a particularly beautiful, but underappreciated, spot in the city. I hope these posts will give you inspiration for future adventures and will remind you that Pittsburgh, for all its industrial buildings and soot-covered past, is a city bursting with beauty.  The rest of the series is located here.

Pittsburgh has a lot of nicknames: The ‘Burgh, Steel City, Sixburgh. My favorite one is probably the City of Bridges.  I’m so proud to be from the city with the most bridges in the WORLD.  I’m even more proud to be from a city where we treasure our bridges so much that we yarn-bomb them!  That’s right!  From August 12th to September 6th the thousands of hours of grueling labor involved in the Knit the Bridge project will come to fruition and the Andy Warhol Bridge will be covered in knitting! I trust it will be a truly magnificent sight.

Shady Liberty, pedestrian bridge designed by Sheila Klein
Shady Liberty, pedestrian bridge designed by Sheila Klein

In honor of the beautification of this well-loved city bridge, I thought I’d focus my Beauty off the Beaten Path series on another Pittsburgh bridge:  Shady Liberty.  It’s newer and less well-known than the Andy Warhol Bridge, but it was born to be a functional piece of public art.  And I’m so happy I discovered it earlier this summer with my family!

We found it during a walk through East Liberty and Shadyside after eating in Penn Circle.  We were wandering around the upper level of the Eastside shopping complex (the retail development that includes Whole Foods) when we heard the sound of a passing train near the Busway below.  As we went closer to the railing to get a better look, we came upon a pedestrian bridge that links the Eastside shopping complex in East Liberty to Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside.  Since I don’t live in this area and rarely walk around it, I never even knew it was there! Although it was small in size, this Pittsburgh bridge was BIG in personality!

It is called Shady Liberty and it was designed by Sheila Klein and opened in 2012.  Its basic structural elements are quite modest:  a simple concrete walkway with a surrounding chain link fence and posts. And yet, the designer was inspired to turn these functional parts into pieces of public art:

Painted lines
Painted lines
  • The concrete walkway is painted with random, overlapping yellow and white stripes that appear to be street lines (they are actually modeled on a Liberty Avenue parking lot where street-line painters test their equipment).  However, unlike traditional street lines, they lack any perceivable order.  Careful scrutiny reveals that this unexpected absence of pattern is exactly what makes the walkway so beautiful.  I like to believe the design reflects something really cool:  the unique path of each individual pedestrian (as opposed to the more predictable driving pattern of an automobile).  In that way, I believe the walkway’s artistic design promotes walking vs. driving as a responsible (and fun!) mode of transportation.
Handmade glass sequins
Handmade glass sequins
  • The chain link fence follows the path, protecting pedestrians from falling into the busway and railroad tracks below it.  However, the chain link fence, too, is beautified.  At the top, it is ornamented with large handmade glass sequins that were created at The Pittsburgh Glass Center. They reflect the sun’s glittering light—bringing the sky closer to the bridge and the people on it. The fence also has a gently curving design, leaving room for surrounding greenery.
  • Finally, the metal fence poles provide structural support to the fence and anchor the handrail. However, they also curve over the top of the walkway to support suspended glass orbs that light the bridge at night.  Although I haven’t had the pleasure of being on this bridge after dark, I believe these lights would reflect stunningly in the glass sequins–mimicking the the stars and the moon in the night’s sky.
Crossing Shady Liberty
Crossing Shady Liberty

Shady Liberty was beautiful to traverse AND it was fun for my kids!  They enjoyed following the lines AND peering over the edge at the passing trains.  I enjoyed relaxing on a bench that faces the bridge on the Eastside portion.  I spent some time observing the passerbys.  I was amazed at how many different sorts of people actually utilized the bridge:  elderly people, students, families with children, young professionals, even lucky (probably childless) couples grasping bottles of wine and takeout!

While pondering the Shady Liberty Bridge that day, I started thinking about Pittsburgh and its unique geography. Our broad rivers, though beautiful, could be considered a major challenge, with the potential to seriously divide our city.  And yet, we have built bridges-the Andy Warhol Bridge, the David McCullough Bridge, the Liberty Bridge and so, many, many more–to cross our rivers and bring together our neighborhoods, our people, and our resources.  What an incredible testament to the unity of our city!

Watching the train go by below
Watching the train go by below

The Shady Liberty bridge, though diminutive in size, has a similar and equally commendable purpose.  It brings together the very different communities of Shadyside and East Liberty to share in the continuing efforts to economically revitalize the East Liberty area.  Thank you Sheila Klein and the East Liberty Development, Inc for your impressive vision!

Our Lovely Encounter with the Citiparks Roving Art Cart

Hard at work creating her masterpiece
Nadine Champsi

Nadine Champsi

I am a doctor turned write-at-home-mom who runs the Pittsburgh Mommy Blog and is editor of Kidsburgh. I have two wonderful young children and am happily married. My interests include cooking, green-living, gardening, being in the outdoors, listening to great music, checking out the city's cool art, coming up with creative things to do with my kids, and having as many adventures as I can!
Nadine Champsi
Bicycle-powered Spin Art
Bicycle-powered Spin Art

This week the weather started warming up again, so I decided  to bring my kids to the Troy Hill Spray Park for the first time this year.  We have historically really enjoyed our outings to this Pittsburgh summer staple and I couldn’t wait to introduce my 20-month old son to it now that he’s a mobile and ambitious Micro-Machine.  Coincidentally, I also learned that the Citiparks Roving Art Cart was planning on visiting the Troy Hill Spray Park this week too!  So this Thursday morning I packed my kids into the car and we headed up to Goettmann Street to check it out.

My first and ONLY encounter with the Citiparks Roving Art Cart was during the 2013 Pittsburgh International Children’s Festival where they ran a very creative and popular Spin Art project for kids.  A friendly gentleman sat on a bicycle with a spinner somehow rigged to the pedals. Children could put an old 45 record onto the spinner and choose a few differently colored paints.  While the man pedaled, the kids poured paint on to the record and watched it spin. Voila!  A very cool Spin Art creation.  Anyway, I thought the art project was really, really creative and I was intrigued by the idea of a Roving Art Cart.

Hard at work creating her masterpiece
Hard at work creating her masterpiece

So what is it?  I did some research and learned that the Roving Art Cart has been bringing FREE opportunities for artistic expression to children at Pittsburgh’s parks and playgrounds for 40 years!  Basically, they travel to different parks Tuesday-Friday each week during late Spring and Summer and set up several different mobile art stations.  At Troy Hill Spray Park, they set up a) a table where children could bead bracelets b) a tent where kids could claim an easel and do some painting c) a tent where children could do the bicycle-powered Spin Art and d) OUR FAVORITE–a very creative project where kids could take marbles and balls of different sizes, dip them in paint, and send them streaking along a long piece of white paper.  The Roving Art Cart program offers a variety of different art projects throughout the summer and even recruits special guest artists to help develop interesting ideas.  Also, depending on the day and the spot, they also feature special guest entertainers. Their 2013 Summer Schedule is available here.

Dynamic painting with marbles/balls
Dynamic painting with marbles/balls

I was also happy to learn that the Reading is Fundamental Storymobile has partnered with the Roving Art Cart on Thursday mornings. The Storymobile generally serves as a mobile library for area public housing communities and childcare homes/centers.  But they also occasionally offer free book giveaways, which they did at Troy Hill Spray Park!  We got to clamber inside the Storymobile and each of my kids got to choose a book to take home FOR FREE.  And the book selection was surprisingly great!  From what I learned, the Storymobile will travel with the Roving Art Cart on most (but not all!) Thursday mornings and will offer these free book giveaways!

Choosing a book in the Storymobile
Choosing a book in the Storymobile

Anyway, I think my kids really, really enjoyed the Roving Art Cart projects and the Storymobile.  And I loved it!  It reminds me yet again that we live in a very special place–a city where really great people want to do really admirable things like promote artistic development and literacy in our children for FREE!  Amazing!

Pittsburgh’s Beauty off the Beaten Path: Randyland

Their swan song??
Nadine Champsi

Nadine Champsi

I am a doctor turned write-at-home-mom who runs the Pittsburgh Mommy Blog and is editor of Kidsburgh. I have two wonderful young children and am happily married. My interests include cooking, green-living, gardening, being in the outdoors, listening to great music, checking out the city's cool art, coming up with creative things to do with my kids, and having as many adventures as I can!
Nadine Champsi
Welcome to Randyland!
Welcome to Randyland!

In my Pittsburgh’s Beauty off the Beaten Path series I describe a particularly beautiful, but underappreciated, spot in the city. I hope these posts will give you inspiration for future adventures and will remind you that Pittsburgh, for all its industrial buildings and soot-covered past, is a city bursting with beauty.  An Introduction to the series is located here.

Last Sunday my husband wanted to take the kids to the Children’s Museum to check out the new Waterplay and Clifford exhibits with them.  We left early and had some time before the Museum opened, so we decided to explore some of the surrounding Northside neighborhoods.  While driving down central Northside’s Jacksonia Street, we glimpsed what appeared to be a heavenly mirage in an otherwise economically depressed neighborhood–a panoply of bright colors covering the entire facade of a corner home.  We couldn’t resist getting a closer look…and I’m so glad we did!

randyfrontfacade

We found what may be my GREATEST discovery in Pittsburgh yet–Randyland!  Situated on the corner of Arch and Jacksonia streets sits the artistic masterpiece and home of Randy Gilson. Gilson has taken his house, the next house over, and the land in between and turned it into a veritable wonderland of quirky artistic expression.  He has covered the walls with elaborate murals painted in eye-popping hues.  He has collected an impressive array of other people’s “trash” and used it to decorate his home.  And he has greenified an otherwise barren-looking environment by planting throughout.  He calls this magical place Randyland. It’s very difficult for me to describe the experience of exploring Randyland–its eccentricity and artistic audacity defy expression.  And yet, I feel I must give you a taste of our visit…if only to entice you to get out there and take a look at it yourself.

Pittsburgh map
Pittsburgh map

The main facade is located on Arch Street.  It is painted in a bright yellow with trim in shades of blue, purple, orange, pink, and greens.  Adorning the front of the building are giant colorful butterflies, old Coca Cola signs, graffiti reading “PEACE,” “JOY,” and “LOVE” and painted-on windows where black silhouettes of people appear to be deep in conversation.  On the Jacksonia Street side of the home is a painted Pittsburgh map situated alongside a wall full of old street signs.  The map is full of playful details capturing the essence of different Pittsburgh spots.  If I didn’t have kids along with me that morning, I probably could have spent a good 30 minutes exploring the intricacies of this map.  But the best part was still to come…

Randy's backyard
Randy’s backyard

As we continued down Jacksonia Street, we came upon an open gate with a promising sign that said, “Another Day in Paradise.”  We weren’t sure if we should proceed into the yard, but an OPEN sign assured us it was acceptable to trespass.  So we entered into the bizarre parallel universe that is Gilson’s backyard.  Nearly every inch of the surrounding walls are covered in murals.  Fire escapes are decorated with suspended old metal chairs.

Chairs suspended from a fire escape
Chairs suspended from a fire escape

 

 

 

 

 

Old buckets are carefully affixed to the sides of gates. Lines of model dinosaurs appear to be frozen in migration.  They are followed by lines of rats with red eyes.  Statues peek out from corners–some are covered with old rusty chains.  Others have plastic snakes wound around them.  Huge plastic spiders are tucked into pots overflowing with greenery.  Pretend geese are caught in mid-waddle.  A giant alligator statue hangs out on the ground with 80’s style sunglasses perched on its massive jaw.  Frogs, gnomes, pinwheels, mannequins, butterflies, swans, old pots, sunflowers, you-name-it, are crammed into the Space.  And a welcoming pergola sits in the center of the yard with adult and child-sized seating under it.  It’s the perfect place to reflect on Randyland–to ponder what Gilson has done to beautify this old house, buried on this old street, with a bunch of other peoples’ trash.  It’s unbelievable.  It’s overwhelming. It’s beautiful.  And it’s sheer genius.

Kid-sized seating amongst the artwork
Kid-sized seating amongst the artwork

For all its superficial recklessness–close inspection reveals that this place is carefully and lovingly maintained by an eccentric, but inspiring, individual.  So-who is Randy Gilson? According to a 2008 Pop City article,  Randy Gilson grew up in poverty in Homestead.  He moved to the Northside during the 1980’s while pursuing his cooking certification at the Community College of Allegheny County and acquired his property at auction for $11,000 in the 1990’s.  Since then, he has invested over $100,000 in renovations.  He has even expanded his focus to the Northside neighborhood in general.

Riding an alligator
Riding an alligator

 

 

 

 

He has installed streetscapes, vegetable gardens, and public parks throughout the area.  In the opinion of many individuals, Randy Gilson is singlehandedly leading the revitalization of the Northside. According to the same article, Gilson developed his interest in recycling old materials at Christmastime during his poor childhood.  His family never got many gifts at Christmas, so he used to travel around his neighborhood, gathering other peoples’ discarded items and fixing them up to put under his own Christmas tree.

Playing with the dinosaurs
Playing with the dinosaurs

****

My family spent about 45 minutes exploring Randyland.  As you can imagine, my kids were enthralled. They played with the toy animals, tried out the different seating arrangements, and just stared–trying to absorb the scene.  I will certainly bring my kids back to this spot.  In fact, I would even arrange a morning playdate here since hefty chunks of time could be spent wandering through the booty. However, please note:  I do not know Randyland’s hours of operation.  All I can say for sure is that on a beautiful Sunday morning it was open for exploration.

Their swan song??
Their swan song??

For me, Randyland represents exactly what Pittsburgh is becoming–an old city, previously broken and discarded by the steel industry, but now slowly being reborn into a city of incredible potential and beauty through a passion for sustainability of individuals like Randy Gilson.

Trust me: it’s an inspiring place to be.  Thank you, Randy Gilson, for what you do…

Pittsburgh’s Beauty off the Beaten Path: The Courtyard at the University of Pittsburgh’s Frick Fine Arts Building

Nadine Champsi

Nadine Champsi

I am a doctor turned write-at-home-mom who runs the Pittsburgh Mommy Blog and is editor of Kidsburgh. I have two wonderful young children and am happily married. My interests include cooking, green-living, gardening, being in the outdoors, listening to great music, checking out the city's cool art, coming up with creative things to do with my kids, and having as many adventures as I can!
Nadine Champsi

In my Pittsburgh’s Beauty off the Beaten Path series I describe a particularly beautiful, but underappreciated, spot in the city.  I hope these posts will give you inspiration for future adventures and will remind you that Pittsburgh, for all its industrial buildings and soot-covered past, is a city bursting with beauty.  An Introduction to the series is located here.

We recently made a very exciting discovery during the 2013 Pittsburgh International Children’s Festival in Oakland.  At one point during the festivities, my children wandered off toward the University of Pittsburgh’s Frick Fine Arts Building.  Since I figured the kids probably needed some time away from the mayhem and I was curious to explore the building anyway, we wandered in. Wow!  We found something really cool…

The Nicholas Lochoff Cloister
The Nicholas Lochoff Cloister

The Frick Fine Arts Building has a beautiful interior courtyard that I’ve never seen after all of my years in Pittsburgh.  You enter the courtyard through the wide hallways of the Nicholas Lochoff Cloister where scale reproductions of the frescoes of 15th century Italian masters grace the walls.  This Cloister surrounds the garden on all four sides with glass doors that lead into it at regular intervals.  The garden is designed to resemble an Italian Renaissance-style formal courtyard with a central water feature and carefully manicured boxwood hedges and topiary.  It is pictured below:

The Frick Courtyard
The Frick Courtyard

Although the space is actually pretty small, it was the perfect size for my kids.  And it was perfect size for me too!  I was able to keep them in view the entire time while happily relaxing in the sunshine.  And since it’s completely contained, I didn’t have to worry about them running off and disrupting studious academics in the building!

fountain kids

They ran up and down the pathways, gazed at the fountain, and had lots of fun walking along the steps that lead down into the courtyard (note: probably not handicap or stroller-friendly for this reason).

The garden is nicely insulated from the busyness of Oakland.  It is extraordinarily peaceful with the gentle trickle of the fountain, the careful symmetry, and the beautiful artwork visible through the glass. Long ago, I wandered through Italy with one of my greatest friends in the world and in the Frick Courtyard, I almost felt like I was back there…

Although this is certainly not a place to spend an entire morning, we spent a very lovely 30 minutes enjoying it.  And for those individuals who work in Oakland, it could also be a lovely spot to eat lunch and unwind in the warmer months.  I hope you get to enjoy it, too!

Toddler Art Group at the Pittsburgh Toy Lending Library is Restarting!

Nadine Champsi

Nadine Champsi

I am a doctor turned write-at-home-mom who runs the Pittsburgh Mommy Blog and is editor of Kidsburgh. I have two wonderful young children and am happily married. My interests include cooking, green-living, gardening, being in the outdoors, listening to great music, checking out the city's cool art, coming up with creative things to do with my kids, and having as many adventures as I can!
Nadine Champsi

artgroup

I think one of the greatest and most unique features of the Pittsburgh Toy Lending Library (PTLL) is its large art area.  My two year old loves exploring this room and I love watching her practice her fine motor and artistic skills.  The room has lots of different options for creative experimentation, including play-dough, paints, beads, stickers, stamps, chalk, and much, much more.

Last year, the Toy Library had a wonderful intern who ran a number of regular programs for the kids, including a storytime on Mondays and a toddler art group on Wednesdays.  When she finished her internship last summer, this programming ended.  For our family, the end of the toddler art group was especially disappointing, as I had learned so many creative ideas from her that I later used in my own house.

Well today I got some very exciting news!   The toddler art group is restarting on the last Wednesday of the month from 10-11.  It is intended for children 18 months and older.  There is no additional cost for the art group beyond the fees for entering the playspace.

Additional word of warning:  dress your children appropriately. It will get messy!

For more information, please see the Art Space section of the PTLL website.

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