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Walter Hood, an Oakland, Calif.-based artist, has been commissioned to design an installation at the Consol Energy Center and also by the group Find the Rivers! to map the ecological footprint of the Hill District. He stands at the Herron Hill Park in the Hill District
Walter Hood's design for the walkway between the new Penguins arena and Epiphany Catholic Church.

Walter Hood, an Oakland, Calif.-based artist, has been commissioned to design an installation at the Consol Energy Center and also by the group Find the Rivers! to map the ecological footprint of the Hill District. He stands at the Herron Hill Park in the Hill District. (Below)Walter Hood's design for the walkway between the new Penguins arena and Epiphany Catholic Church.

In 2008, the Sports and Exhibition Authority commissioned Walter Hood, an artist and landscape architect in Oakland, Calif., to design a sculptural walkway and rain garden between Consol Energy Center and Epiphany Catholic Church in the lower Hill District.

PGH4ART, a grassroots campaign for public art, has intensified its campaign to ignite Curtain Call, as the project was named. The cost of the proposed project was $1.5 million in 2009.

The design of "Curtain Call" shows steps and terraces curving down a gentle slope from Centre to Fifth Avenue. The lower terrace is accessible to people in wheelchairs. The curves are formed by glass-block "curtains" holding polyvinyl images of scenes and denizens of the Hill District past and present. Mr. Hood collected 5,000 images from residents and other sources and held a series of community meetings to plan the design.

The SEA owns the property and graded the site to accommodate Mr. Hood’s design, but its executive director Mary Conturo said in 2010 that Curtain Call was not part of the Consol Energy Center’s building budget.

The city was part of the selection process of Mr. Hood, and its art and planning commissions approved the project, but it did not commit to any part of the funding, said Tim McNulty, a spokesman for Mayor Bill Peduto.

“People are always asserting this and we have to keep correcting them,” he said.

Carolyn Speranza, an organizer of PGH4ART, attended a meeting last fall on development of the Lower Hill. She said Travis Williams, the Penguins’ chief operating officer, said the Penguins agreed to put up a share of the money needed, with the rest expected from foundations.

Mr. Williams could not be reached to confirm this.

When contacted recently, Mr. Hood said he remembers discussion of a match, the biggest chunk expected from transportation funding.

In 2010, Curtain Call was a possible recipient of $974,000 from a Senate transportation bill. That would have supplied two-thirds of the cost, but the bill never made it to the floor for a vote. A fight over the budget led to a transportation bill that was cut by 11 percent, and by 2011, Congress was no longer earmarking projects.

In 2013, the SEA obtained a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to put toward Curtain Call. It had asked for $100,000, and the $50,000 only represented 3 percent of what would be needed -- less in today’s dollars. The grant commitment is in place until 2017, Ms. Conturo said.

She said the money is waiting for additional funding and that Curtain Call “is still a high-priority project.”

“They selected the architect, they engaged the public, they went through all the commissions, and we gave them tax subsidies to build the arena and now they don’t have the money,” said Brian Brown, an arts activist who has worked for the Hill District Consensus Group.

A piece of public art was installed at the Consol Energy Center in 2012 — a statue of Penguins’ co-owner and former star Mario Lemieux, but it was paid for by a private donor, said Tom McMillan, the Penguins’ spokesman.

“Philanthropy is ready, willing and waiting to jump on board,” said Rob Stephany, director of economic and community development at the Heinz Endowments. “A ton of people would love to see this [Curtain Call] happen. We feel it has world-class implications.”

Mr. Hood said he “would love to see it happen, too. Yes, because it was a lot of work, but the bigger issue is the promise made to the Hill residents. The call was for a sustainable piece using the arena’s storm water and for a commemoration of a lost neighborhood.”

PGH4ART has lobbied city council and the city and county controllers to look into the money issues that have kept this work from getting beyond the design stage. As a result, Doug Anderson, the city’s deputy controller, said the controller’s office “is looking at the possibility of an audit, but we need to get more information.”

PGH4ART formed during the 2013 mayoral campaign to encourage and to participate in a rewriting and broadening of a 1977 “percent for art” law. It requires that at least 1 percent of a budget of $50,000 or more for construction or renovation of city-owned buildings be set aside for public art. The county has a more recent 2 percent provision.

The city’s provision exempts authorities — the SEA, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, and the like — but PHG4ART is “lobbying hard to include them,” Ms. Speranza said.

If the 1 percent law pertained to authorities, the set-aside for public art from the $321 million financing of the Consol arena would have been $3.2 million, more than double the budget for Curtain Call.

Mr. Stephany said given the fact that “the Pens have intimated they’d be willing investors, if government is too deep into making development happen for the Pens, maybe the time has come for the Penguins to go halves with philanthropy.”

Diana Nelson Jones: djones@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1626.

Source:  By Diana Nelson Jones / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette http://www.post-gazette.com/local/2015/07/12/What-happened-to-the-planne...

Date Published: 
Sunday, July 12, 2015

 

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