A guide to free public art at the 2021 Three Rivers Arts Festival | Visual Art | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

A guide to free public art at the 2021 Three Rivers Arts Festival

click to enlarge A guide to free public art at the 2021 Three Rivers Arts Festival
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
Pittsburgh artist Janel Young painting "Pathway to Joy" on Fort Duquesne Boulevard.
The anticipation can finally rest as Pittsburgh’s most popular arts festival returns after a hiatus caused by the pandemic.

The Three Rivers Arts Festival, running Fri., June 4-Sun., June 13, will feature numerous public art locations throughout Downtown Pittsburgh, including the long-awaited reopenings of popular, visual art galleries like SPACE and Wood Street Galleries.

The festival is ready to safely return this year with in-person vendors and
activities after last year’s absence due to the coronavirus pandemic. With the abundance of tents filled with enticing food, jewelry, and paintings for sale, it’s easy to leave the festival with an empty wallet. However, the Three Rivers Arts Festival also features public art exhibitions listed in their map to visit at no cost. Pittsburgh City Paper has detailed below each of the festivals’ free art exhibits, which includes the Downtown art galleries.

Sculptures by Thaddeus Mosley

EQT Plaza, Liberty Avenue

Thaddeus Mosley has a lifetime of experience in sculpting. The 94-year-old New Castle native who specializes in handcrafting sculptures from collapsed trees will have five of his sculptures on display during the festival.

Mosley, a self-taught artist, creates his work with the utmost intricacy as the only tools he uses are his hands, a mallet, and a chisel.

Sarah Aziz, the director of festivals at Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, explains that Mosley “works with” the blemishes that often come with the dilapidated tree pieces.

“If [the tree] has a hole in it, or a notch, or a weird cutout, he doesn’t try to cover it up,” says Aziz. “He makes his art around those [imperfections] which I think is one of the most special things.”

click to enlarge A guide to free public art at the 2021 Three Rivers Arts Festival
Photo: Seth Culp-Ressler
#notwhite collective at SPACE Gallery


812 Liberty Ave., Downtown

SPACE’s doors will officially reopen at 5 p.m. on Fri., June 4, just in time for the beginning of the Arts Festival. The exhibition for the reopening is titled, “WE ARE THE GLOBAL MAJORITY decolonizing SPACE,” a collection curated by the #notwhite collective.

The #notwhite collective is a group of 13 women with multi-racial/cultural, immigrant/descendant of immigrant, or Indigenous backgrounds and celebrates the global majority. The group uses “global majority” as a term of empowerment to unite those in the wake of oppression.

Aziz says the group exhibition of over 30 artists features various art styles like 2D paintings, interactive pieces, and hanging sculptures.

The collective’s art represents its mission, which is to “dream forward an inclusive, healing humanity, where one can be fully who they are, living unhindered by oppression; to be in their light as they self define, celebrate their culture unhindered, express their vitality unhindered, live a just and full life, unhindered and free.”

The #notwhite collective’s exhibition will be available at SPACE until the start of August.

Invisible Ecologies

Lower Riverfront Trail at Allegheny Riverfront Park
This is the first development in the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s plan to incorporate public art along the Allegheny River walkway.

“Here we are with birdhouses, and they’re gorgeous and functional,” says Aziz.

The artists who constructed the lively birdhouses are from Future Green Studio based in Brooklyn. Aziz says this process has been in the works for a few years as the artists conducted research with aviaries and nature organizations to make sure that not only did the art look tasteful, but the pieces were carefully crafted for functionality for numerous, local bird species.

The inspiration behind “Invisible Ecologies” was to convey the connections between different environments like nature and constructed urbanity. The products used to craft the birdhouses are recycled man-made materials including concrete, plastic, and glass.

Wood Street Galleries

601 Wood St., Downtown

Wood Street Galleries will also reopen its two-floor, visual arts venue on Fri., June 4 after an elongated closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Each floor will display installations from French artist Miguel Chevalier.

Chevalier’s 2020 collection Power Pixels is split into two interactive installations on each floor titled “Oscillations 2020” and “Complex Meshes 2020.”

Aziz says Chevalier’s installations use the technology of “reactive light,” meaning the virtual images displayed on the gallery walls follow the motion of the visitors. The landscapes of Chevalier’s work flow from vibrant, multicolored lines to black and white shapes.

“It kind of follows what people are doing, and will react differently,” says Aziz. “It’s a really fun, interactive piece.”

Chevalier’s Power Pixels extended to the 2021 Arts Festival because of its short exposure at Wood Streets Galleries before its pandemic-related closure in March 2020.

937 Gallery

937 Liberty Ave., Downtown

This small art venue will display painting submissions from finalists and winners of The Bennett Prize for Women Figurative Realist Painters.

The Bennett Prize received 647 submissions of realist paintings from women underrepresented in the field of artistry, and the 10 finalists from the 2019 Prize will have their realism art displayed at 937 Gallery.

The Bennett Prize only accepts paintings created by women for their submissions. Each painting depicts realism, meaning the art must include realistic human figures.

The selected art pieces from the Bennett Prize for Women Figurative Realist Painters will remain in Pittsburgh until Aug. 8.

Pathway to Joy

Fort Duquesne Boulevard
Janel Young’s “Pathway to Joy” transforms bleak pavements in the Cultural District to radiance with every step across Fort Duquesne Boulevard.

Young, a Pittsburgh native and artist, used 80 gallons of paint that reflected the color palette of the landscape located in the surrounding area of the Allegheny Overlook Pop-Up Park.

Aziz says Young was inspired by the colors in the area like the yellow of the North Shore bridges and the blooming cherry blossom trees during the spring. Young also accented parts of the street mural with signature patterns that can be found in some of her other work.

The project took two weeks to complete and will be available to the public to visit through the summer into the fall.

707 Penn Gallery

707 Penn Ave., Downtown
707 Penn Gallery on Penn Avenue will feature a work from a singular artist, N.E. Brown, during the duration of the Arts Festival.

The majority of Browns’ work is based with different types of wood. She uses tools such as torches and wood burners to transform vacant planks into portraits or sculptures that resemble flower petals crafted from ash.

Brown’s work will be available to view at Penn Gallery beginning Fri., June 4.

The Most Wanted Car Club Cornhole Tournament
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