"Every morning I wake up and see an advertisement staring through my window," says Rothermel, the man behind the April in Paris of Appalachia, an outdoor art exhibition spanning across 27 billboards in Pittsburgh. "I struggled a bit early on in the pandemic and found that creative exploration was a helpful mechanism to cope with the stress."
The billboard across the street was already reserved, but Rothermel's idea grew from two billboards to 27, using the money he was saving to buy a new car.
"I just felt like putting something positive into the community was a better use of my money at this point in time," he says, "and I think the idea of some guy buying a bunch of billboards to put up art just for the sake of it sounded funny. I knew if I didn't do it I would regret it."
Rothermel purchased space on a majority of the billboards available in the city. At the time, there were only 36 open, so he says the locations pretty much chose themselves. But he made sure to deliberately select as many neighborhoods as possible. "I had been working remotely for a nonprofit organization based in rural West Virginia the last couple years, and the cultural differences are pretty staggering (just a 2.5-hour drive away)," says Rothermel. "I see something similar across the city of Pittsburgh, and I believe we need to be more intentional about getting to know one another to get through the current situation. I also was very deliberate about creating a cohesive story and trying to weave a sequence throughout the city. Some billboards are in their respective locations to satisfy that sequence, and others actually have a very real personal meaning behind their location."
"[However], I would recommend people interact with the artwork in whatever way feels best for them, as long as they view it safely (both from a COVID-19 and vehicular perspective - follow the law!)," says Rothermel. "Definitely view them out of order if it means going to support a local restaurant or business while viewing."
There will be food trucks out this weekend supporting the exhibition near 31st and Penn between Lawrence and the Strip District.