Proposals sought for Pittsburgh's first-ever Asphalt Art Project in Friendship | Visual Art | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Proposals sought for Pittsburgh's first-ever Asphalt Art Project in Friendship

click to enlarge Asphalt Art Initiative project in Norfolk, Va. - PHOTO: JULIA NACHEMSON/BLOOMBERG PHILANTHROPIES
Photo: Julia Nachemson/Bloomberg Philanthropies
Asphalt Art Initiative project in Norfolk, Va.
A Pittsburgh community group wants local artists to apply for a major public art project going up at a highly visible, five-way intersection in Friendship.

The Friendship Community Group, a nonprofit working to promote and enhance Pittsburgh’s Friendship neighborhood (which straddles East Liberty and Bloomfield in the East End) is now accepting proposals for the city's first-ever Asphalt Art Initiative. A press release says the program “not only seeks to create vibrant public spaces but also looks to build city capacity for working with artists and community groups on projects involving transportation infrastructure.”

The project, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and done in partnership with the City of Pittsburgh Department of Mobility and Infrastructure, will beautify curb extensions and two pedestrian plazas at the intersections of Harriet Street, South Fairmont Street, and Roup Avenue. It’s also meant to expand the adjacent Baum Grove Parklet into the intersection.


The request for proposal document describes Asphalt Art Initiative as a “traffic calming project with goals of improving the intersection safety for both pedestrians and vehicles.” The four canvases slated to go up will be supplemented by new traffic control devices including, crosswalks, concrete or other planters, and new stop signs.

Data will also be collected before and after the project to measure the impacts of the improvements.

A press release says the Asphalt Art Initiative launched by Bloomberg Philanthropies, an organization founded by former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, provides as many as 20 U.S. cities up to $25,000 each for projects that use "art and design to improve street safety, revitalize public spaces, and engage residents of their communities."

“Asphalt Art Projects can help cities rebuild from the pandemic by reinvigorating streets and making them safer, while also lifting spirits,” says Bloomberg. “As we’ve seen through our work in cities around the world, vibrant public artwork and smarter street design can inspire residents, build relationships between artists and the community, and help cities recover stronger than before.”


In the fall of 2020, Asphalt Art Projects have been installed in Kansas City, Saginaw, Mich., and Norfolk, Va. Bloomberg Philanthropies claims that Kansas City’s redesign of a "problematic intersection" has "reduced overall vehicle speeds by 45 percent, shortened pedestrian crossing distances by 50 percent, and increased the number of pedestrians who feel safe crossing the intersection by 40 percent."

“It is an honor to be selected for the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ inaugural Asphalt Art grant," says FCG president Sara DeLucia.
click to enlarge Asphalt Art Initiative project in Kansas City, Mo. - PHOTO: JULIA NACHEMSON/BLOOMBERG PHILANTHROPIES
Photo: Julia Nachemson/Bloomberg Philanthropies
Asphalt Art Initiative project in Kansas City, Mo.
She adds that, by working with DOMI, the City of Pittsburgh, Bloomberg, and others, they have a "redesigned intersection streetscape that will improve the safety of a confusing intersection while creating a beautiful work of art on the new pedestrian plazas.”

DOMI and the city have already completed a similar project of street murals in Beechview.

The FCG owns the Baum Grove Parklet and has preserved it as a green space and as a place to host events like festivals, farmers markets, and holiday tree recycling drop-offs. Originally slated to become an auto dealership, ownership of the lot was transferred to FPG's sister organization Friendship Development Associates. The site continues to be cared for by community volunteers.

Proposals for the Asphalt Art Initiative are due by Mon., April 12. The chosen artist or artists will receive $15,000 and any necessary paint and supplies. The artist will also attend community meetings to get feedback on design elements and organize volunteers to paint the street. Projects will be designed in May and June, with installation slated for July and August.


"The Friendship Community is a strong collection of diverse neighbors with a history of community engagement and inclusive processes," says DeLucia. "We are excited to bring the art to our streets.”

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