Remembering Pittsburgh Artist John Riegert | Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Remembering Pittsburgh Artist John Riegert

GoFundMe aims to honor his memory with public art

click to enlarge John Riegert in SPACE Gallery in 2016 - CP PHOTO: JOHN COLOMBO
CP photo: John Colombo
John Riegert in SPACE Gallery in 2016
As news broke across social media that Lawrenceville artist John Riegert passed away in late November last year, we were working on Pittsburgh City Paper's Health Issue, focusing on mental health. I didn’t personally know John, but I knew of his work. Many did. So many, in fact, that almost 250 people created portraits of his likeness for "The John Show," a unique art exhibit curated by Brett Yasko at SPACE Gallery in 2016.

It also wasn't a secret that John long suffered from mental illness, something he openly talked about, and something that many of the artists who participated in the art exhibit included in their portraits of him. Not knowing for sure how he died, but still wanting to honor his legacy to Pittsburgh, we dedicated our Health Issue to John. Later, it was confirmed: after years of battling mental illness, the 50-year old artist took his own life. Pittsburgh's arts community went into mourning.

Two months later, Kitty Julian, John's former wife and mother of their 15-year-old daughter Fiona, started a John Riegert Memorial Fund in honor of the late artist. Money raised will go towards turning his grave marker into a piece of public art, if approved by the Allegheny Cemetery where he is buried. (If the cemetery doesn't approve, the money will go towards "preserving his body of work" and toward a college fund for Fiona, according to the GoFundMe page.)

"John was an exceptional person, despite his struggles, who celebrated the good he saw in other people and humanity generally, which was an ongoing theme in all of his work. The hope is that, working with the Allegheny Cemetery, we can create a work of public art at his grave that will reflect his spirit. Ideally, we'll create a piece of art that people will want to visit, to hang out with John, just as they did in 'The John Show.' That made him really happy." — Kitty Julian

As I write this, over $1,000 has been raised towards the $15,000 goal in just one day.

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