Janel Young, a Pittsburgh native now serving as the Community Artist in Residence at UrbanKind Institute in Pittsburgh, completed "Respect the Space," a public artwork done in conjunction with the Port Authority, Smart Growth America, and Forecast Public Art. The stop was closed from June 20 through June 24 so that the work could be completed.
"Respect the Space" was supported as part of the Arts & Transportation Rapid Response initiative by Smart Growth America, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit focused on ensuring that "urban development policies foster safe, equitable, and sustainable community growth," according to its website. The initiative was created to help transportation agencies tackle pandemic-related challenges.
Besides the Port Authority of Allegheny County, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit in Georgia and the Quaboag Valley Community Development Corporation of Ware, Mass. were also chosen to receive assistance from the initiative.
"Respect the Space" is the latest in a growing list of accomplishments by Young. She designed a Yahoo! logo for Black History Month and has completed a number of murals around Pittsburgh, including a basketball court in the neighborhood of Beltzhoover. Her public artwork "Pathway to Joy" was also featured as part of the Three Rivers Arts Festival, and is available to view on Fort Duquesne Boulevard through the fall.
Young has also done murals and public art projects in New York City and Raleigh, N.C.
The "Respect the Space" design was intended to address the challenges of public transit during a pandemic, and also to bring some levity to social distancing protocols that are still in place for many that ride the city’s buses. The work, which is spread out in front of the stop's shelter, is painted purple and blue with themes of space running along the walk as planets and rockets seem suspended in color.
With Port Authority lifting capacity restrictions on their buses, social distancing has been hard on public transit, especially buses like the P1 that see many riders during the day and run on a frequent schedule. Even as mask mandates have been lifted for an increasingly vaccinated population, Port Authority still encourages riders to wear face masks.
As a result, a press release from the Port Authority says Young’s piece "plays with the concept of space and encourages riders to be mindful of their neighbors."