Doors Open will be strolling through East Liberty next month for a special, behind-the-scenes art tour of the neighborhood. The tour will be led by local public art consultant, Morton Brown, who will take participants on a walking tour of East Liberty’s history, public art, and amenities.
Morton was the City’s public art manager from 2009-2015, giving him many first-hand stories to share regarding art and history in the area.
The tour covers the first-ever-for-Pittsburgh fully artist-designed pedestrian bridge, Shady Liberty by Sheila Klein, the Joy of Life sculpture by Virgil Cantini, Leslie Ansleya’s Convergence, Laura Jean McLaughlina’s mosaic and Kate Bechaka’s Worm’s Eye View mural at Whole Foods, and the new mural To Be Human, by Ann Lewis, recently completed upon the massive facade of the Duolingo headquarters.
We checked in with Morton to hear more about what participants can expect from the tour and what he is looking forward to sharing.
What is unique about the public art in East Liberty and what does it say about the story of the neighborhood?
East Liberty has an incredible history—just like every Pittsburgh neighborhood—and likewise, has an interesting history of public art. From Virgil Cantini’s Joy of Life (1969) to Duolingo’s new mural To Be Human by Ann Lewis (2021), one can walk through a chronology of artworks made for the neighborhood over time. Many times, public art reflects a period of time within a neighborhood—its hopes and fears, struggles and celebrations—and one can see in East Liberty through its public art, a consistent will to survive, celebrate, and preserve its culture amongst almost constant changes in the built and community fabric. Currently, Duolingo, Bakery Square, and other new developments have brought a ton of new industry, residents, and changes, and they are also creating their own, privately-funded public art initiatives that connect to the community. This is an ongoing story, and an exciting one to experience in person.
One can see in East Liberty through its public art, a consistent will to survive, celebrate, and preserve its culture.
What is your goal with the public art tour, and what are you most looking forward to sharing?
Doors Open Pittsburgh, the host organization for this and other tours, has a mission narrative that includes “It is our collective responsibility—as Pittsburghers—to protect and celebrate what the past has gifted to us.”, and I could not say it any better.
I have a history going back almost 20 years with East Liberty’s public art. I administered the first Duolingo building’s mural, Lend Me Your Ears by Jordan Monahan (2004) and Worm’s Eye View by Kate Bechak (2005) on Whole Foods when I was manager of the Sprout Public Art program. As the City’s Public Art Manager in 2013, I oversaw the completion of Shady Liberty by Sheila Klein, the first artist-designed pedestrian bridge in the region. Recently, in 2020-2021, I managed the new mural To Be Human by Ann Lewis on Duolingo’s facade and the new public art/program at Bakery Square which resulted in Heroes on the Horizon by Janel Young (2021). So, my goal with the tour is similar to that of Doors Open Pittsburgh, in that I simply wish to share my knowledge and experience with the art of the neighborhood, but selfishly, I want more and more and more art in the neighborhood, the city, and beyond! Creating an understanding and appreciation of what we have, is the best first step to what’s next.
Tour Dates/Times: Saturday, September 4 and Saturday, September 11. Tours are offered 10 am – 12 pm each day.
Tour Starts: 116 S Highland Ave, East Liberty.
Tour Ends: 125 S. Beatty Street, East Liberty.