As Bakery Square 3.0 nears completion, Walnut Capital announced the launch of a new art program to make the space more welcoming to the community.
A main feature of the program is a public art display on a renovated two-story building in the center of Bakery Square (to house the restaurant and food incubator Galley Bakery Square). The building will be connected to a soaring three-story glass-enclosed conservatory and an adjacent outdoor courtyard and will showcase rotating artworks on two exterior panels totaling approximately 720 square feet. Walnut Capital recently released an RFQ calling for artists who can create the first artwork for the façade of this building. The selected artist(s) will then work with community groups and students at the nearby Urban Academy of Greater Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Public School’s Lincoln Elementary to gain inspiration for the piece.
“When reimagining Bakery Square, we worked closely with our friends from the Larimer Consensus Group to plan for ways to more closely integrate the site with nearby communities—because we want all of our neighbors to feel like they aren’t just welcomed here, but are part of Bakery Square’s vibrancy,” said Walnut Capital’s CEO Gregg Perelman, who noted that the site will have approximately 4,000 workers, in the aggregate, each day when Philips fully opens in Bakery Office Three this year. “Public art is one key component of our overall plan, and we’re thrilled to launch a community-driven program with its first project to be at the epicenter of Bakery Square’s activity.”
The art program will provide an opportunity for local youths to collaborate with inspiring artists in a piece that will speak to the community and visitors from around the globe. All types of artists and artworks are open to this opportunity, including, but not limited to, painted murals, multimedia, light-based art, digital, façade-based sculpture, and any other that can be feasibly realized upon the façade of the building.
“I think it is great that Walnut Capital is making this commitment to public art,” said Morton Brown, public art consultant for the project. “I am hopeful that this will be a boon to local artists, as well as an incredible experience for the community, especially at a time in which we really need all of these things.”
A committee composed of Bakery Square team members, Larimer residents, and local art experts including the city’s office of public art, will choose an individual or team to contract for design and production of the artwork this spring. Installation will occur in early summer and remain visible for approximately 6-12 months, with more installations and opportunities to occur annually as part of the public art program.
This project has the potential to allow more Larimer residents to see themselves in Bakery Square’s rebirth—and truly be a part of it.
“We’ve been excited to work with Walnut Capital over the last several years, as together, we reimagine what thoughtful development can be and do for all residents in nearby communities. This project has the potential to allow more Larimer residents to see themselves in Bakery Square’s rebirth—and truly be a part of it. Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work of inspiring our youths to take advantage of this amazing opportunity,” said Donna Jackson, board of directors chair of the Larimer Consensus Group.
A Q&A follow-up with public art consultant Morton Brown:
What will you be looking for in the chosen artist?
An artist or artist team will be selected based upon past work, experience, and potential for impact and connection with the community of Larimer and the site itself. A strong candidate would be one that shows some experience working within the residency format and/or equivalent past history, but really, we want the art itself to drive the project and the decision process. We have the ability within our project team to support any artist selected, but we are really looking for an artist to have a portfolio that proves he/she/they can create something that inspires curiosity, inclusivity, and encourages a sense of interactivity in some way. We are intentionally being broad in our outlook, however, because we want to become inspired by artist applicants and not place any preconceived notions or artistic parameters. That way the best of the best can arise through the process.
We are intentionally being broad in our outlook, however, because we want to become inspired by artist applicants and not place any preconceived notions or artistic parameters.
Why did you decide to integrate an artist residency with local youth into the project?
The decision to focus work with the schools was really born out of a discussion in which we believed it would be great to engage with kids (rather than adults) this time, as they are typically not the ones that are engaged in community development or attend community meetings and the like. Because we are all impacted this year by COVID, the partnership is a unique opportunity for us as adults to hear through the lens of a child how this unprecedented time has affected them.
How do you believe this public art can help residents in nearby communities feel more included/at home in Bakery Square?
Even though this project is temporary—envisioned to be on display 6-12 months—when you give an artist some quality face-time with residents, it makes everyone feel included. What you want to do is create a situation where the artist and community are having a discussion (in the form of a facilitated dialogue, art workshop, interactive projects, etc.) that results in inspiration to the artist—not necessarily a literal depiction of the community’s history/aspirations, although it can be.
In the case of Duolingo, which used a similar community-driven art process to create a mural on the side of their building, the visiting artist, Ann Lewis, met with language and art classes at the nearby Obama Academy over the course of a week (before COVID), and simply led discussions around “language” and “community” with those high-school students. It was amazing. Students talked about their experiences with communities and how changes in new property developments have made major changes to their lived experiences. At the end of the day, Lewis used this (and the students’ color choices) to create To Be Human, a large-scale mural on the facade of Duolingo that also has the words “We Rise Together” incorporated into the design.
This is a great example of how an artist can be inspired by a community/residency, design artwork that reflects that inspiration, but still create an enduring work of art that is of the highest calibre and reflective of that artist’s style and oeuvre.
While this Duolingo model can certainly be a road map providing direction for Bakery Square, the unique nature of this program during a pandemic will create its own set of circumstances and opportunities. As such, this example should really just spark energy and act as a launching pad for a new, original, and authentic artistic process.