Building Bridges is an artist initiated public art project driven by Northside community input to improve aesthetic appeal of the I279 highway fencing infrastructure that divides the neighborhoods of East Deutschtown and East Allegheny. The gateway installation reimagines Deutschtown’s history in a collaged photographic timeline chronicling the area’s development before and after highway construction. The collages are then translated into illustrative silhouettes cut into aluminum. Building Bridges will permanently span the connecting overpass suicide fencing along the Tripoli Street pedestrian bridges transforming this transitional space from a barrier to a point of connectivity.
Building Bridges collage designs are comprised of photographs donated by long time East Deutschtown and East Allegheny residents and from partnering organization, Allegheny City Historic Gallery who have shared personal photographs of the neighborhood before and after the highway construction. By using personal and collected images as the content for the Building Bridges project, Northside residents can take ownership and propagate stories of place through a permanent visual timeline. The handcut collages are translated into vectorized silhouettes in Illustrator and prepared to be cut on a CNC router into 1/8" aluminum panels. By using personal and collected images as the content for the Building Bridges project, Northside residents can take ownership and propagate stories of place through a permanent visual timeline.
Building Bridges aims to meet at the intersections between memory and placemaking, opening a larger dialogue about visions of progress and forced change in our cityscape. Through the 1970s to 1990s, approximately one-third of Pittsburgh’s historic Deutschtown neighborhood was demolished to make way for the new I-279 and for expansion of Rte.28. More than 1,300 buildings —homes, businesses, churches and schools — were lost. North Side neighborhoods were severed and suffered great decay. Approximately 45,000 people currently live on the North Side and more than 165,000 vehicles use I-279 and Rte 28 every day with concrete overpasses lined with chain-link “suicide fences” connect our remaining neighborhoods. They are loud, gray, dirty and lifeless. Through several community meetings and presentations the members of our Community Alliance groups of East Deutschtown and East Allegheny and District 1 Councilwoman Darlene Harris want to reclaim these expanses, soften their harshness to invite more interaction and connectivity.
Building Bridges will be installed in phases, strategically beginning with the most visible and used pedestrian bridge, Phase I: Tripoli Street between September 2016- May 2017.
"Oreen Cohen: Building Bridges," By Libbie Katsev, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette July 17, 2016 http://www.post-gazette.com/ae/art-architecture/2016/07/17/Oreen-Cohen-Building-bridges/stories/201607170005
Honored to be supported by The Pittsburgh Foundation and Heinz Endowments Investing in Professional Artists Program and The Sprout Fund One Northside grant