A $200,000 Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts will help fund the Office of Public Art’s newest Artist Residency in the Public Realm.

The OPA, in conjunction with Welcoming Pittsburgh, is searching for four artists to participate in a two-year artist residency program that will pair each artist with a local organization that serves immigrant communities: Northern Area Multi-Service Center, United Somali Bantu of Greater Pittsburgh, Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council, and Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh.

“The focus on collaboration between artist and organization is the key to this project’s success,” says Renee Piechocki, Director of the Office of Public Art.

Year one of the program is concerned with the artist and their respective communities sharing ideas and getting to know one another, while the second year involves the implementation of the art project itself, the guidelines of which are deliberately ambiguous.

OPA meeting with Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh. Photo courtesy OPA.
OPA meeting with Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh. Photo courtesy OPA.

“Many times when you’re doing a public arts project you mostly know what’s going to happen,” says Piechocki. “You’ll end up with artwork in a place. Is it a sculpture? Is it a mural? That part may be up in air, but what’s different with this program is it’s completely open-ended.”

What form might a non-physical art project ultimately take? Recent OPA Artist in the Public Realm Edith Abeyta spent a yearlong residency at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Hazelwood branch and developed a neighborhood arts excursion plan after months of collaboration and meetings with community members.

“The goal is to break down the barriers the residents have,” Abeyta told NEXT at the time. “It’s a way for families to join their neighbors and connect with one another, to develop visual literacy and take it back to their neighborhood.”

Each artist will be paid a $25,000 stipend for each year of the two-year residency and each individual project will have an anticipated budget of between $20,000-$30,0000. They do not have to live in a given area but are expected to spend at least 15-20 hours a week in their community.

Piechocki says that an ideal candidate for this program will have to be comfortable with the open-ended nature of the art project program as well as be comfortable working in a cross-cultural setting.

“We want someone willing to take risks,” she adds. “They may be the only person in the room speaking English and have to be ready to take that leap.”

The application deadline is February 6, 2017. The Office of Public Art is a public private partnership between the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council and the City of Pittsburgh Department of City Planning. More information and details on public information sessions can be found in the Call for Artists.

Brian Conway

Brian Conway is a writer and photographer whose articles have appeared in the Chicago Tribune and local publications. In his free time, he operates Tripsburgh. Brian lives in the South Side.