Photo by SteelCityPhoto.

August Wilson, Andrew Carnegie and Gertrude Stein: together at last.

Yesterday, the city unveiled “We Are Pittsburgh” — a large-scale, interactive art installation featuring some of the leading figures of Pittsburgh’s past — located Downtown at the corner of Stanwix Street and Fort Duquesne Boulevard.

Designed by artists Joshua Chang and Aaron Ramon, the work features 20 banners each measuring 80 feet long. Local luminaries depicted on the banners range from titans of the 20th century to royalty from the region’s pre-independence era.

At first glance, the banners appear to be standard, if massive, portraits. But look closer.

Chang and Ramon designed the faces using large, monochrome patterns that appear abstract when seen up-close, but gradually come into focus as the viewer moves further from the building.

Not only that, the images take on a new sharpness and dimension when viewed through the screen of a phone, encouraging a sense of tech-fueled play and discovery.

Chang and Ramon’s concept was chosen by an advisory committee that included city representatives, private partners, Downtown business owners and other local stakeholders.

While there’s no shortage of public art on our streets, the project marks the first public art collaboration with a private developer. The city’s Public Art & Civic Design Division (PA+CD) worked with Joco LLP and a private organization called Urban Growth Properties to coordinate and plan the project.

The work is meant to showcase “public art as a tool to learn about our history,” says Yesica Guerra, public art and civic design manager for the city.

A history “that could be experienced from different perspectives and lenses, including but not limited to new technological platforms,” says Guerra. “Projects of this scale and nature should inspire excellence in art and design, and showcase innovative artistic implementations while paying homage to Pittsburgh’s legacy.”

Check out the key for the famous faces below:

Graphic courtesy of the Department of City Planning.

Bill O'Toole

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.