This is the fourth in a five-part series that explores public art in specific Pittsburgh neighborhoods that is visible along the course of the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon. This article highlights the East End. For details about the Marathon, click here.
Ahhh, Oakland . . . So much happening in the four neighborhoods that comprise this mecca of art, culture, “eds,” “meds” and much more. On any given day, the streets teem with backpacked students and health care workers in scrubs. Coffee houses, shops and ethnic eateries brim with doctors and nurses, academics and techies, and families of library and museum goers. (More than 10,000 people reside in Oakland, as well.) The Cathedral of Learning—the second tallest university building in the world—stands as a sentinel amidst Pitt’s campus, with CMU, Carlow and Chatham in the close distance. For energy to cheer on the runners, grab one of the best hot dogs in the ‘Burgh at the O (Essie’s Original Hot Dog Shop).
Race Route: Once across the Birmingham Bridge, marathon and marathon relay runners will ascend the hill on Forbes Avenue, one of the main thoroughfares through Oakland. Runners will no doubt enjoy the impressive Roman and French Gothic architecture of buildings like Heinz Chapel, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Carnegie Museum.
“Interpretation of Oakland”
Nothing says, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” like the mural at 3609 Forbes Avenue featuring kindness icon Mister Rogers. The artist, Jonathan Laidacker, also pays tribute to lesser-known Mary Croghan Schenley, once the largest property owner in the area. She donated some of her acreage—including 300 for the establishment of Schenley Park in 1889. So when you come out to cheer on the runners and walk your dog or picnic in this gorgeous urban green space, thank Mary.
“Stephen Foster Sculpture”
The late Lawrenceville native and great American songwriter Steven Foster (1826-1864) presides over Schenley Plaza at 4400 Forbes Avenue. Known as the “father of American music, “Foster goes down in history for penning some of the most memorable songs ever: “Oh! Susanna,” “Beautiful Dreamer” and “Swanee River,” to name a few in his 200-plus repertoire.
“Dippy the Dinosaur”
Our dear Dippy could vie for the most loved Diplodocus dinosaur of all epochs. Standing at 4400 Forbes Avenue and looking like he just escaped from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, this fiberglass model replicates the real thing: weighing in at 3,000 pounds, standing 22 feet tall and 84 feet in length. Locals may know that this very-Pittsburgh species—Diplodocus carnegii—is named for industrialist Andrew Carnegie.
Dippy is in good company on this leg of the course. Runners and spectators will also encounter two prehistoric-yet-still-surviving sculptures from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s DinoMite Days campaign. (The original 100 dinosaurs were created to showcase the works of established and emerging artists.) This one at 4400 Forbes Avenue, Alphabetasaurus, by local art teacher Carl Goldman, knows his ABCs. Goldman had his students at South Side’s Phillips Elementary School pitch in and paint the letters.
Block Party Alert! Don’t miss the race day party in Oakland. If you aren’t running, join the festivities in Schenley Plaza and plan to cheer from the sidelines. Activities for the entire family will include face painting, art supplies, noise makers, music, doughnuts and coffee, and go-rounds on the PNC Carousel (free from 8 a.m. to noon).
Once a ‘60s hangout for hippies, and the ‘70’s home to the former Heads Together record and head shop, Shadyside is still uber-cool, just now in an upscale kind of way. All within walking distance are tony boutiques, art galleries and practical shops—from florists and book/card shops to the Apple Store—along tree-lined streets (hence, its name). Bring your Yorkie or toy poodle to shop and watch the race; most businesses along the boulevard are pet-friendly. Dining choices are too many to mention—but we’ll mention a few anyway (because they’re so good): Girasole, Soba, Umi, Casbah, Pamela’s Diner, Café Zinho, Sushi Too, The Yard. Even if you haven’t worked off calories as a racer, you simply must not leave Shadyside without a Burnt Almond Torte from Prantl’s—so classic, it’s the Pittsburgh dessert version of a Primati’s sandwich.
Race Route: For miles 14 and 15 of the race, runners will traverse Walnut Street through the heart of Shadyside’s business district.
“Mural on Holy Spirit Church”
The glorious mural that graces the front of Holy Spirit Byzantine Catholic Church along Fifth Avenue (at Clyde Street) is another good place for runners to ask for divine intervention to finish the race with a personal best. Constructed in the 1960s, the church’s stained glass windows and exterior facade triptych were crafted from seven million pieces of Venetian glass in Pietro Santo, Italy. The center panel depicts the Trinity, the left panel shows 12 figures from the Old Testament, and the right side evens things out with 12 figures from the New Testament.
Artist Stevo Sadvary must have been in a cheery disposition when he dreamed up this mosaic of the sun shining down from atop the otherwise drab duplex at 926 South Aiken Avenue. It’s literally a bright spot along the course.
Created by artist Katherine Young, this mural’s blue-lavender hues and metallic finish lend a fresh, contemporary feel to this older brick building at 5442 Walnut Street. Its trees, vines, birds, damask pattern and other touches smartly integrate elements of the actual building.
You can’t miss Henry Clay Frick’s crib—aka Clayton—when you drive, walk or run through Point Breeze. This easy-breezy neighborhood with stately homes is modish like Shadyside, but perhaps more understated. It’s the bomb for vegans and health-conscious eaters, with fare from the Vegetarian Café and Juice Bar at the East End Food Co-op, where you can stock up on provisions, or at Trader Joe’s down the road. For a great beer selection, check out Point Brugge Café or East End Brewing Company’s “Growler Hour” tastings.
Race Route: For a brief 1.5 miles, runners touch Point Breeze briefly as they pass Mellon Park along Penn Avenue then head toward the Frick Art and Historical Center.
The second dino on this stretch of the course is not betting on a winner, but rather, saving for a rainy day. Bill Dollarsaurus at 100 North Braddock Avenue was designed by marketing firm Dymun and Company for their client Dollar Bank. Bill is a classic pink piggy bank, complete with slot on top.
Block Party Alert! “Black, Gold and Loud” is the rally cry for the Point Breeze Marathon Cheer Station. Come join the neighborhood and make signs to support the athletes. Crafts, face painting, balloon animals, and free coffee and doughnuts will be provided at Penn Avenue and South Dallas Avenue.
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Runners are now more than halfway through the full marathon, as they’ve just completed 16.5 miles of city streets. Next up in the final part of this series: Homewood, East Liberty, Highland Park, Friendship and Bloomfield.
For Public Art walking tours, visit https://www.pittsburghartscouncil.org/public-art/walking-tours.
For more details about the neighborhoods, visit http://www.pittsburghcityliving.com/neighborhoodList.php.