This is the final feature in a five-part series exploring public art in Pittsburgh neighborhoods visible along the course of the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon. Here we highlight Homewood, East Liberty, Highland Park, Friendship and Bloomfield.
We’re on the homestretch now! In this final leg of the race, marathoners will be making their way through five neighborhoods in the eastern end of the city. The excitement really ramps up as runners push through to avoid hitting the wall. If you’re coming out to watch the race, here’s where you can best lend an encouraging “keep going!” or “almost there!” cheer.
The one square mile called Homewood has a population of 6,200 people and features several historic landmarks and a rich history. Yes, industrialist Andrew Carnegie was a Homie in his day. More recently, the community’s art scene has burgeoned, thanks to the Homewood Arts Initiative, Operation Better Block and other nonprofits. Of particular note is the Homewood Coliseum, a venue for arts and cultural events. Post-race, enjoy a tasting in East End Brewing’s Brewpub Tasting Room or a Grains-to-Glass brewery tour. If cycling is more your thing, check out The Wheel Mill indoor bicycle park on Hamilton Avenue.
Race Route: Homewood (miles 17 and 18) is consistently voted a favorite neighborhood by marathoners. The fan support is typically tremendous, so come on out and join in!
“Season of Hope”
Another Sprout Fund supported mural, this one by artist James Maszle is life-size at more than 200 feet in length. The 12 panels depict portraits of young and old Homewood residents, as well as symbols such as the tree of life and the façade of Westinghouse High School. It’s painted on the site of the Meadows Bowling Center, a local landmark and community center opened by the owner of the Homestead Grays baseball team.
“A Rose by Another Name”
Runners may not be able to stop and smell the roses but the rest of us can enjoy the prose on this mural by Lisa Vasser at 6906 Bennett Street.
Block Party Alert! Head over to Frankstown Avenue (between Homewood and Lang Avenues) for free coffee, doughnuts, juices, hot dogs and hamburgers and enjoy music by DJ Nick Nice. Or grab some ribs; Homewood also has some of the city’s best BBQ joints.
S’Liberty is one of Pittsburgh’s coolest neighborhoods these days, home to Google (with Facebook and Uber nearby), AlphaLab Gear, Tech Shop, Ascender and tons of other tech startups and biz accelerators, not to mention top-shelf eateries like Spoon and Plum. East Liberty Development Inc. has gone big in rehabbing many of the historic commercial buildings along the Penn Avenue corridor. The area is an increasingly thriving place for businesses, shopping, hip hotels like Ace and Indigo, and new residential living such as Bakery Square 2.0’s luxe apartments. Runners and spectators alike will know they’re near East Liberty when they spot the gothic spires of East Liberty Presbyterian Church in the distance, built as a memorial to the Mellon family.
Race Route: A short jaunt on the edge of East Liberty takes runners through miles 18 and 19. Participants may be tiring around this time so cheer extra loudly as they race by!
This mural by the renowned artist Romare Bearden is a copy of the original in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, which recreates in paint a stretch of Lenox Avenue in Harlem. This same artist did the tile mural at the T-station in Gateway Center.
Block Party Alert! Costumes and dress-up games await children who are cheering at this point along the course. Join the festivities at Frankstown Avenue and East Liberty Boulevard.
Marathoners may be on a runner’s high going through Highland Park, home of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium and its namesake green space, as well as an abundance of beautiful older homes and duplexes along tree-lined streets.
Race Route: Runners will enter the neighborhood from the corner of North Highland Avenue and Bryant Street, and run along Bryant Street to North Negley Avenue.
“Highland Park Mural”
Reflections of water and blue skies add a calming effect at the corner of Bryant Street and North St. Clair Avenue. The image of the Highland Park Entry Garden—and the stone pillars and monuments at Reservoir Drive and North Highland Avenue—were captured for posterity by Marc Runco.
Block Party Alert! Highland Parkers always show up to cheer on the runners as they hit the 20-mile mark. Join them at the corner of North Highland Avenue and Bryant Street for sign-making, noisemaking, face painting (from 9 to 11 a.m.), free doughnuts and cups of Joe, and live music by Hill Jordan & Slide Worldwide in front of the Bryant Street Market. After the big event, enjoy race-day specials from neighborhood restaurants.
You’ve got a friend in Friendship. This neighborhood has a welcoming vibe, inviting green spaces for hanging out or playing, and no lack of magnificent old houses with Victorian architecture.
Race Route: As runners approach mile 22, they encounter a brief stretch of the neighborhood of Friendship near Baum Boulevard and Liberty Avenue—right before their final descent into Downtown Pittsburgh. Keep going, runners! You’re almost there!
This “Avenue B” mural by Berry Breene at 5501 Centre Avenue might give runners hunger pangs with its fresh, meaty tomatoes and colorful sweet peppers.
Block Party Alert! Every year, Friendship neighbors create an Inspiration Station to boost runners’ spirits and stamina at mile 21. It features locally-made street puppets, wildly enthusiastic cheerleaders, and supplies of the ever-popular and always refreshing Ice Pops. Get some at the corner of East Liberty Boulevard and North Negley Avenue.
“Bloomfield” is Pittsburghese for “Little Italy.” This is where you bring your appetite and mangia bene. Sure, it’s got Tessaro’s, Lombardozzi’s and Donatelli’s Italian Food Center but you can also find great Thai, Vietnamese, locally baked bread and more. Walk off that meal by shopping along Liberty Avenue for books, clothes and classic vinyl records—or get some bocce court action happening at the small park nearby. Cap off the day in one of the bars, where bands play in intimate spaces.
Race Route: Most runners remember Bloomfield for its lively cheer zones. When they get a whiff of the great smelling street-side cooking, they know they’re close to the final stretch of Liberty Avenue and the finish line.
Hey, if grandma can keep up the pace, runners sure can, right? This delightful mural of Grand Mère by Bob Ziller at 4610 Liberty Avenue is an homage to his own Grammie. With a spatula in one hand, rolling pin in the other, and a checkerboard apron, she’s a modern day, Bloomfield-styled super-heroine.
“Foodscape on a Restaurant”
Oh yeah, runners’ tummies are growling now as they continue through Bloomfield and catch sight of this mural at 4428 Liberty Avenue. That post-race meal is going to be so sweet.
“Sargent Electric Tile Mosaic”
Go fly a kite! That could be the title for this mosaic mural at 3424 Liberty Avenue on a building formerly owned by Sargent Electric Company. Its themes are Benjamin Franklin’s discovery, hydroelectric power and what looks like an early power plant. Racers are generating some electricity of their own as they head into the final stretch.
Block Party Alert! Bloomfield welcomes spectators at its official party from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Liberty Avenue and Edmond Street: Sample yummy neighborhood-made pastries and sip a cappuccino while being serenaded by a strolling accordionist.
Well, that’s it folks, 26.2 miles of terrain dotted with eclectic and very Pittsburgh public art. Here’s wishing all marathoners the best run of your life, and all spectators a happy day cheering them on!
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.