Photo courtesy of Rachel Saul Rearick.

Start scrolling through your cell phone photos and take a deep dive into those Instagram accounts. A new public art project is launching with images of the holiday season emblazoned on buildings Downtown.

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP) has commissioned artist Kahmeela Adams to create the public art project, “Winter Snapshot.” The photographic portrait will feature a compilation of images depicting winter submitted by residents. The project is open to all Pittsburghers, living here or away from home.

The images will be projected from dusk until dawn on the storefront windows of 623 Smithfield St., between Strawberry Way and Sixth Avenue, from Nov. 27 through Jan. 1.

The “Winter Snapshot” project will dovetail with several other public art installations Downtown, some of which the PDP has yet to unveil.

Adams — a Toledo-bred, Pittsburgh-based artist best known for her photography work and the Rugged Angel podcast — says there’s a deep need right now for people to come together and revel in the glow and the buzz of winter.

“2020 has been …” Harris pauses and then censors herself, instead blowing a big raspberry with her lips. “People have been a little blue and we’re not going to be able to celebrate the holidays like we used to.”

Photos, she feels, might just be the answer.

“There’s been a lot of ‘snowed-in’ photos submitted, which I enjoy; I like that a lot — it’s a ‘we’re all in this together’ kind of thing,” Adams laughs. “I love a good story. I love a good backstory and all that. And I love telling people’s stories.”

Adams says she will be submitting pics of her two dogs — a Yorkshire Terrier/Shih Tzu mix named Professor Moriarty and a Shih Tzu dubbed Albert Einstein — in Santa sweaters. But the presentation Downtown doesn’t stop at Christmas, officials stress.

“We’re not only looking for Christian celebrations of Christmas,” notes Renee Piechocki, an independent public art consultant working with the PDP. “We want a very diverse portrait of Pittsburgh in the winter! We’re really interested in everyone’s experience.”

Photo by Kahmeela Adams.

Piechocki says the idea for some of the installations staged Downtown this winter stems from the old Project Pop Up, a successful effort she helmed after she founded the city’s Office of Public Art in 2005. (She served as director of the office through 2017.)

“We thought, “We really need to make sure Downtown is vibrant for the holiday season,’” Piechocki says.

In addition to “Winter Snapshot,” those venturing Downtown can catch “Downtown Renown,” a portrait series of Pittsburgh sports icons rendered in nontraditional fashion by artist Gavin Benjamin, and “New Space Spheres,” pieces of “social distance artwork” from Janel Young.

“One of the great things about public art at this time is the idea that we’re producing vibrancy Downtown and giving people something safe to interact with,” says Richard Hooper, vp of marketing and communications for the PDP.

“The conceptual framework is really figuring out how to give many people opportunities right now,” adds Piechocki, who estimates the work of 100 artists currently is on display Downtown. “I don’t know another neighborhood that’s showing 100 artists.”

The PDP hopes to point people to all of these works and get them engaged in “Winter Snapshot,” in part, through placing vinyl appliques with QR codes on streets throughout Downtown. There, people snapping away with their smartphones can find a one-stop shop with information on public art, Hooper says.

“The holidays are still happening. We’re still gonna be Downtown,” Hooper adds. “We’re still going to have those experiences. We’re still going to make those memories — maybe we’ll even see them in a future exhibition!”

To participate in “Winter Snapshot,” send photos and videos running less than five minutes to Submissions will be accepted through Dec. 10.

Justin Vellucci

A former news reporter for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, Justin Vellucci currently freelances for a number of Pittsburgh publications and works as a staff writer for the music magazines PopMatters and Spectrum Culture. He has been contributing to NEXTpittsburgh since January 2020. He lives in Greenfield.