Sprout Fund Downtown Art Project Call for Artists | Program Notes

Sprout Fund Downtown Art Project Call for Artists

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For years, Pittsburgh's City-County Building has faced a giant canvas many an artist would envy: the blank, beige side of Downtown's multi-story Law and Finance Building, which looms across Grant Street between Fourth Avenue and Forbes, over a small surface parking lot.

If you think you have what it takes to make that dull wall sing, now's the time to say. The Sprout Fund has announced a $100,000 public-art project for the site, and it's issued a call for artists with a deadline of Sept. 12.

You don't even need a design idea yet. All Sprout wants by Sept. 12 is your qualifications; an application is available at www.publicart.sproutfund.org. The nonprofit will then select three to five artists or artist teams to begin developing ideas for the wall.

While Sprout is best known for the dozens of murals it has funded and facilitated around town, don't limit your imagination, says Sprout Public Art Manager Curt Gettman. The winning idea won't necessarily be a mural. It could be a sculpture, perhaps affixed to the building. Or it could be an artwork that comes alive only at night, like a projection or a creation with LED lights. Or something else entirely.

The $100,000 budget covers the artist commission and material costs; other expenses, including installation, will be separate.

This is the largest single project Sprout has ever attempted. It's meant, Gettman says, to commemorate the group's 10th anniversary.

 Sprout provides small-scale arts funding for arts groups and individual artists; commissions public artworks -- more than 50 of them, mostly murals; involves community stakeholders in the creation of artworks in their neighborhoods; and hosts its annual Hot House fundraiser.

Community engagement is also part of the Law and Finance Building process. Once the finalists are selected, Gettman says, Downtown stakeholders will be invited to meet with them and provide input, probably in October. The designs are scheduled to be unveiled on Dec. 31, installation to begin next spring.

The site presents unique visual challenges, including that parking lot and the presence of other prominent artworks nearby, including the Oxford Center fountain and the City-County Building's own statue of former Mayor Richard Caliguiri.

 "Whoever is selected is going to have to think about context very carefully," notes Gettman. In light of such challenges, Sprout is encouraging applicants to work in teams -- a visual artist with an architect, say.

 "We have a responsibility to do something really good if there's going to be that many people looking at it," he says.

Applicants can direct questions to Gettmann at 412-325-0646 or curt@sproutfund.org.

In addtion, Sprout is hosting an informational session on the project at its office, at 5423 Penn Ave., in Garfield, at 6 p.m. Tue., Aug. 23.

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