Calling all creatives: Riverlife wants you to transform an ‘unloved’ Pittsburgh spot

Applications are due Dec. 1.

Photo by Maranie Staab / Courtesy of Riverlife
Rossilynne Culgan

Find inspiration in unlikely places? Riverlife wants your ideas.

The non-profit dedicated to reclaiming, restoring and promoting Pittsburgh’s riverfronts is seeking ideas to transform the area under the Fort Duquesne Bridge, Downtown, into a public installation.

You probably know this area as the walkway between the Point State Park and the Cultural District along the Allegheny River with the black-and-gray mural. But Riverlife sees it as so much more than a sidewalk, noting its cathedral-esque architecture, “vaulted with massive concrete bridge support columns and an 800-foot wall running along the river.”

“The infrastructure is so cool that it creates this kind of room right by the riverfront,” Riverlife spokesperson Stephan Bontrager said.

The entire space is up for grabs, including the wall with the existing gray mural, which was a temporary installation.

“The sky is the limit with this. We’re not just looking for ideas with murals,” he said.

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Courtesy of Riverlife

Riverlife encourages artists, designers, graphic designers, architects, landscape architects and other creative professionals to apply. A team, Bontrager said, might include a graffiti artist and a textile artist, for example.

Though Riverlife sees the space as special — and people do use it — others were nervous to use it after dark because of some blind corners, Bontrager said.

“It’s one of those things where it’s been unloved for a long time, and it is a challenging space to work in,” he said. “You can’t necessarily build some of the other riverfront developments or parks that we’ve seen throughout Pittsburgh.”

For that reason, the project is called ‘to be determined’ (or ‘tbd’), which aims to spark conversation about how the space could be enhanced to make it a more welcoming part of Pittsburgh’s riverfront park system.

Whatever project is picked will be temporary, just like the other recent exhibitions there: Adjutant, a mural by Kim Beck; Displaced, the pop-up exhibit of Syrian refugee photography by Maranie Staab; and artwork/poetry by students from Pittsburgh’s Creative and Performing Arts High School.

“The idea of tbd is to come up with these temporary installations that will draw people,” Bontrager said. “That helps us build the case for investing more resources into a longer term vision for it.”

Why should you apply?

“This is such a wonderful city where it’s accessible and within reach to actually leave your mark on improving the city. There’s a lot of latitude for creativity, and we’re a city full of creative thinkers,” Bontrager said. “Whether the winning selection comes from inside Pittsburgh or outside Pittsburgh, it really is a community effort to make it happen.”

Interested? Here’s how to apply.

Riverlife is seeking “requests for qualifications.” That means you (or you and your team) don’t need to come up with a grand idea right away. Instead, you’d share information about your capabilities and submit examples of your work. And “qualifications,” Bontrager points out, doesn’t mean you need a master’s degree.

Submissions are due by noon Dec. 1. Then a jury of fellow creatives will select three semi-finalists in January 2018. All three semi-finalists will get $5,000 to help flesh out their ideas and to cover their time and expenses. For the month of January, the top three will develop their proposals and submit them at the end of the month. Judges will announce the winner Feb. 26, and that winner (or winning team) will receive $60,000 to finalize the design concept, purchase materials, and install the project.

Riverlife plans to have the project installed during June 2018.