Coming soon: A podcast about Pittsburgh’s public art

It’s about conservation of objects and stories.

This George Washington Memorial in Allegheny Center was copied from a life-sized statue of Washington and unveiled in 1891.

This George Washington Memorial in Allegheny Center was copied from a life-sized statue of Washington and unveiled in 1891.

mj slaby / the incline
MJ Slaby

Maybe it’s a piece of artwork Downtown, a statue in a park or a memorial you see on your way to work.

Ever pass public art and wonder why it’s there?

Yesica Guerra, Pittsburgh’s public art and civic design manager in the Department of City Planning, wants to answer that question with a new city-created audio tour that she describes as being like a podcast.

On Wednesday, the city announced an updated inventory of its art collection, a searchable map, and plans for more ways to learn about the city’s art collection — including a podcast.

The city envisions the podcast like this: Audio would be built into the map, which people can already access on their phones, Guerra said. That way, they can look at the map and listen on the go. Think of it like a museum audio tour. Some episodes will be about one piece, while others will be walking tours incorporating multiple works.

In addition to historic and academic information, Guerra wants to add storytelling from the community to include how the people around the art feel about it. It’s about the preservation of both artwork and stories, she said.

Work on the revamped inventory started a little over a year ago when Guerra took her current role with the city. The new inventory includes historical information, as well as new pictures and updated locations. The map includes monuments, memorials and other public art. The inventory and map are a work in progress, Guerra stressed, adding that she expects continual additions to both.

The next steps in making the podcast a reality is securing funding, but Guerra said, she plans to start doing research and writing scripts soon, so the project can get started within a few months. As far as she knows, this would be the first GIS public art map with audio clips created by a city.

In addition to the podcast, the city plans to add new identification plaques to its public art and has started using Cartegraph, a software tool for the public works and city planning departments to track the condition of the public art.

Know of city-owned art that’s missing from current database? Email Guerra at [email protected] or Tony Cavalline, arts, culture and history specialist in Pittsburgh city planning, at [email protected]