new mural on the south side, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from saeru’s photostream

According to the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, the arts and culture industry in Allegheny County is directly responsible for more than $341 million annually.  Investment in the arts by foundations, corporations, and philanthropists has spurred thousands of jobs, led a revitalization of downtown Pittsburgh, and put our city on the map nationally and internationally. The only factor missing is a direct and strategic involvement by the City of Pittsburgh.

 1. Jobs and Training

Like President Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration, which provided millions of jobs through direct investment in public art, the City of Pittsburgh has an opportunity to provide new jobs, create economic development, and beautify our neighborhoods. The Pittsburgh Art Corps will be designed as a service-learning project funded through the City budget in partnership with the Art Commission and arts-centered foundations and nonprofits to provide 25 to 50 paying jobs that create, maintain, and restore public art in specific neighborhoods throughout the City.

2. Placemaking and Economic Development

Our 90 neighborhoods are what make our city unique. Each neighborhood has its own history, its own flavor, and its own proud traditions and customs going back many generations. The Pittsburgh Art Corps will work to bring out these unique features through arts-based placemaking, working with the community to create new art, maintain existing art, or restore decaying art that supports and promotes the unique identity of each neighborhood. Focusing on neighborhoods most in need of jobs and economic development, this beautification and placemaking will bring new vibrancy, attract small businesses, and reduce crime.

 3. Dedicated Funding Stream

Seattle, Washington pioneered city investments in public art through their use of a 1% set-aside for public art in all city-funded construction projects and economic development initiatives. The funding stream ensures that every development project incorporates community-approved works of art that add to the long-term value of the project. This funding stream, when implemented in Pittsburgh, would make up the bulk of the annual budget of the Pittsburgh Art Corps and would have a multiplier effect, paying dividends over time as an attractor for more economic development. Seattle’s program has led to more than 350 permanent works of art and 2,800 portable works of art that have spurred neighborhood revitalization and a thriving arts tourism industry.

With the amazing talent we have available to us in Pittsburgh we can become a destination for innovative public art that supports our neighborhoods and provides good jobs to our residents.