The Lower Hill Team welcomed artists to Frankie Mae Pace Park on Saturday, July 9, for the in-person, Artists Meetup in response to our Call for Artists. Event Planning Team, The M Robinson Group, originally from the Historic Hill District, planned our event and the setup was beautiful. Catering was completed by Grandma Joan’s Catering and Events and the layout was beautiful. The First Source Center table and check-in with Street Team Manager, Denna Zenmon, was in full operation and ran seamlessly and efficiently. The artists were impressed!
The program was great, from the ambience that was created to the professionalism. Director of Community, Arts and Culture, Dr. Kimberly Ellis, welcomed everyone and gave overall expectations. Fred Bonci of LaQuatra Bonci, the landscape designers, came up and shared some introductory thoughts on the meaning and purpose of the future Open Space in the Lower Hill Redevelopment Site, after which Project Manager from Dunham ReGroup, Craig Dunham, shared the process and perspective on the journey ahead. The entire body proceeded to tour the park and, along with Dan MacDowell (of LaQuatra Bonci), it was filled with interesting facts about the creation of the park. Each speaker took turns educating the artists about every section of the Frankie Mae Pace Park, as well as its purpose, function and source of inspiration. One artist works in the Steel Building and said he sees the Sankofa Bird from above on a regular basis and the entire park is a site to behold! He applied before coming!
Baba Art Amir, another artist who helped design the park, told a story in the children's garden and musical area he helped create and after we finished the tour, we had a lovely lunch, did a bit of networking and then departed. The artists said they were very excited and inspired to be a part of the Lower Hill project and they are creatives in many different fields. It appears as though we will have some great submissions for the call for artists! The questions that the artists asked were all answered and it was great to be able to point across the street to the big pile of dirt next to the tower crane and let them know, “we are going to create something beautiful!”
The Frankie Mae Pace Park and its creation set a new standard for the city of Pittsburgh. The demand for local Historic Hill artists inclusion was a demand from Hill leaders, in much the same way that the later CCIP was formed. The collaboration between the SEA, the engineers, the landscape architects, the Office of Public Art, the artists and even PennDOT created a new standard and we should use it as a model throughout the city of Pittsburgh and nationally.
Although it was not the intent, due to the timing of the completion of the park (we began in Fall 2015, opened November 2021), the Frankie Mae Pace Park is the first realization of President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan, which includes funding to specifically address the highways that divided communities.
Project Manager, Craig Dunham, reminds us that the creation of the Park was under President Obama’s “Ladders of Opportunity” program, designed to provide funding for projects that would connect communities.
This is a great project and the call for artists highlights how this is a wonderful opportunity for the artists, future tenants and the general public, who will enjoy the fruits of their labor.