South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Al Lowe
Contributing Writer 

Landscapes preferred for police station


March 10, 2009

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl stopped by the public meeting in Allentown to talk to residents about the public art proposed for the new Zone 3 police station during artist Kim Beck's (left) presentation.

— Public art process continues for Zone 3 new home —

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl paid a brief surprise visit to a March 3 Allentown public meeting between residents, art enthusiasts and artist Kim Beck, who is designing art work to decorate the windows of the Zone 3 police station to be relocated in that community.

Attendees were debating choosing which of Ms. Beck's designs to endorse - patterns, plants or landscapes - when Mr. Ravenstahl entered the Allentown Senior Center where the meeting was being held.

"I think we should pause to welcome the mayor," Ms. Beck said.

"I hate to interrupt in the middle. I won't be long… This is all about community feedback and input… I'm happy to have Kim on board… This is a great opportunity. Allentown is an entrance to our community. We should make the building a welcome attraction rather than what it looks like now," the mayor said.

Allentown's former hostel building is being converted into a police station. Ms. Beck is designing art work to be put on the station's first floor windows with two panels each for the Warrington and Arlington Avenue sides of the building.

"I can't wait until it opens. I can't wait to see it," Mr. Ravenstahl said.

The grand opening date is unknown and is dependent on the delivery of furniture, gym equipment, radios, computers and lockers.

The date could occur in early or mid-April. Ms. Beck's work on the design and approval by city officials will hurry along "at breakneck speed," said Morton Brown, public art manager for the department of city planning.

Mr. Brown will deliver packets featuring the design to the city's art commission on March 11. That board will vote on approval at a public hearing 2 p.m. March 25 at 200 Ross Street. He invited residents to attend and said that the art commission "needs to see support."

The design will then be given to a fabricator for final work etching the silver lines of the design on dark green metal. The city has no other similar projects finished by the fabricator; this is the first one. "We're on the cutting edge," Mr. Brown said. He hoped the design would be finished in time for the ribbon cutting ceremony.

Mr. Brown said he planned to update attendees by email. He hopes to have the final design available for viewing at several locations, including 1820 East Warrington, the Ott Agency at 746 East Warrington in Allentown and the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation headquarters at 301 Shiloh St. He admitted there was not much time to get feedback other than from the "stakeholders" who attended that night's meeting.

Ms. Beck said she preferred the designs featuring landscapes. "That's what sparked my creative energy…These are images representing neighborhoods… Our area has unique architecture, hills and stairs…The city is known world-wide for its slopes… There's pride of place… Landscapes are just more exciting. "

The other choices were patterns or plants but the consensus of the group was that the landscapes would be the most appealing design.

"Plants are very pretty. But they're not as exciting or as specific. These plants could be anywhere, not just Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania," Ms. Beck said.

"I'm drawn to the same designs you are," Renee Piechocki, director of the Office of Public Art, said. "They'd never get old. They'd reflect the community. They're timeless. My least favorite design is the patterns. Without fabric they seem fake. They lose their content."

"You obviously did your homework," Councilman Bruce Kraus said. "You paid excruciating attention to detail. Having a design background I appreciate your thoughtfulness. I agree that the landscapes show the heart and soul of the community. It's what the police protect."

Ms. Beck said she didn't want to depict figures with the landscapes because she felt that "the viewer becomes the figure." She said the landscapes make her think of her neighbors, including one neighbor who had 13 children.

Ms. Beck, who taught at Carnegie Mellon, graduated with a B.A. in art from Brandeis University and also received a M.F.A. degree from the Rhode Island School of Design. Her work has been displayed at Artist Image Resources and Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. A panel chose her from eight applicants to undertake the project.

She lives in the Park Place neighborhood in Pittsburgh.

"I came to Pittsburgh five years ago because a friend told me I'd just love it. It's wonderful. It is a beautiful city."


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