Pittsburgh officials and artists unveiled new art installations Friday on the Fern Hollow Bridge in Frick Park.
Pittsburgh-based artists John Peña and Carin Mincemoyer designed artwork on the Tranquil Trail section and under the bridge, respectively.
The new Fern Hollow Bridge was built less than a year after the previous span collapsed in January 2022. Officials declared an emergency to expedite the construction process. Some residents and art commissioners expressed concern that without the inclusion of an artistic element, the distance would be an eyesore.
Salian Clouse, executive director of the city’s Office of Public Art, said the installations unveiled Friday are part of an effort to alleviate those concerns.
“I think the elements that are in the bridge right now are starting to create a human-scale relationship with it,” she said.
She said the work was included through a collaborative effort between various city, state and federal entities, as well as local community groups, residents, artists and makers.
“That’s what makes our city a great city — our ability to be able to come together,” said Mayor Ed Gainey, touting the collaborative effort to add an art component to the bridge after hearing community support for such artwork.
One percent of the project’s total budget — or about $250,000 — is set aside for the art installations, Clouse said.
The effort should be “a new standard for what can be achieved when we engage artists in infrastructure projects,” she said.
Peña said he studied the geologic record and history of water-related events in the area for inspiration when crafting the bridge artwork. His installation, called 400 Million Years of Water, includes posters on the railings that provide information and sketches of various historical moments related to water, ranging from the current Fern Hollow Stream to the Pittsburgh River or the ancestral Monongahela that covered the area in ancient times.
The installation also includes artwork on the cement barriers separating pedestrian sidewalks from vehicular traffic.
Peña said he was excited to see the artwork in his community and to pass his own installation while walking his dog on the bridge. Although he said it meant a lot to him personally, Peña admitted that working on such a large project was also a boost to his professional career.
“I feel like it really promotes my own professional development as an independent artist in the city of Pittsburgh,” he said.
Under the bridge, Mincemoyer built an installation called the Trail Meander along the Tranquil Trail, which people use for walking and biking.
The work consists of various seating elements in the form of stones and wood along the path and on the embankments.
“This project was of personal importance to me because I lived in this neighborhood for many years and spent many hours in Frick Park,” Mintzemoyer said.
Jason Zang, executive director of PennDOT District 11, said the priority of the Fern Hollow Bridge project is simply to get the road reopened as quickly as possible. He applauded the collaborative effort that allowed officials to not only build a new bridge in less than a year, but also to listen to community feedback and integrate desired public art residents.
“The focus was to reopen it, but somehow we were able to bring art into it,” he said.
• Completed Fern Hollow Bridge pictured before reopening Friday
• The Pittsburgh Arts Commission wants more public input on the Fern Hollow Bridge reconstruction
• Fern Hollow Bridge to get new artwork on the paths below the section