project leader
Jody G
605 Ross Avenue
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the project

Preserving Wilkinsburg Art-i-facts is not only a way to connect people across time and place, but also to connect with lives that may be very different from our own.  By understanding our history we gain insights into who we are today as well as building community, identity, and culture.

Wilkinsburg history can be seen at the Wilkinsburg Borough Building as you climb the stairs between the second and third floors, where the W.P.A. artist Harold Carpenter has painted the Borough's history entitled "The History of Wilkinsburg".  This 1940 mural depicts a vast panorama of First Nations trappers, Sam Rippy's famous tavern, houses of worship all the way to the Westinghouse bridge, plant, and belching smokestacks of the Carnegie-Illinois plants in Rankin and Braddock in the distance.  There is a layer of dust and dirt on the surface; the varnish has discolored, and there are a number of abrashions that require expert attention.

The Civil War Flags, also located in the same Borough Building stairwell, are from the 61st Pennsylvania Infantry organized at Pittsburg beginning in July 4, 1861 under the command of Colonel Samuel W. Black. They were donated to Wilkinsburg Borough by a Mr. Renton who was the last surviving Civil War veteran from Wilkinsburg.  A proposal for the conservation of Wilkinsburg’s two Civil War Flags and smaller pennant has been submitted by Nancy Boomhower.  The condition of all three textiles are in the process of degradation due to the display cabinet which includes a toxic micro-environment of dirt, and the 24/7 florescent lighting surrounding the case. If left untreated the flags will split in two as both flags have major stress where they are attached to the poles from which they are suspended.  Motion dedection, museum level lighting is recommended. 

The second phase of the Preservation Art-i-facts project is planned to replace the now corroded copper sculpture of Abraham Lincoln who stands watch over the Borough near the top of the Penn Lincoln Highway.  This statue was famously known for the Wilkinsburg school children who collected pennies which were melted to coat the statue. Today the statue has stood the test of time but is in poor condition. A stone or bronze replacement is planned. 

the steps

May 1, 2018:National Endowment for the Humanities Grant Deadline.

and Remove current Lincoln Statue from outdoors Penn Lincoln Highway location, to a protected location inside the Borough Building.

June 1, 2018 - July 31, 2018:Painting restorer,  Rikke Foulke begins cleaning and repair of the Wilkinburg History Mural in the Borough stairwell.

June 16, 2018:Anne Elise Morris, President of the Wilkinsburg Historical Society, and conservator Rikke Foulke present an information session at the Wilkinsburg Library Main Branch about the project.

August 1 2018:Borough Building florescent lighting replaced with motion detection, museum quality lighting.

August 1 2018 - 2019:Each Civic War flag will be strategically removed, one at a time, and transported to Nancy Boomhower's textile conservation and restoration studio for cleaning, archival backing, repairs.

September 10, 2018:Artist call for proposals for the replacement of the Lincoln Statue. 

January 1, 2019:Following community engagement conversations regarding the artist's proposals for the Lincoln Statue, an artist is chosen. 

January 2019 - 2020:Creation and installation of the Lincoln Statue.

why we're doing it

The Art-i-facts restoration project, a collaboration between the Wilkinsburg Historical Society, the Wilkinsburg Borough and Center for Civic Arts, falls within the context of other renovations to the nearby Wilkinsburg iconic train station, and renovations to the Borough Building facilities.  Wilkinsburg also plans restorations to vacant properties, particularly to the gateways into the Borough, including the Ardmore Boulevard corridor and the HIstoric District designations for the Penn Lincoln Highway.  Together these preservation efforts demonstrate an effort in Wilkinsburg to change public perception that Wilkinsburg's identity is blighted, instead of bright.  More Pittsburgh neighborhoods will see greater economic opportunity when communities with high rates of poverty are able to counteract the public perception that the streets appear abandoned and violent. Bringing about systemic change in distressed neighborhoods is a complicated mix of public perception, cultural norms, homegrown politics, racism, leadership, and investment priorities.  The stigma that follows these distressed neighborhoods deters investors from investing in the neighborhoods that need the help most.  To address these challenges in Wilkinsburg, we propose a partnership of local organizations that each contribute to a re-construction of place, development of existing positive assets, and increase the social capital we need to develop positive community identity and cohesion. As these public assets are forged at the intersection of market demand, civic engagement and public investment, the community-based creative sector has the opportunity to express itself through the social unions that can be formed at every site that is built for public access and use.  The use of creative industries and revitalization efforts called creative place-making, is where artistry transforms the built environment and public perception gets a wake-up call.  The Art-i-facts project will not only preserve and showcase Wilkinsburg's history, but also showcase the contributions that Wilkinsburg has contributed to the greater good.


Phase one: Workers Progress Administration (WPA) Wilkinsburg's History, by Harold Carpenter

Phase one: two Civil War flags, and banner

Phase one: museum quality lighting

Phase two: Abraham Lincoln Statue replacement on Wilkinsburg's Penn Lincoln Highway


Project Subtotal =  $15,000
ioby Platform Fee  $35
ioby Donation Processing Fee (3%) $450
Total to raise on ioby = $15,485



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