Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Peter Calaboyias’ Silver Grid Wall Pittsburgh Airport Public Art

Peter Calaboyias’ statement in defense of not removing the Silver Grid Wall, from the airside terminal at the Pittsburgh International airport:

This work has been the topic of an important political issue relevant to artists and their work. Please take a moment to read his argument in favor of keeping the work in place.

As you may know by now, the Allegheny County Airport Authority is planning on removing the Silver Grid Wall from its site location at the airside terminal. This work was funded by public funds and designed specifically for the wall above the escalators.

The main issue here is the removal of a specific site sculpture for the purpose of reusing the space to gain revenue from commercial advertising. Public sculpture can always be removed and relocated for many reasons. Case in point was the removal of four sculptures in the 1980’s at the Carnegie Library, Squirrel Hill Branch, for building expansion. The works were dumped and forgotten in a city warehouse. These have since been found and will be refurbished and relocated in city parks.

This may be the first time that any city, county, state or federal government will remove a specific site work and to then reuse the site for commercial gain. It will happen right here in Allegheny County and the removal has been approved by our Allegheny County Executive director.

It brings attention to a compelling argument not to remove any publicly funded site specific works by government for the sole purpose of gaining additional revenue by selling the space to advertisers. One can see that commissioned works now occupying valuable real estate in the city and county may be in danger of removal for similar reason. I would ask of you to send an e-mail to Dan Onorato expressing your thoughts to keep the sculpture at the airport.

E-mail address of Dan Onorato:

We hope you will voice your support not to remove work for the reason stated.


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  1. i emailed dan, anyone else?

    rick byerly

  2. also since it is public art then the public owns it and should be able keep it in the space it was created for

  3. here is their response:

    Thank you for your email. County Executive Onorato asked that I respond on his behalf.

    Thank you for sharing your comments. I have taken the liberty of forwarding your message to the Airport Authority, which is responsible for the facility. The County Executive has asked the Airport Authority to ensure that the artwork be relocated to another public space in the facility, IF it is ever removed from its current location.

    Thank you again for contacting our office. We appreciate your input.

  4. Ok gang, let's see if you can appreciate a different point of view.

    I have traveled though that airport several hundred times since its' opening in 1991. I have met people and picked up people and shuttled people to and fro and traveled thruohg that space on business and pleasure trips galore.

    Not once in the almost 20 years have I ever once heard anyone remark on this work piece of art called the Silver Grid Wall. Not one comment. That is embarassing IMHO.

    Personally, I don't like it...I think it is boring and invokes virtually no thought other than what a waste of a good space it is. But that is my opinion and I can see if someone disagrees with being in the eye of the beholder and all.

    What I do not agree with is that any space is sacrosanct for any piece of art commissioned or otherwise. The public has the right to change its mind and certainly has the right to distribute its finite resources as time goes by.

    For God's sake, how boring it is to have the same thing in the same place forever?

    Isn't it time to embrace some change in your lives...even in the time capsule that is generally referred to as "Pittsburgh".

    For one, this space isn't "public" any longer. That portion of the airport is restricted to those with tickets and the few (and fewer) people who work "airside".

    So what once was "public" is no longer.

    Next, there are several spaces in the land side portion of the terminal (which attracts many more actual human beings) upon which the piece can be relocated.

    Were I an artist (and I am of sorts) I would want people to see my work. As matters stand, this piece might as well be buried in some county garage as it is seen by fewer and fewer people.

    Next, the willingness of people to pay advertising dollars for this same space will allow both commercial artists and the sculptor to co-exist. If you don't believe commercial work is "art", then check yourself into the bigot line because that is what you are. Hurts doesn't it.

    Finally, I ask you this question. Are you or are you not of the belief that change is good and that saving this space for one piece of work is not thought provoking?

    You don't have to tell me your answer, you just have to apply the same standards you espouse here in your own lives.

  5. i definitely appreciate you posting. i think it's good to have real dialogue on these issues. as far as renting out the space for those who have the money i'm sure that will win over i just don't agree with it. pittsburgh has run amok in terms of public art and not promoting pittsburgh based artists so i believe any chance to keep existing work should be exercised. local govt in its many forms has a stranglehold on public art and avoiding permanent placement of it to suit its needs at the expense of artists and the public. public opinion of art is fickle and should not dictate what exists. a catch 22 to be sure in general. enough of things as is are dictated by commercial interests, no need in my view to sacrifice what's left of "public art".

  6. I agree with the use of the term "stranglehold" in the context that you use it and would like to add some related stuff.

    The new branding phrase "Pittsburgh is Art" is generally a good thing but in terms of public art it begs the question "who's public art is defining Pittsburgh?"

    Many of our art organizations, foundations and institutions spend great sums of money to bring public art and artists to Pittsburgh.

    (Beyond $100,000 beautiful yet temporary French light shows to pump up parking and eating, the arguments are as follows)

    The rational is that Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh based artists are enobled by the talents and perspectives gleened from the outsourced artworks.

    The argument then follows that with this public art outsourcing,the city will hit the world stage as sophisticated and cutting edge.

    Lastly, the argument is made that Pittsburgh artists do not have the resources, experience or the resume to deserve the awarding of large public art commissions.

    These arguments have formed the paradigm that has institutionalized the stranglehold that prevents career advancement for public artists that reside in Pittsburgh.

    The last argument is the Catch 22 Rick mentions. Without self-confidence and a risk taking from funding agents to look to their own, artist find no opportunities to grow their resources and their resumes. It follows that leaving Pittsburgh becomes incentivised.

    Granted, having global arts in Pittsburgh is very important but we are out of balance. What is the end game of a city of art with imported mentors and outsourced public art. Give us the chance to artistically define ourselves and grow talents with financial returns. Money spent on Pittsburgh based artists cycles in Pittsburgh.

    When you make a living from your art you have skin in the game. It is important that working artists hold organizations accountable for policys that directly threaten their livelyhood.

    When an existing work of public art is to be removed or replaced it should send a clear message to all working public artists that your works could be next.