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Richard Parsakian at the public art installation on Ellsworth in Shadyside


CROSSROADS The story behind Shadyside’s new LGBTQ Pride public art intersection BY RYAN DETO // RYANDETO@PGHCITYPAPER.COM



Maryland Avenues has more significance than meets the eye. In the mid-1990s, when LGBTQ Pride marches in Pittsburgh were small and grassroots, Richard Parsakian and others in the community held a homemade rainbow flag over that intersection. Most of the early Pride marchers in Pittsburgh passed through the Ellsworth corridor, and the area was, and still is to some extent, home to a cluster of LGBTQ-owned businesses, like Parsakian’s Eons Fashion Antique and the bar 5801, as well as other LGBTQfriendly places like Harris Grill. In 2015, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that all states must accept same-sex marriage licenses, people flooded into the intersection at Ellsworth and Maryland to celebrate.

Parsakian says the intersection has become like a Freedom Corner for Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ community, referencing the Hill District location that was seminal in Pittsburgh’s fight for civil rights. “I hoisted the flags over the marchers at that intersection. This is sort of like our gayborhood,” says Parsakian. And now the corner has been memorialized with a recently installed public art project to mark its significance. The intersection is filled with a collage of colors and shapes to represent every group of the LGBTQ community and to signify to visitors and Pittsburghers alike the role the area played in the fight for equal rights. “The public art, it is sort of a small thing, but it is the city recognizing that we are a big part of the Pittsburgh community,” says Parsakian. “In terms of

public art, there is no other place in the city that acknowledges the history and struggle of our community.” It all started with a bit of guerrilla art in 2017. That year, two crosswalks at Ellsworth and Maryland were painted with rainbow stripes in honor of Pride. But, according to Pittsburgh City Councilor Erika Strassburger, that paint wasn’t approved by anyone in city government. Even so, the community seemed to embrace it, and the rainbow crosswalks were allowed to stay. Two years later, the paint started to fade, and the Ellsworth corridor community, along with Strassburger, thought it was a good idea to do something more permanent to honor the LGBTQ community. Working with the city’s Public Art Commission, a request for proposals was put out to find an artist. Leonardo

Moleiro, a Venezuelan artist who now lives in Los Angeles, was chosen. He created an installation in his classic cubism style to honor the LGBTQ community and commemorate the 1969 Stonewall protests, a series of demonstrations in New York City that are widely considered some of the most important events in the modern LGBTQ rights movement. The result of the public art project is a circular shape that sits in the center of the intersection. That circle is comprised of about two dozen shapes of different colors. The colors pay homage not just to the rainbow flag, but also the transgender flag, and include a nod to people of color within the LGBTQ community, says Moleiro. He says the circle design inside the square was “important to the energy flow” and acts as a way to have the design stand out and draw eyes to the CONTINUES ON PG. 12



Profile for Pittsburgh City Paper

June 5, 2019 - Pittsburgh City Paper  

Pittsburgh's leading arts and entertainment newsweekly, focusing on Pittsburgh's PRIDE.

June 5, 2019 - Pittsburgh City Paper  

Pittsburgh's leading arts and entertainment newsweekly, focusing on Pittsburgh's PRIDE.