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Artwork submitted by Pittsburgh artist Ginger Brooks Takahashi

prideful colors. “I want to show harmony and balance,” says Moleiro. “With the LGBTQ community, we have to work together to achieve rights for everybody.” But some Pittsburgh artists are perturbed that an LGBTQ artist wasn’t selected for the installation. Julie Mallis and Ginger Brooks Takahashi, both LGBTQ artists, submitted proposals to the city’s Request For Proposal (RFP) process. Mallis says the art commission missed an opportunity. “Let’s not forget the intention of the mural is to acknowledge and celebrate 50 years since the Stonewall Riots,” says Mallis. “The least we can do is make sure the money set forth from District 8 is going back to someone in the LGBTQIA+ community when our rights are constantly attacked and our access to housing, jobs, and healthcare is restricted.” The RFP was publicized in a TribLive article on March 6 and shared on many official Pittsburgh social media accounts, including Pittsburgh City Council District 8, Mayor Bill Peduto, and Peduto’s chief of staff Dan Gilman. Artists looking to submit proposals had four weeks to do so, from March 4 through March 29. Daniel Tobin of the city’s Office of Management and Budget says “all proposals are reviewed and scored by committee based on the criteria that is listed in the specific solicitation.” The committee was made up of representatives from various Pittsburgh city

departments and from Strassburger’s office. Pittsburgh City Paper asked who specifically submitted bids for the installation process, but Tobin said that information could only be revealed through a Right-To-Know request. Strassburger says it would have been ideal for the installation to be completed by a local LGBTQ artist, but there were many limitations that made that harder to achieve, noting the timing of the project to be completed in time for Pride. “They had to get the timing done quickly, and there were a lot of technical requirements for artists, and the expertise of the artists weighed heavily,” says Strassburger. “They had to have the expertise to paint it in a quick time, and experience with the type of paint used.” Strassburger says she is glad the public art marks the area’s importance to Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ community. Eventually, she says a small plaque will also explain to passersby the significance of the art and the neighborhood. But, she says, it serves many functions. The art also acts as a traffic-calming device, so drivers slow down when they are passing through the corridor. Strassburger hopes the installation will also serve as a place-making attraction for the business district, one that will send a welcoming message. “You look back 20 years ago in Pittsburgh, and Walnut and Ellsworth were some of the few night time economies in the city,” says Strassburger. “Now there is a lot more competition. There is Butler

Street and there is the North Shore. Shadyside needs to step up its game.” To Parsakian, this public art recognition means a lot. He is 70 years old and says he has “gone through a lot” in terms of Pittburgh’s changing attitudes and policies toward LGBTQ people. He is very happy this will be a permanent marker on Ellsworth. On June 28, the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, an unveiling event will be held at the intersection of Ellsworth and Maryland. Parsakian says it will include a DJ and a drag queen performance. The public art will also be covered with one of the flags that used to hang over the intersection during the early Pittsburgh Pride marches. Parsakian feels fortunate that Pittsburgh city government has been so supportive of LGBTQ rights, even as many other municipalities in Pennsylvania lack LGBTQ non-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Parsakian hopes the event will act as a reminder of how far the community has come and he hopes the permanent public art will be an inspiration on how far the LGBTQ community still has to go to secure equal rights. “The flag will return after 25 years,” says Parsakian. “A lot of people might not know who we lost over the years. It was gay men, it was lesbians, it was trans people of color, it was all of us, it wasn’t just one group. It is very important to hear that history.”

Follow senior writer Ryan Deto on Twitter @RyanDeto

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PGHCITYPAPER.COM

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.