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947 Liberty Avenue

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Keywords

cast concrete

Artwork Type

Permanent, Sculpture



Liberty Avenue Musicians

2003


James Simon



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Artist James Simon spent fifteen years of his career making violins. Fittingly, one of the fifteen foot tall figures, which pay homage to Pittsburgh’s musical history, plays that instrument. The three figures were sculpted from clay in Simon’s Pittsburgh studio and then cast in concrete before being installed in their courtyard home.

Architectural note: This project is located in the midst of the Penn/Liberty Historic District, which extends from Seventh to Tenth Streets between Penn and Liberty Avenues. The oldest buildings in the district were constructed in a variety of architectural styles, including Italianate, Queen Ann, Richardson Romanesque, and Classical Revival.

James Simon (b. 1954) is a native of Pittsburgh. He credits his Peabody High School ceramic teacher, affectionately known as "Mr. K," with inspiring his artistic endeavors.

"My career started as a hitchhiker," says James. "I was definitely a professional hitchhiker for like the first ten years of my life after high school."

James traveled the world, taking in the sights, before settling for a time in Oxford, England. Here, he learned to craft violins. He spent the next fifteen years making violins, cellos, and violas. But, the desire to return to clay was ever present. "I stated to really miss clay. With sculpture, you can express what influences you," says James.

He journeyed back to the United States to complete an artist residency at the University of Oregon. The University had giant kilns, so James was able to experiment with large-scale clay sculptures. 

Upon returning to Pittsburgh, James settled in the Uptown neighborhood. Working with community groups and other artists, he has transformed Uptown's Gist Street into a veritable public art gallery. James is happy to be creating art in his hometown: "It has given Uptown a different flavor. Art has helped in transforming Uptown and its image."