|Commissioning Entity||Westmoreland Museum of American Art|
In 2013, the Westmoreland Museum of American Art (WMAA) in Greensburg, Pennsylvania began a major expansion and renovation of the 58 year old museum. The museum, which is located on top of a hill, connects to downtown Greensburg via the Main Street Bridge. The institution’s redesign prompted the WMAA to reconsider how the museum as an institution, and its physical location, interacts with and connects to downtown Greensburg.
The Main Street Bridge is a concrete vehicular and pedestrian bridge that spans railroad tracks. The bridge’s lack of aesthetic appeal, yet importance in linking the museum to the rest of the city, made it a prime location for a public artwork. The goals for the commissioned piece were to enhance the physical appearance of the bridge, and encourage communal interactivity.
Analog Scroll, the resultant work by artist Janet Zweig, reimagines the possibilities for how Greensburg residents can view the bridge and collaborate with the museum. The piece lines both sides of the bridge with an anchored aluminum track. On each track, three dimensional aluminum letters spell out lines of original, site-specific text. The text for Analog Scroll will be written by commissioned writers from southwestern Pennsylvania over a ten year period. The first commissioned writer for the artwork is poet Jan Beatty.
Every two weeks, WMAA curator Barbara L. Jones manually scrolls the letters along the track so that a new portion of Beatty’s text is revealed. Analog Scroll invites viewers to return to the bridge as lines of text emerge, change position, and eventually disappear. Moreover, the artwork stresses Greensburg’s revitalization from industrial hub, to a community dedicated to arts and culture.
In a recent e-mail exchange, Zweig talks a bit more about her concept for Analog Scroll and how she began integrating text into her artwork.
I noticed from looking at other works on your website, that you've incorporated text quite a bit into your work. How did that begin?
I’ve always been interested in words as visual elements. My earliest works were artist books. In the 1990s, I made sentence-generating sculpture by writing simple [software] programs that combined words and grammar. So, I sometimes bring that interest to my public works whenever it seems appropriate to the situation.
Why was it important for you to include writers in Analog Scroll?
Often I have a visual idea and then I want to fill that form with changing content. I’ve tackled developing content in a number of ways in the past - sometimes I’ve written sentence-generating [software] programs; sometimes I’ve had local contests for generative content. In this case, I thought bringing writers into the situation added another dimension to the mission of the project - bridging the gap between the downtown and the cultural institutions on the hill. If writers from southwestern Pennsylvania could say something about the space between these two worlds, residents could experience a variety of voices over the years.
How do you hope your work affects Greensburg? What do you want people to take away from Analog Scroll?
I don’t expect a prescribed response. I’d like the work to speak to viewers as individuals. Rather than thinking of a community as a static entity, I want to address the reality of communities that are in constant change and motion. I want to bring something new to a situation, to allow each viewer to see something in his or her own way, and to create engaging experiences.
Janet Zweig is an artist who lives in Brooklyn, NY, working primarily in the public realm. Her most recently installed public works include a performance space in a prairie on a Kansas City downtown green roof, a series of kinetic works in Milwaukee, a generative sentence on a wall in downtown Columbus, a sentence-generating sculpture for an engineering school in Orlando, and a memorial in the lawn of Mellon Park in Pittsburgh. Other public works include a 1200' frieze at the Prince Street subway station in New York, and a system-wide interactive project for eleven Light Rail train stations in Minneapolis, incorporating the work of over a hundred Minnesotans. Her sculpture and books have been exhibited widely in such places as the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Exit Art, PS1 Museum, the Walker Art Center, and Cooper Union. Awards include the Rome Prize Fellowship, NEA fellowships, and residencies at PS1 Museum and the MacDowell Colony. She teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design and at Brown University.
Biography taken from www.janetzweig.com
Laquatro Bonci Associates: http://www.laquatrabonci.com/
Jan Beatty: http://www.janbeatty.com/