Pittsburgh Art Places


Gateway Center T station, platform level

Related Links


Ceramic, Tile, Transit, Rhor, Bearden, Collage, Port Authority

Artwork Type

Mural, Permanent

Pittsburgh Recollections, 1984

Romare Bearden


Commissioning Entity Port Authority of Allegheny County
Owner Port Authority of Allegheny County
ADA Services The platform level of the T station is accessible by elevator and escalator.

Pittsburgh Recollections was first installed in the original Gateway T-station in 1984 as part of the Port Authority’s plan to integrate more art in the public transit system. Completed by well-known American artist Romare Bearden, this immense ceramic mural is composed of 780 ceramic tiles, and captures Bearden’s memories of Pittsburgh. Though born in North Carolina and most associated with the New York art world, Bearden spent many summers at his grandparents’ boardinghouse in Pittsburgh, and always maintained strong ties with the city. In this mural Bearden presents a patchwork of quintessential Pittsburgh scenes and images. The city’s iconic rivers snake across the length of the composition and frame Bearden’s Pittsburgh story. On the left side, we see historical scenes: soldiers in tri-corner hats remind the viewer of the founding of Fort Pitt, and colonial crafts such as spinning, log cabins and covered wagons evoke the hardworking colonial roots of the city. The right side of the mural is dedicated to more contemporary images: silhouettes of workers carrying lunch pails heading to work, tall smokestacks and a pair of steelworkers working over molten steel stand as emblems of the city’s industrial heritage and pay homage to the workers who built the city. 

Though Bearden didn’t typically work in ceramic, this mural is very typical of his collage style. His collages are known for the juxtaposition of random scenes and images, often related to African American history and culture. Here he uses this technique on a monumental scale with ceramic tile, and captures the essence of Pittsburgh’s past and its industrial present. 

The mural is also notable for the groundbreaking removal, restoration and reinstallation process. The high tech conservation, carried out by McKay and Lodge, cost over $1 million and involved cutting edge and experimental restoration processes. 

By Sylvia Rhor, Ph.D.


Sims, Lowery Stokes, The Art of Romare Bearden, New York: Rizzoli, 1993
Romare Bearden: American Modernist: Washington DC, National Gallery of Art, 2011
Mary Thomas, Romare Bearden’s Tile Mural Once Again Shows his love for the city and its people” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 14, 2012. 
Dr. Sylvia Rhor is Associate Professor of Art History at Carlow University in Pittsburgh, Pa. She has written extensively about murals, the history of museum education, and political cartoons. Her doctoral research was the first full-length study of the historic mural collection in Chicago Public Schools. Recently, she published “The Evolution of the Chicago School Mural Movement” in The Decorated School: Essays in the Visual Culture of Schooling (Black Dog Press, 2013), and she co-authored, “Shaping Spaces/Shaping Publics: A Short History of Mural Painting in the United States” in The Companion to Public Art (Blackwell Press, forthcoming). Her current research focuses on the early 20th century labor murals in Pittsburgh. 

Romare Bearden (1911-1988) was born in North Carolina. He spent much of his youth in Pittsburgh, spending summers at his grandparents’ boardinghouse in Lawrenceville and graduating from Peabody High School. He attended Lincoln University, Boston University and graduated from New York University, where he earned a degree in education. Bearden worked as a social worker in New York from the 1930s to the 1960s, and devoted his free time to the study of art and art-making. He began his art career as a cartoonist, contributing to publications such as The Medley and the Baltimore Afro-American. Bearden also took art classes at the Art Students League in New York and the Sorbonne in Paris, and joined the Harlem Artists Guild. In 1940, he had his first solo exhibition. Like this mural, his artwork often mixed personal memory of places and people with literary, historical or musical references. Bearden’s work is included in many major museum collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of Art, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.