Pittsburgh Art Places


Kirk Savage Public Art Tour

Kirk Savage has written extensively on public monuments within the larger theoretical context of collective memory and identity. He is the author of two prizewinning books. Monument Wars: Washington, D.C., the National Mall, and the Transformation of the Memorial Landscape (2009) reconsidered the key public monuments and spaces of the capital within a narrative of nation building, spatial conquest, ecological destructiveness, and psychological trauma. Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America (1997) investigated the themes of slavery and emancipation in the monument boom that followed the U.S. Civil War. He is at work on a new book about the Civil War dead that examines the interaction of bodies, names, and memorials. The project will have a digital humanities component as well, which focuses on the movement of the war dead through local and national space and the visualization of that mobile identity in the ground of a soldier cemetery.

The Last Billboard

The Last Billboard

At the corner of Highland and Baum Avenue, situated above a busy intersection in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood, passersby may have noticed a long rooftop billboard displaying, not an ad for a local storage company or a life insurance lawyer, but rather poetic, ponderable, and/or witty messages in white all-capital letters. An ongoing project created and curated by Jon Rubin (of Conflict Kitchen and the Waffle Shop), The Last Billboard broadcasts new messages each month. Rubin directly invites people from throughout the world to create messages, which he then changes by hand. Some are simply personal contact information and jokes while others propose social experiments. Rubin created the design with fellow artist Pablo Garcia, originally intended to display topics discussed in the Waffle Shop. However, when the restaurant/performance space/live-streamed talk show project ended in 2013, Rubin devised a new project to keep the billboard space alive. After websites such as Buzzfeed reported on the project, Rubin began receiving hundreds of submissions for messages, which he says were overwhelmingly ones seeking life advice. However, the project is still operating under direct-invitation only. The messages are simple, as the billboard only has five lines and a limited number of character spaces, but it is this simplicity in construction that grants the public messages that much more power and resonance. Messages as simple as a single question mark have been displayed, allowing for ponderance of its meaning and the intention and identity of the author. The Last Billboard uses an old-fashioned marketing mechanism as the foundation for a participatory public art piece. Artists, writers, and children have all been invited to curate messages on the billboard that is estimated to have over 10,000 viewers per day.