River of Words was the first of five temporary public art commissions being installed along City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s Garden-to-Garden Artway in Allegheny City Central. River of Words has received lots of positive attention, not just from our community, but from the media and visitors to our streets.
The time period for the River of Words installation ends on December 27, but many people who have hosted words on their houses would like to make River of Words a more permanent installation by leaving their words up after that date. Those who do not live within the City’s Mexican War Streets Historic District are free to leave their words up without restriction. However, the City’s Historic Review Commission requires that anyone within the historic district apply for approval to leave their word on the exterior of their house after December 27. Words inside the home, including inside a window, do not require approval.
Although HRC approval is required for public art installations within historic districts, it does not have a category, guidelines, or fee structure specifically for public art. It requires residents to submit an Application for a Certificate of Appropriateness along with a $100 application fee, and explain their application in person at a hearing. After the applicant speaks, others may speak in support or opposition. The complete Rules of Procedure are available on their website.
Glenn Olcerst, a Mexican War Streets resident, artist, and word host, has filed an application to keep his word from River of Words displayed on his house, and hopes to set a precedent for others within the historic district wishing to do the same. He will be added to the agenda for the February 4 hearing. He also plans to request a lower fee structure for future public art applications at this hearing.
Olcerst is also offering to do a class-action application on behalf of all Mexican War Streets Historic District residents wishing to keep their words. Those interested in participating may contact Olcerst at email@example.com. Send him your name, address, and a photo of your word that illustrates how it’s mounted to your building. He will not submit the application until after getting the results from the February 4 hearing.
Please show your support for public art in general, or specifically to continue River of Words in the Mexican War Streets Historic District, by attending the February 4 HRC hearing and voicing your opinion. HRC hearings take place in the first floor hearing room of 200 Ross Street and begin at 12:30 pm.