HRC Approval Required for Continuation of “River of Words”

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 and artist, would like for River of Words to become more permanent, and has applied for HRC’s approval to keep the word “poem” displayed on his house.

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 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.


5 Responses to “HRC Approval Required for Continuation of “River of Words””

  1. Glen, Thank You For All You Do For Our Arts , I Totally Support The continuation Of Arts and the River Of Words In Historic neighborhoods, Thank You Randy Gilson, The Randyland Pittsburgh Project.

    • Glenn Olcerst

      The issue is being framed as follows: “As part of the larger community art project, the applicant is seeking to retain two “River of Words” words installed in the mortar joint causing no irreversible damage; without obscuring any historic detail; that are compatible with the character of the district in terms of size, scale, material, and color. The artwork conforms to the Community Master Plan. The Commission is asked to implement HRC guidelines for art and to provide a separate fee schedule for art and artists.”

  2. Adel Fougnies

    Glen, please do whatever you can to save our River of Words. We would like to keep our word on 708 North Taylor Avenue. I’ll do any paperwork necessary, but if you are the professional here, thanks so much. We might not be specifically within the lines of the War Streets, but still want to support the Public Art Initiatives spreading all around us. Adel

  3. Glenn Olcerst

    I will do the paperwork. Some neighbors have assumed that they need to pay me to represent them in the class action suit. There will be no cost to opt in and join the class action suit-either in terms of filing fee or for my time. Just come to the hearing and speak up!

  4. Donna Green

    Glenn – see you at the hearing. Thank you for flying the flag, shining the light, and spreading the “word” for our neighborhood.


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