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Greensburg’s North Main Street bridge to display local artwork |

Greensburg’s North Main Street bridge to display local artwork

Greensburg’s North Main Street bridge will display a series of original stories and poems, revealed a few words at a time over the next decade.

Brooklyn Artist Janet Zweig revealed her plan for the Westmoreland Museum of American Art’s “Bridging the Gap” public art project Monday at Greensburg Salem Middle School.

“I’m building a framework, and the content is going to come from a local place,” she said.

Zweig will create dozens of black aluminum letters, each about a foot high. A track will be installed into both sides of the bridge. Museum employees will be able to slide the letters on and off the track to spell out words and phrases on the low bridge walls, visible to drivers and pedestrians.

Once installed, the letters will be locked onto the track to prevent tampering or vandalism. Nobody will be able to move them except museum employees.

The museum will commission 10 original pieces of poetry and prose, mostly by local writers.

When the project is complete in October, the first line of one of these compositions will be displayed on the bridge, starting on the west side and continuing onto the east.

Every two weeks, museum employees will remove the first few words from the bridge. All the rest of the words will be moved up, like a slow-scrolling, manually operated ticker tape, and a few more will be added to the end.

The overall effect will be to have poems and stories that are revealed bit by bit. Each piece will be slowly unveiled over the course of about a year, so the whole project will have enough material to last a decade.

Zweig said she was inspired by digital scrolling signs.

“I always like to take a technology and change it completely, and make it kind of old-fashioned and analog,” she said.

The museum will also post each work on their website, updating the site as each new bit is revealed on the bridge.

Each of the 10 compositions will have something to do with bridges and bridging the gap, either metaphorically or literally.

“All of these writers, all these other artists, are going to have the opportunity to be racking their brains about ‘what is the gap,’ ” said Renee Piechocki, director of public art at the Pittsburgh Arts Council, which helped organize the project. “It seems so simple at first, and then as you think about it it’s so complicated.”

The writers have not been selected. The museum will establish a selection committee soon.

The bridge proposal is Zweig’s second attempt to create a project for the museum. Her first concept involved sculptures on the museum’s grounds that were meant to be viewed from the bridges. Trees obscured the view, and the museum did not get permission from Norfolk Southern Railroad, which owns most of the surrounding land, to trim or remove them.

The original intention was to complete the project by last fall, but because of the redesign it was postponed. It will likely be finished in October, at a cost of about $170,000.

“Sometimes things have to marinate for a while, and I think I’m even more excited for this project than the earlier one,” Zweig said.

The “Bridging the Gap” project is pending the recommendation of Greensburg’s Historical and Architectural Review Board and approval by city council.

City Planning Director Barb Ciampini said she loved the proposal.

“It’s a wonderful addition to the city of Greensburg. I’m elated,” she said.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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