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Westmoreland Museum of American Art’s bridge project takes step closer to reality |

Westmoreland Museum of American Art’s bridge project takes step closer to reality

Westmoreland Museum of American Art
An altered photo with letters superimposed on a Greensburg bridge wall shows how the Westmoreland Museum of American Art's “Bridging the Gap” public art project will look when completed.

The Westmoreland Museum of American Art is almost ready to begin “Bridging the Gap.”

Greensburg City Council this week approved agreements with the state and museum allowing work on the long-delayed public-art project on the North Main Street bridge. The museum now needs approval from PennDOT before construction can start.

“The installation won’t take very long once we get that final approval,” said museum Curator Barbara Jones, who is supervising the project.

Workers will install small tracks on both sides of the bridge, facing the sidewalk. Brooklyn artist Janet Zweig will create dozens of black aluminum letters — each about a foot high — that museum employees will be able to slide on and off the tracks.

The museum plans to commission 10 area writers to write a story or poem to be displayed. Each will ever so slowly “scroll” across the bridge, with a few words manually added to the end of the message every week or so as earlier passages are removed.

The plan is to reveal each written work a few words at a time over the course of a year. The 10 commissioned pieces will provide enough material to last a decade.

The text of each message will be updated on a website as new letters are revealed.

Jones said the project has picked its first author — a Pittsburgh-area writer whose identity she is not ready to make public.

“This one is going to be the test,” Jones said. “Does it really work out for a full year?”

The museum will offer an open call for writers to submit works to be considered for display.

“We’re coming up with the process for the other writers to submit,” Jones said.

The tracks will be locked so that only museum employees can change the message.

The concept of the scrolling text was Zweig’s second attempt at designing the museum’s “Bridging the Gap” project. An earlier proposal called for viewing windows on the bridge overlooking sculptures on the museum’s grounds, but trees blocked the view. The museum could not get permission to trim or remove them from Norfolk Southern Railroad, which owns most of the land between the bridge and the museum.

“Bridging the Gap” was slated to be finished last fall but was delayed as the museum came up with a new plan.

The cost of the project is about $170,000, largely funded through grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and Westmoreland County.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected].

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