13 January 2016

Pittsburgh People by Jerry Caplan

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Pittsburgh People are images made of clay and modeled after, well, Pittsburgh people. Jerry Caplan used several well–known Pittsburghers in this sculpture/fountain. It’s located in a plaza next to a parking garage where the Parking Authority’s offices are. There are figures of former Mayor Richard Caliguiri, Jerry Caplan (the artist himself), Donna Hollen–Bolmgren (another artist), Teresa Heinz, Carol Siegel (a gallery owner), Edison Montgomery (Parking Authority Board member) and others.

In 1977 Pittsburgh passed the Percent for Art law that required one percent of the amount of money they used to fund any major construction or renovation to be earmarked for public art projects. To a big degree they have ignored this law, but this is one of the public art projects that we have because of it.

Mr Caplan made these figures from extruded clay pipe. The very thing used for water or sewer pipes. He reshaped the raw clay before it was fired to create these timeless figures.

Pittsburgh People is actually designed as a fountain with multiple sections. Because there are three distinct fountains you really get a sense of being a part of the artwork as you walk between the individual structures. It spreads the sculpture out to the point of making the entire parklet feel as if it’s all about the art. Even with the water shut off it makes this small space a great retreat from the city atmosphere.

The smallest section.

According to an article by Rick Sebak, when the director of engineering for the Parking Authority (Wasindar Mokha) passed away, his colleagues got permission to have his image added to the piece. They contacted Mr Caplan to create this likeness and install it as a permanent memorial.

Wasindar Mokha

We’ve never seen the sculpture with water. We don’t know if that’s because we have bad timing, or if there’s another reason. After several years though, we suspect the water feature is kaput. If we ever see the fountain on we’ll add an update.

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