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Office of Public Art | Neighborhood Allies | Borough of Millvale

Public Art and Communities: Call for Artists

Release Date: Monday, February 1, 2021

Application Deadline: Monday, March 22, 2021 at 11:59 PM ET

Information Session: A recording of the info session held on Tuesday, February 23, 2021 via Zoom is available for viewing here: https://vimeo.com/516368205.

Application Assistance: Every Friday, from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM, the Office of Public Art is offering office hours via Zoom to assist artists with application questions and provide feedback prior to the submission deadline. Attending office hours is not required in order to submit an application. If interested, you must schedule in advance using this link https://tinyurl.com/OPA-Office. Appointments are first come, first served.

To download the full call in PDF format, please go to tinyurl.com/OPA-PAC-PDF


The Office of Public Art and Neighborhood Allies, in collaboration with the Borough of Millvale, are seeking four artists to develop  temporary works of public art as part of the Public Art and Communities Program. Each artist will collaborate with a community-based organizational partner to create an artwork that responds to the COVID-19 pandemic and addresses its intersection with other public health issues. The projects will result from an in-depth collaboration between four artists and the four organizational partners that have been selected to participate in this program. The exact vision, form, location, duration, and materials for the project will be determined by the artist in collaboration with the organizational partner. Each of the artworks is expected to be present in the Pittsburgh area communities served by the respective organizational partner for 1 - 2 years.

In addition to developing a work of temporary public art, artists will participate alongside their organizational partner in Placemaking Academy, a series of workshops that will develop public art and creative placemaking skills.

A. An Arts-Based Response to COVID-19 and Public Health

The Public Art and Communities program (PAC) supports the development of place-based strategies and temporary artworks in Pittsburgh communities that respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and address its intersection with other public health issues. PAC engages artists to collaborate with communities to address their needs through public art and creative placemaking practices.

Creative Placemaking and Place-Based Strategies

Place-based strategies respond to and are informed by the immediate context of a specific place, neighborhood, and community. Creative placemaking, like place-based strategies, is closely tied to a specific place and/or community. For the Office of Public Art, creative placemaking occurs when the creative practices of artists are fully engaged to collaboratively shape the public spaces of our region and catalyze community-led change.

The Role of the Arts

The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented public health crisis that has overturned lives and work. Arts and culture projects and programs can play a powerful role in shaping our response and addressing the vast needs that have been exposed. The arts and the creative practices of artists are some of our most powerful tools when faced with earth-shifting events such as this.

“Artists are influencers and trusted community members, which is especially important at times when trust in government institutions is in question.” -- University of Florida Center for Arts in Medicine, “Call for Collaboration: Mobilizing the Arts For COVID-19 Communication And Coping,” 2020. Creating Healthy Communities: Arts + Public Health in America

Our most vulnerable populations are already subject to multiple public health risks, including mental health, racism, food insecurity, housing instability, and social isolation and exclusion. By supporting artists to collaborate with these communities, we can enhance connection, coping, and wellbeing and create new tools for addressing the current challenges. We can strengthen our communities’ responses and build their resilience.

B. Program Overview and Goals

PAC will support the development of creative place-based strategies and four temporary artworks in Pittsburgh communities that respond to both the COVID-19 pandemic and its intersection with other critical public health issues. PAC will engage artists to collaborate with communities to address their needs through public art and creative placemaking practices.

Each of the organizational partners, selected through an open call process from among a competitive pool, has identified their specific public health issue as a focal point for their collaboration with an artist. Once each organizational partner is teamed with an artist, the artist will work with this organization and the residents and stakeholders in their community. The goal is to develop a proposal for the design and implementation of a temporary public art project that responds to and addresses the identified public health issue. Each of the four resulting works of art will address and raise awareness of the public health needs identified by the community. Ultimately, the artworks will increase community resilience and strengthen community responses to the intersecting public health crises magnified by the pandemic.

Each collaboration will result in a temporary public artwork with an expected lifespan of 1 - 2 years. Please note that the purpose of this program is to provide an opportunity and funding for community-based organizational partners and artists to collaborate on developing new ideas for temporary works of art. It is not a funding stream to implement existing plans or concepts for specific works of art.

In addition, each Organization-Artist team will participate in Placemaking Academy, a six-week training program. Placemaking Academy will build the teams’ capacity to undertake creative placemaking and public art projects that support place-based strategies to address public health needs in communities.

C. Organizational Partners

The participating organizational partners and their topics of focus are:

The Brashear Association

Mission: Based on the core belief that everyone deserves a fair shot, The Brashear Association provides South Pittsburgh residents and community groups with access to quality programs and services that address social, educational, health, and economic issues.

Topic of Focus: Food insecurity and isolation. The Brashear Association has seen a 40% increase in new food pantry clients in the past year, and they expect that numbers will continue to increase throughout the winter as families and individuals continue to struggle through the pandemic. However, while they aim to increase access to food, they also wish to decrease societal stigma for those facing food insecurity. Thus, in Phase 2 of plans for their new Brashear CARES Center, they are planning to shift their pantry to a client choice model, creating a pantry that feels like a grocery store and engages the community through cooking demonstrations and other events. The Brashear Association seeks to provide an artist with the opportunity and autonomy to learn about their work and the needs of the community, to connect with community members, and then to explore possible outcomes for the project. Working collaboratively, they hope to create a unique and impactful public artwork that contributes to the community’s overall well-being and gives residents a platform to be seen, heard, and supported.

Service Area: South Pittsburgh communities

Etna Community Organization (ECO) + Sharpsburg Neighborhood Organization (SNO)

ECO’s Mission -- To make Etna a more vibrant place to live, work, and play by 1) supporting projects and programs that integrate equity, sustainability, and resiliency into the fabric of our community, and 2) engaging, empowering, and activating Etna’s community members to take ownership over their futures.

SNO’s Mission -- Sharpsburg Neighborhood Organization works to strengthen and engage the community of Sharpsburg.

Topic of Focus: Mental health, especially related to issues such as addiction and domestic violence. ECO & SNO’s recent years of community engagement across both Etna and Sharpsburg have shown that people want to see and enjoy more public art in all parts of the boroughs. Beyond that, while they recognize that their communities have become more livable in a number of ways over the years, persistent and often overlooked issues like addiction, mental health, and domestic violence affect many people locally and have been exacerbated during the pandemic. They hope to be able to address these issues through meaningful public art created in collaboration with an artist.

Service Area: Etna and Sharpsburg


Mission: To promote and create positive self images for young girls of color so that they can recognize their self worth and see beauty when they look in the mirror.

Topic of Focus: Racism; more specifically, quality of life for Black girls, women, and femmes in the Pittsburgh region. Through this program, Frogang wants to create more positive visuals that empower and build the self-confidence of the girls they work with and widen the perception of beauty within their communities. Their hope is to collaboratively create art which will allow the girls in their programming to work with the artist, build new relationships, and allow their ideas to be seen and heard.

Service Area: Pittsburgh and surrounding areas.

Steel Smiling

Mission: Steel Smiling bridges the gap between Black community members and mental health support through education, advocacy and awareness. Their 10-year vision is to expose every Black resident in Allegheny County to a positive mental health experience that improves their quality of life by 2030.

Topic of Focus: Black Mental Health. Nearly a year ago, Steel Smiling launched their Black Mental Health Workforce Development Program in the South Hilltop, which aimed to destigmatize mental health, connect members of the Black community with culturally and racially competent therapists, increase advocacy and awareness for mental health, and train a group of new resident leaders, known as Community Mental Health Advocates, who would be willing to share new or strengthened knowledge gleaned from the year-long course with their own networks. Through the PAC Program, Steel Smiling wishes to continue this work by giving their cohort members an opportunity to do the following: 1) reduce the stigma surrounding mental health through the creation of art in the Black community; 2) deepen relationships between Black cohort members, artists, and mental health professionals through art; and 3) highlight the importance of equity as it pertains to public health-related community art projects.

Service Area: South Hilltop neighborhoods

D. Program Structure

A project manager from the Office of Public Art (OPA) and Neighborhood Allies will be assigned to each team. Working in collaboration with the project manager, artists and organizational partners will acquire and refine skills to successfully implement temporary public art projects. These skills include design development, evaluation methods, and knowledge of best practices. OPA will provide contracting services, work with the team to develop budgets, and assist with permitting and other approvals as necessary. The program will also be supported by a Public Health and Public Art Advisory Group, which includes leaders in public health, community development, and environmental and social justice.

Organizational partners and artists will participate in bi-monthly cohort meetings at which the collaborating teams share their project development and exchange ideas. Members from the program’s Advisory Group will also participate in these meetings. Project managers from OPA and Neighborhood Allies will meet at least monthly with each Organization-Artist team throughout design and implementation.

E. Placemaking Academy

Once artists are selected, the Organization-Artist teams will attend Placemaking Academy, a six-week training session and workshop for artists and their organizational partners. The Academy will provide in-depth training on creative placemaking and public art with a particular focus on the ways in which the arts can contribute to improving local public health outcomes. Organization-Artist teams will also be trained on developing public art projects, creative placemaking best practices, community engagement strategies, and project implementation. The goal is to build the capacity of the organizations and artists to work in the public realm beyond the program.

F. Eligibility + Criteria

This opportunity is open to visual artists and artist teams of up to two people, at least one of whom must be a visual artist. Applicants will be reviewed based on the following criteria:

  • Letter of interest that demonstrates understanding of and interest in the goals of the project;
  • Prior work that:
    • Shows a strong, consistent, and clear artistic voice;
    • Has achieved sustained resonance, impact, or value;
    • Facilitates collective expression, shared meaning, and/or community engagement;
    • Shows interest in working in the public realm;
  • Experience working collaboratively and/or in a community-based setting;
  • Demonstrated ability to execute creative concepts; and
  • Completeness of application materials.

If applying as a team, the team must demonstrate prior work with each other that meets the above criteria.

G. Selection Process

OPA is facilitating the artist selection process for this project. Qualifications submitted through this RFQ will be reviewed by a selection committee composed of the organizational partners selected to participate in this program, arts professionals, and representatives from Neighborhood Allies, the Borough of Millvale, and OPA. A limited number of artists will be invited for an interview. Only one artist or artist team will be chosen for each organizational partner.

During the interview, artists will discuss their past work, interest in this particular project, ability to work on the project, and experience collaborating with communities. The artists who are asked to interview for the project will not be asked to develop a model or proposal.

Artists may interview with multiple organizational partners, but can only be chosen for one project. Artists interviewing with multiple organizations may be asked to rank their preferences following the interview.

Should the selection committee determine that none of the artists presented are the right match for the commission, the project team (OPA, Neighborhood Allies, and the Borough of Millvale) may choose to select an artist via an invitational process.

H. Budget + Contract Information

Each artwork has an implementation and fabrication budget of $26,000. In addition, artists will receive a fee of $11,000 that covers the artist’s time for design, project management, community engagement, and participation in Placemaking Academy.

The PAC program utilizes two contracts for artists: one for Conceptual Design and one for Final Design and Implementation. The selected artists will enter into a contract with Neighborhood Allies. Payments to the artists will be administered by OPA.

Through the Conceptual Design contract, selected artists will be commissioned to:

  • Participate in Placemaking Academy;
  • Collaborate with their organizational partner to develop and implement a community engagement strategy; and
  • Prepare, present, and refine or revise a Conceptual Design proposal for the project.

Contract amounts for Conceptual Design will be as follows:

  • Artist Fee for project conceptual design, community engagement, and participation in Placemaking Academy: $5,000; and
  • Reimbursable Expenses (from the implementation budget): not to exceed $1,500.

Once the Conceptual Design is complete, reviewed, and accepted by the organizational partner and the assigned project manager, the artist will enter into a contract for Final Design and Implementation. Through the Final Design and Implementation contract, selected artists will be commissioned to:

  • Prepare a final design, including all required drawings and/or other documents required for implementation of the conceptual design, including fabrication and installation;
  • Present the final design for review and approval;
  • Secure final permits and permissions for the artwork;
  • Implement the completion of the approved final design; and
  • Participate in carrying out the community engagement strategy as it relates to the implementation of the final project.

The amount of the contract for Final Design and Implementation will be:

  • Artist Fee for project design, project management, and community engagement: $6,000; and
  • Implementation, including fabrication and installation: $26,000, less reimbursable expenses incurred under the Conceptual Design contract.

Selected artists will be required to hold commercial general liability insurance for the duration of the project. If an artist does not already hold commercial general liability insurance, a portion of the project budget may be used to pay for insurance. Proof of insurance will be required at the time of approval of the community engagement strategy.

For more information about contracts and to see models of contracts for Conceptual Design and Final Design and Implementation, visit the Management Tools section of OPA’s website here.

I. Project Timeline

Call for Artists Released: Monday, February 1, 2021

Information Session: Tuesday, February 23, 2021 from 4 - 5 PM ET via Zoom. Register at https://tinyurl.com/PACInfoSession

Application Deadline: Monday, March 22, 2021 at 11:59 PM ET

Artist Interviews: week of May 17, 2021

Artists Notified: week of May 24, 2021

Placemaking Academy (required): once a week, mid-June  through July 2021

Project Implementation: September 2021 - July 2022

This timeline is subject to change.

J. How to Apply

Applications will only be accepted electronically through Submittable, an online application system used by OPA. You may access the application here: https://pittsburghartscouncil.submittable.com/submit.

Artists must supply the following information and materials in their entirety for an application to be considered complete:

Artist Information

Please provide the following:

  • Name, pronoun, and racial/ethnic identity
  • Contact information: email and mailing address, phone number, and website

If applying as a two-person artist team, the above information must be submitted for each team member.

Letter of Interest (350 words max)

Please describe your interest in this project and how your past experience makes you an excellent candidate for this commission. If applying as a team, please describe your experience working together as well as the roles of each member.

Artist Bio/Statement (200 words max)

A brief artist bio and description of your artistic practice. Artist teams may submit a group bio and statement, or individual artist bios and statements.

Video or Audio Recording of Letter of Interest and Artist Bio/Statement (optional)

Your Letter of Interest and Artist Bio/Statement may be submitted either in written form or as a single video or audio recording. If submitting via video or audio recording, the recording should be no more than four minutes long. Please note that this should not be a highly produced or edited recording. We are seeking a short recording that speaks directly to who you are as an artist, your past experiences, and interest in this project. The intent of this option is to provide an opportunity for individuals who feel they can represent themselves better verbally versus in writing.

If applying as a team or business, please be sure that the key members are represented in the recording, and that their roles are indicated.

NOTE: If submitting a video or audio recording instead of a written letter of interest and/or artist bio/statement, you must type the words “See Recording” within the respective text fields in Submittable in order to complete your application.

Past Work Samples (JPG, MP4, AVI, MOV, or WMV files only)

Six to ten images and/or video samples, total. No more than three of the submitted work samples may be video samples. Images should be in JPG format. Video sample links to third-party video hosting sites (Youtube, Vimeo) are preferred, but video files in MP4, AVI, MOV, or WMV format will be accepted. Video samples must be no longer than 3 minutes.

Please label submitted files with the following convention:




If applying as a team, at least three of your submitted work samples must consist of artwork that was created collaboratively by the team. For work samples created by individual team members, please be sure to specify the author of each work in the description field for the sample.

Work Sample Descriptions

Enter the following information for each work sample: title, medium, dimensions, and year. You may also enter an optional, brief (50 word max) description of each sample.

Resume (Optional. Two pages max. PDF files only)

Please include only relevant experience within the past five years, two pages maximum. If applying as an artist team, please include a resume for each team member. Please label file(s) using the following convention: LastName_FirstName_Resume 

References (required form fields)

Include the name and contact information for at least three professional references. Please indicate your relationship to the references (e.g. employer, former colleague, etc.). References will not be contacted unless you are selected for an interview. 

K. Deadline

All submissions must be received by Monday, March 22, 2021 at 11:59 PM ET. Late or incomplete applications will not be accepted or reviewed.

L. Artist Information Session

OPA and Neighborhood Allies are hosting an online information session about the program on Tuesday, February 23, 2021 at 4 PM ET via Zoom. At this session, we will review the program goals, discuss the application process, and respond to questions.

Participants must register in advance by going to https://tinyurl.com/PACInfoSession. You will be provided with a link to access the Zoom session following your registration. Registering with your email address helps keep this live session secure, and allows us to ensure that you receive any updates to the Call for Artists.

Artists are not required to attend this session in order to submit an application. The presentation will be recorded and available for later viewing via our website on opapgh.org.

M. Questions

If you have questions about this call for artists, please contact Divya Rao Heffley at the Office of Public Art via email at dheffley@pittsburghartscouncil.org.

N. Funding

This program is generously supported by The Heinz Endowments, Henry L. Hillman Foundation, and the Our Town program of the National Endowment of the Arts, a federal agency.

We use Submittable to accept and review our submissions.