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Sculpture in South Side park provides a mighty look at Pittsburgh's industrial heritage

| Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, 12:12 a.m.
Tribune-Review
Dan Mohan, 64, of Hampton Township, walks between 20 foot tall steel sculptures in the former LTV bar mill in Hazelwood, titled 'The Workers', before they are transported to their installation at South Side Riverfront Park on Wednesday, August 22, 2012. The sculptures have been a decade and a half in the making, and are created out of ties from the Hot Metal Bridge and scrap from a varnished Pittsburgh steel mill. Created by Tim Kaulen and the 21 artists of the Pittsburgh Industrial Arts Co-op, they are intended to honor the region's workers past, present, and future. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Tribune-Review
Workers, artists, and onlookers stand among 20 foot tall steel sculptures in the former LTV bar mill in Hazelwood before they are transported to their installation at South Side Riverfront Park on Wednesday, August 22, 2012. The sculptures have been a decade and a half in the making, and are created out of ties from the Hot Metal Bridge and scrap from a varnished Pittsburgh steel mill. Created by Tim Kaulen and the 21 artists of the Pittsburgh Industrial Arts Co-op, they are intended to honor the region's workers past, present, and future. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Tribune-Review
Created by Tim Kaulen and the 21 artists of the Pittsburgh Industrial Arts Co-op, one of several 20 foot tall steel sculptures stands waiting to be transported to its permanent home at South Side Riverfront Park in the former LTV bar mill in Hazelwood on Wednesday, August 22, 2012. The move and installation is the final step in a 15 year project meant to honor the region's workers past, present and future. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Tribune-Review
Corey Lyons, 38, of Polish Hill, works on a 20 foot tall steel sculpture of a steelworker at the former LTV bar mill in Hazelwood on Wednesday, August 22, 2012. The sculptures, entitled 'The Workers', have been a decade and a half in the making, and are created out of ties from the Hot Metal Bridge and scrap from a varnished Pittsburgh steel mill. Created by Tim Kaulen and the 21 artists of the Pittsburgh Industrial Arts Co-op, they are to be installed at the South Side Riverfront Park. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
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Brandon Barber, 30, of North Point Breeze, works on a large sculpture of a steelworker while ironworkers from Local 3 attach another sculpture to a crane at the former LTV bar mill in Hazelwood on Wednesday, August 22, 2012. The sculptures, titled 'The Workers', have been a decade and a half in the making, and are created out of ties from the Hot Metal Bridge and scrap from a varnished Pittsburgh steel mill. The team is working to move the sculptures to their permanent home at the South Side Riverfront Park. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Tribune-Review
A large steel sculpture of a steelworker is lifted by a crane onto a flatbed truck at former LTV bar mill in Hazelwood on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012. The sculptures, which reach 20 feet tall, have been a decade and a half in the making, and are created out of ties from the Hot Metal Bridge and scrap from a varnished Pittsburgh steel mill. Created by Tim Kaulen and the 21 artists of the Pittsburgh Industrial Arts Co-op, they are to be installed at the South Side Riverfront Park. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Tribune-Review
Artists and ironworkers watch as a crane lifts a 20 foot tall steel sculpture of a steelworker onto a flatbed truck at the former LTV bar mill in Hazelwood in order to be transported to the sculpture's new location at the South Side Riverfront Park on Wednesday, August 22, 2012. The sculptures honor the region's workers past, present and future, as created by Tim Kaulen and the 21 artists of the Pittsburgh Industrial Arts Co-op. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Tribune-Review
Steel sculptures made from ties from the Hot Metal Bridge and scrap from a varnished Pittsburgh steel mill cross the Hot Metal Bridge into the South Side on the back of a flat bed truck on Wednesday, August 22, 2012. Created by Tim Kaulen and the 21 artists of the Pittsburgh Industrial Arts Co-op, they are intended to honor the region's workers and will be installed permanently at South Side Riverfront Park. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Tribune-Review
20 foot tall steel sculptures, entitled 'The Workers' stand waiting to be transported to their permanent home at South Side Riverfront Park in the former LTV bar mill in Hazelwood on Wednesday, August 22, 2012. The sculptures have been a decade and a half in the making, and are created out of ties from the Hot Metal Bridge and scrap from a varnished Pittsburgh steel mill. Created by Tim Kaulen and the 21 artists of the Pittsburgh Industrial Arts Co-op, they are intended to honor the region's workers past, present, and future. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review

The sounds of steel echoed once again through an old mill in Hazelwood as volunteers on Wednesday prepared to move an enormous homage to Pittsburgh's industrial heritage to its permanent home in the South Side.

“The Workers,” which depicts two steelworkers and a ladle, not only pays tribute to the city's fiery past — it's made from it. Artists used steel salvaged from local plants to build the 25-ton sculpture.

“It's nice that they incorporated some of that history,” said Dennis Hirsh, 58, of Pleasant Hills, who toiled for more than 20 years at LTV Steel's now-shuttered Hazelwood Works, where the piece took form. Hirsh is the last former LTV employee still working at the 178-acre Hazelwood mill site, employed as a security guard.

Workers trucked the sculpture across the Monongahela River via the Hot Metal Bridge that once carried molten iron from blast furnaces along Second Avenue to LTV's South Side plant. It will stand on former industrial property converted to South Shore Riverfront Park near the Birmingham Bridge.

Commissioned by the city in 1997, the sculpture includes two 20-foot-high abstract figures working on an authentic steel ladle salvaged from a mill. Members of Industrial Artists Co-op in the South Side used original girders from the Hot Metal Bridge for the torso and limbs and steel from an LTV boilerhouse for the gloves and shin protectors.

Local foundations, businesses and the city funded the $200,000 cost. Pittsburgh's portion was a $35,000 grant.

Century Steel Erectors based in Dravosburg donated a large crane, flatbed truck and sent six employees to move the sculpture. Work began about 7 a.m. as a dense fog — reminiscent of Pittsburgh's Smoky City days — shrouded the Mon Valley. It took about seven hours to move the pieces in two trips.

Sculptor Tim Kaulen, 46, of Polish Hill, the project manager, said 22 artists spent “tens of thousands of hours” on the sculpture, most on a volunteer basis. They started out with conceptual drawings, then built lumber mock-ups of the pieces before cutting and welding the metal together.

He said Pittsburgh's steelmaking days may have ended a generation ago, but the spirit of labor is still evident in the hospitals, technology centers and universities that employ the city's workforce today.

Eric Lipsky, 46, of Regent Square personifies that sentiment. Lipsky, a mechanical engineer who helped build the sculpture, was a bicycle mechanic who grew up in Nebraska, moved to Pittsburgh to attend college and now works as an engineering professor at Penn State Greater Allegheny in McKeesport.

“I came to Pittsburgh over 20 years ago and really fell in love with the industrial aesthetic,” he said.

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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