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'Funky Downtown lighting' to hug, interact with visitors

| Friday, Jan. 31, 2014, 12:22 a.m.

Pittsburgh is poised to flood Market Square with “funky Downtown lighting.”

The city is bringing an international art exhibit titled “Congregation” to Market Square as the first in what officials say will be an annual public art display.

Developed by a pair of internationally known artists based in London — Kit Monkman and Tom Wexler — the piece will project a 50-square-foot projection of light displayed in geometric shapes and sizes into the public square that visitors can change by walking through it.

A camera will project what's happening in the square onto a large screen.

“It has the ability to embrace and engage every single person who comes to see it,” said Renee Piechocki, director of the Pittsburgh Office of Public Art, which collaborated with the city and Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership on the project.

The display opens Feb. 21 and continues through March 16.

Three charitable foundations — Heinz, Colcom and Richard King Mellon — along with an anonymous donor and the Downtown Partnership are paying the $75,000 needed to bring the work to Pittsburgh.

Mike Mitcham, operations director for Primanti Brothers restaurant in Market Square and a founding member of the Market Square Merchants Association, said the display is designed to make the same kind of public stir as the giant rubber duck in the Allegheny River did in the summer.

“We're hoping that interactive art pieces like this will bring family and kids into the square and, of course, spend money while they're here,” Mitcham said.

Piechocki said plans are underway to bring art displays to the square in each of the next two years.

Mayor Bill Peduto, who described the project as “funky Downtown lighting,” said he plans to promote similar public art projects in all city neighborhoods. He's budgeted $51,000 for a person to oversee neighborhood art, culture and history.

“Just look at the big rubber duck and the hundreds of thousands of people who came to see it,” 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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