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Carnegie library seeks volunteers for Library Park mosaics project

| Tuesday, March 13, 2018, 2:12 p.m.
A rendering shows a repurposed green space — dubbed Library Park — in front of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall in Carnegie. Executive director Maggie Forbes is spearheading a plan that could cost $1.5 million.
A rendering shows a repurposed green space — dubbed Library Park — in front of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall in Carnegie. Executive director Maggie Forbes is spearheading a plan that could cost $1.5 million.

Images representing Carnegie, Pittsburgh and the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall will glisten along the front of two short walls in the heart of Library Park, where children can climb and play or people can gather for lunch.

And the best part, facility executive director Maggie Forbes said, is that the mosaics will be made by the community.

“It's going to be very, very beautiful,” she said.

As Phase II of the $1.5 million project to create Library Park on the hillside in front of the library and music hall gets underway this spring, adding art to the area has become a focus.

As part of Phase I, sidewalks and a driveway with clearly lined parking spots were added. Trees were planted and lamp posts added.

“We always wanted art in the park, we just weren't sure how,” Forbes said.

Laura Jean McLaughlin, a Pittsburgh-based ceramics artist, came twice-recommended to Forbes for the project.

While initially a mural was supposed to be at the entrance of the park, the architect noted that the area is “an architectural nod to the grand building above,” Forbes said. She agreed.

Instead, it was decided that the mural would be added to the side of two 18 inch high walls — or as Forbes prefers to call them, “benches” — that are 53 feet and 63 feet in length.

“It's functional art,” she said, adding that she imagines them glistening in the sun.

While Forbes said she loved McLaughlin's work, what sold her on working with the artist was her desire to include the community in the project.

Over the course of 10 workshops, community members will have the chance to help create the murals.

During the first two sessions — on March 18 and 22 — participants will create “tokens of happiness” out of ceramic from Carnegie-based business Standard Ceramic.

They can be a variety of colors and the twice fired materials will add “a whole different texture” to the mosaics.

For the remaining eight workshops, participants will cut and place tiles for the design.

For years, the artwork on the hillside will showcase the work of the community.

“I'd like to be able to say as I'm walking by, ‘I made that part right there,'” Forbes said.

She's hoping that the broader community, including those who perform at the music hall or utilize the library, will participate in the workshops.

The design gives a nod to the area, the environment, the people of Carnegie and those who use the library and music hall.

“It's something that will mean something to people,” she said.

The domes from Intercession of the Holy Virgin Church and St. Peter and St. Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church will be showcased on the mosaics, as will the faces of Andrew Carnegie, environmental icon Rachel Carson and Carnegie's own Honus Wagner.

Forbes has received calls from people so excited about taking part in crafting the mosaics that they want to sign up for all 10 sessions. One woman even asked how much the program cost, to which Forbes assured her the library and music hall was not charging for the community volunteerism.

Forbes plans to take her grandchildren Ida Elizabeth Anderson, 5, and Louisa Clare Anderson, 2, to the workshops.

She talks about how much fun they will have participating in the art workshops.

And when she thinks of the mosaics in the future, it's Ida and Louisa that come to her mind.

Forbes envisions them running along the tops of the short walls to play.

And many years from now, she envisions them coming back to visit and telling their own children, “we walked that when were kids.”

Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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