What Dreams May Come: Cliffside Artwork Makes Dreams Reality

One of Pittsburgh’s parks will soon make children’s dreams a reality.

Taking inspiration from Cliffside Park’s unique vantage and the dreams of little ones from the community, local artist Leslie Ansley is creating a new art piece to be installed in the renovated park.

art project 5

art project 2

Ms. Ansley has developed designs that celebrate flight and soaring visions – peregrine falcons, kites, butterflies, dandelion fluff, and the like. On a recent Saturday, children from the Hill District put pencil to paper to share their own soaring thoughts and creativity at an open workshop; their contributions will be incorporated into this new piece of art.

art project 4

The work, to be applied to the park’s entry walkway and an adjacent retaining wall, will also reflect the dreams and aspirations of Amon Cashmere Harris, son of community leader and resident Tyian Battle, who died suddenly at a young age. His dreams of traveling to Paris to see the iconic city were the inspiration for the art deco inspired designs that Ms. Ansley has created, which are also evocative of the design vocabulary of the Hill District in its heyday.

Cliffside Park itself is a reality dreamt up by the community, the entire restoration having been driven and informed by neighbors in the Hill. Like art on a fridge, this art piece will give a sense of home to this community space.

Stay tuned for more information on this exciting project. Cliffside Park and play areas are currently under construction and will open in Summer 2016.

art project 3

Projects Underway: Schenley, Cliffside and Frick Park Updates

The parks as you know them are getting even better.

With four Parks Conservancy Capital Projects currently in the works, areas that you know and love (and maybe some that you don’t!) are undergoing exciting changes. Get the scoop on what’s going on with these projects:

Project: Westinghouse Memorial and Pond

Westinghouse rendering

Rendering of the restored Westinghouse Memorial and Pond.

What’s happening: 
Nearly 85 years after its original dedication in Schenley Park, restoration of the Westinghouse Memorial and the surrounding landscape are underway. The $2.5 million plan includes aesthetic and structural improvements to the monument, Lily Pond restoration and aeration system installation, and stormwater projects to better the overall health of the Panther Hollow Watershed.


Parks Conservancy President/CEO Meg Cheever and Mayor Bill Peduto unveil the Westinghouse Memorial rendering at the groundbreaking ceremony.

How to learn more/stay involved:

Project: Panther Hollow Watershed

What’s happening:
For more than a decade, we’ve been working to restore the health and ecological function of the Panther Hollow Watershed in Schenley Park. Most recently, we’ve been working with the community and designers to reduce stormwater runoff along Schenley Drive. The Schenley Drive Green Street Project aims to improve the health and function of the park by curbing stormwater and creating a safe transportation corridor for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers.

How to learn more/stay involved:

Project: Cliffside Park


Rendering of the revitalized Cliffside Park.

What’s happening:
We’re proud to be partnering with a coalition of Hill District partners on a comprehensive plan for green space in the neighborhood. Called the Greenprint for the Hill District, this plan includes a renovation of Cliffside Park, a beloved community playground. This month, community kids are helping shape this project by contributing to a children’s art piece to be displayed at the park.

How to learn more/stay involved:

Project: Frick Environmental Center


The new Frick Environmental Center, reaching for the sky.

What’s happening:

Currently in the first phase of construction, the Frick Environmental Center will serve as a welcome facility and a gateway to the woodlands of Frick Park where educators use the parks as classrooms. The new Center is quickly taking shape. Designed to meet the Living Building Challenge and LEED Platinum standards for energy efficiency, each feature of this unique building is more exciting than the last. Most recently, a 15,000-gallon rainwater harvesting cistern was brought to the site!


Our Zone Gardener Rosie stands beside the rainwater cistern for scale.

How to learn more/stay involved:

Get updates on these and other exciting projects and programs in the parks by signing up for email updates here!

Art in the Village in the Woods

Art in the Village in the Woods

“You plan right, you can unlock any door.”
August Wilson, Gem of the Ocean

Perched atop the Hill (or, “the crossroads of the world,” as it has been called), Cliffside Park is the perfect spot for landscape painters and photographers. Showcasing Downtown Pittsburgh, the rivers, and the Ohio Valley, the vast view from the park is picture-perfect.


The view inside the park, however, hasn’t always been so picturesque.

Built in 1975, Cliffside Park has always been a neighborhood hub. After a few decades, though, the park started to lose its luster as many of its amenities suffered from neglect and disrepair. But despite its decline, park neighbors continued to enjoy and care for their local greenspace — and became the primary movers and shakers in getting it back on its feet.

Since 2009, the Parks Conservancy has worked alongside passionate Cliffside residents and organizations on Find the Rivers! Greenprint for the Hill District, a plan to revitalize this vibrant, historic neighborhood. This year, the Hill (or, “Village in the Woods,” as it is now being called) has undertaken a huge step forward in the Greenprint: the complete renovation of Cliffside Park.

Woven into the plans for the new Cliffside Park are interpretive art pieces that recall fantastic Hill District artists, past and present. This week, as we’re celebrating art in the parks with PittsburghGives Arts Day of Giving (going on today!), we want to take you on a behind-the-scenes tour of the public art to be displayed at Cliffside Park:

Photo fencing


A new half-court for basketball will surround players with smiling faces of local Hill residents caught by Charles “Teenie” Harris and local photographers. These custom graphics are not only tangible memories of the Hill during its vibrant past, but also an inspiration for current and future generations. These graphics, printed on fabric and lining the court’s fencing, feature photographs from the Oliver M. Kaufmann Photograph Collection and the Teenie Harris Collection.

Overlook inscription


The Hill District sets the stage for nine of the ten Pittsburgh Cycle plays written by August Wilson. Wilson’s words will be coming to life on a stage of their own in the center of the park, guiding visitors along the park’s path towards the overlook. Inscribed on aluminum, powerful quotes from a variety of his plays will demonstrate the literary genius of August Wilson while representing the Hill’s history, culture, consciousness, and attitudes over the span of 100 years. Below are a few favorites:

“You don’t sing to feel better. You sing ‘cause that’s a way of understanding life.”
Ma Rainey, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

“Love don’t know no age and it don’t know no experience.”
Vera, Seven Guitars

“The city flexes its muscles. Men throw countless bridges across the rivers, lay roads, and carve tunnels through the hills sprouting with houses.”
Introduction to Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

Today, be sure to support art in the parks by taking part in PittsburghGives Day of Giving. Donations of $15 and over made between 6am and midnight will be partially matched. Just go to www.PittsburghGives.org, designate your gift to Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, and watch your support go even further today.  Thank you for supporting art in your parks!

A Play-full Event

I like to think of myself as a kid at heart.

Although I can’t quite make it across the monkey bars anymore, and I’ve outgrown most of the slides, I still enjoy my old playground spots vicariously through my nieces and nephews. Indoors, they seem to have a natural knack for mastering new electronics and apps. But outside on the jungle gym, they play just like my friends and I used to back in grade school.

While visiting the 2013 Carnegie International’s Playground Project a few weeks ago, I felt like a little kid all over again. It’s one thing seeing just how similar today’s generation’s play is to mine; it’s another to see these similarities in older generations – from different countries! The Playground Project walks you through the “growing up”, so to speak, of the study of play and how children’s spaces have transformed from the early 20th century to today. Along this timeline, psychologists, landscape architects, artists, and many others had a hand in shaping kids’ interactive spaces.

Next Tuesday, October 29th, is the next point on this timeline. Join The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy as we explore playgrounds all over the world and right in our backyards. Along with The Carnegie Museum of Art and Playful City USA, we’ll be hosting experts from abroad and from our own staff to examine the art of developing play spaces that spark children’s creative minds. This discussion will be in light of our recent work with a coalition in the Hill District to renovate the beloved community playground at Cliffside Park, and all proceeds from the event will go towards the upcoming work there.

In tandem with the panel discussion, the event also includes admission to The Playground Project. This engaging and imaginative exhibit has received national acclaim, and with good reason. Check out some images from the work featured in the exhibit:

Carl Theodor Sørensen’s “junk playgrounds” prompted kids to design and build their own play spaces.

The Lozziwum, a colorful play structure designed by Yvan Pestalozzi in 1972, is now a fixture in front of the Carnegie Museum of Art.

Aldo van Eyck’s playgrounds were prevalent in Amsterdam, and encouraged children to play adventurously.

Lady Allen of Hurtwood was also a champion of “junk playgrounds”.

M. Paul Friedberg’s playground in Central Park, 1985.

Engaging Children’s Imaginations with Creative Playgrounds

Carnegie Museum of Art, 4400 Forbes Avenue

6:00 pm

Registration and more information on each of the panel speakers can be found here.

See you there!

Lauryn Stalter for The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

Many of these images, plus many more historic playground contributors, can be found here

Urban EcoSteward Crew Leader Training with our new Greenprint Park Steward

Urban EcoSteward Crew Leader Training

Unlike most trips I make to REI Southside, I wasn’t here this morning to get a new piece of gear, although I’ll admit I did look. I was here for the Urban EcoSteward Crew Leader Training. This wasn’t my first time learning to lead crews. In fact, my crew leading experience began right here in Pittsburgh three years ago when I attended the 2010 Urban EcoSteward Crew Leader Training and became a crew leader that summer. I enjoyed working with volunteer crews so much that I soon journeyed to Southern California to lead volunteers in trail maintenance on the Pacific Crest Trail. It wasn’t long before I was off on my next adventure leading crews of college students throughout the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and Wyoming.

Now, I’m happy to be back in the City of Pittsburgh where it all started, working as the new Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Greenprint Park Steward. The Greenprint is a comprehensive plan that aims to build on the natural landscapes throughout the Hill District. These greening projects will add value to the neighborhood by raising property values, providing community gathering spaces, and improving air quality.

Cliffside Park

Even with my extensive crew leading background, I gained a lot from the Urban EcoSteward Crew Leader Training session. It’s important to review all of the responsibilities and techniques that go into being a crew leader to keep both you and your volunteer’s safe throughout the project. Parks Conservancy education program coordinator, Taiji Nelson, covered how to properly use, carry, and store tools. Joe Divack, Allegheny CleanWays DumpBuster Coordinator, explained how to lead crews through garbage clean-ups and how to handle worksites on steep slopes. Allegheny CleanWays project coordinator Leah Thill wrapped up the day by running us through some real life volunteer day scenarios. This gave us the chance to practice our public speaking and to test some of the skills we had learned throughout the day.

Taiji and Joe showing our current and future crew leaders proper ways to handle tools and worksites.

Taiji and Joe showing our current and future crew leaders proper ways to handle tools and worksites.

All of these skills will be helpful in providing a safe, productive, and fun experience for our Hill District greening projects. We are looking for more leaders to help us implement the projects outlined in the Greenprint for the Hill! If you are interested in becoming a leader, or being involved as a volunteer in the Hill District, please contact Jake Baechle at jbaechle@pittsburghparks.org. You can also stay tuned to the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy website for future trainings and volunteer days.

The Urban EcoSteward program is a collaboration between  Pittsburgh Parks ConservancyMount Washington Community Development CorporationFrick Environmental Center, Allegheny CleanwaysAllegheny Land Trust, and Nine Mile Run Watershed. To learn more about how you can get involved, visit our Urban EcoSteward webpage.



Jake Baechle is the new Greenprint Park Steward for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. In his role, Jake will lead volunteer coordination and community outreach in the Hill District focusing on Cliffside Park and other Greenprint priorities.