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.

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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.

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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.

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Buzz… Buzz… Buzzword! Meet Our New Homewood Nature Educator

Buzz… Buzz… Buzzword! Meet Our New Homewood Nature Educator

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Parks Conservancy’s new Homewood Nature Educator, Will, and new best buddy with the Nature Play station.

Communication is key.

This doesn’t just go for the seven Pittsburgh educational non-profits working together on the new literacy program in Homewood called The Buzzword Project. It also goes for the children and their caretakers in the Homewood area who will take part in the program. And really, communication is important for caretakers not only in Homewood, but around the world.

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The driving message of The Buzzword Project is “Be Present, Be Playful, Be Proactive!” This slogan stems from the belief that talking, thinking, and putting into practice reading, writing, and vocabulary at a young age sets children up for a life full of success. The Buzzword Project is a capstone initiative of PNC’s well-known Grow Up Great program.

As a collaborator, the Parks Conservancy is setting out to deliver nature-oriented programs that promote specific vocabulary words. Words like “investigate,” “habitat,” and “outside” will be our model as we work to promote early childhood literacy with children and their caretakers. Our events, and the events hosted by each Buzzword Project partner pertaining to their topic area, will take place every first and third Saturday of the month at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh — Homewood. And starting February 2015, Buzzword Project partners will team up to host six-week sessions that take a more in-depth approach to modeling early childhood literacy.

Kids get up close and personal with the outdoors at last year's Nature in Your Neighborhood hike.

Kids get up close and personal with the outdoors at last year’s Nature in Your Neighborhood hike.

In addition to the Saturday library sessions, the Parks Conservancy, in collaboration with various neighborhood organizations, will be inviting community members to explore their community through Nature in Your Neighborhood hikes and activities in Homewood. Keep an eye out for upcoming hikes here!

As the Parks Conservancy’s newly hired Homewood Nature Educator, my first project was to organize the very first event of the new Buzzword program in the Homewood community. The event was based on the word “Investigation,” with a setup of five different stations: Journal Making, Nature Play, Seed Play, Dirt Exploration, and a Book Station. As the program continues, we hope to bring more and more kids and adults to these free Buzzword events.

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Though these efforts will prove to be difficult at times, I’m more than ready for the task. My goal is to carry out these efforts in the most community-oriented fashion possible. As a recent graduate of Allegheny College with a degree in Environmental Studies and a minor in VESA (Values, Ethics, and Social Action), and a strong education background through the Creek Connections and Frick Environmental Center summer programs, The Buzzword Project is right up my alley. Now employed at the Parks Conservancy, I truly enjoy working to create and implement programming in Homewood and am genuinely invested in forming a strong relationship between the Parks Conservancy and the Homewood community.

As an educator, I hope to inspire and share a love and curiosity for nature with anyone I meet. Hope to see you in Homewood!

Will Tolliver, Homewood Nature Educator and newest member of the Parks Conservancy family


One year ago: Tackling Oak Wilt in Schenley Park

Two years ago: Not Your Average Knot Garden — Riverview Park’s New Knot Garden

 

Working It: Workplace Volunteer Days

Working It: Workplace Volunteer Days

Are you looking for some different conversation starters around the water cooler? Need more excuses to give coworkers high fives? Love team building? Then ditch the after-work happy hour and get your office mates out to a volunteer day in the parks!

They say that a family that plays together, stays together. We like to say that coworkers that plant trees, pull invasive plants, and pick up trash in the parks together, stay together. In June, we had an incredible number of corporate and community groups — 18 to be exact — get gloved up and contribute over 750 volunteer hours in the parks. Here’s how much they rocked:

Invasive Plants

Invasive plants are tough. Our volunteers are 10 times tougher. Groups in June pulled almost 30 bags of garlic mustard, 23 bags of Mile-a-minute vines, and some burdock and mugwort to boot.

Top: Public Allies saving a young tree from an invasive vine in Frick Park. Bottom left: Mullen volunteer wearing a shirt that says “invasive plants beware” pulling garlic mustard. Bottom right: A young SCA volunteer cutting invasive vines in South Side Park (photo credit: SCA)

Trees and plantings

Just uphill from Bartlett Playground, the Schenley Park oak wilt site is on the road to recovery. Volunteers from SDLC Partners trudged right into the mud to get some new trees in the ground to aid this site’s gradual restoration — and had a ball.

Last month, volunteer groups planted almost 450 annuals and herbaceous plants and 59 new trees and shrubs in the parks. Additionally, over 200 pots of native wildflowers were transplanted to keep them safe during the construction of the new Frick Environmental Center.

Top: SDLC volunteers yukking it up in front of a newly planted tree. Bottom left: SDLC volunteers making a hole for a tree in thick mud. Bottom right: Public Allies fence trees in Frick Park.

Weed whackers

Caring for the multitude of park gardens is no easy task. Thanks to the many volunteer hours spent deadheading, weeding, mulching, and watering, we’re able to keep these public gardens looking stellar. Last month, Schenley Plaza, Mellon Park Walled Garden, Highland Park Entry Garden, and Bartlett Playground were all given lots of love by our volunteer groups.

Top right: Duquesne students and Hill District residents plant more than a hundred annuals. Left and bottom right: American Eagle Better World volunteers care for Mellon Park.

Team building

We have a blast working with so many mighty, enthusiastic volunteer groups. And we think that all of the big smiles that we see during and after the day are a pretty good sign that they’re enjoying their time in the parks, too.

Thanks to IDL Worldwide,  Weslyen Charities, AmeriCorps NCCC, Landslide Farm, Mama Africa’s Green Scouts, Navy, Bidwell, Pittsburgh Botanical Society, SCA, South Side Neighborhood Association, American Eagle, Aon, AIG, SDLC Partners, Duquesne University, Public Allies, Highland Park Garden Club, and Mullen for being such fantastic volunteers!

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Itching to get your corporate, community, or religious group out into the parks for a volunteer day? Reach out to us at volunteer@pittsburghparks.org to set up a date for this fall!

Jake Baechle, Volunteer Coordinator with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy