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Citizenry Hoots at Proposed City Sculpture

December 17, 1985

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ A $500,000, 10-story-high sculpture made partly of steel I-beams has been proposed for downtown as a tribute to the city’s steel industry, but critics pooh-pooh it as a bird on a bar stool, a wrecked helicopter or worse.

″It looks like a discarded windmill. We’re getting a hunk of junk,″ said city Councilwoman Michelle Madoff.

″I picture a huge piano stool topped by two hockey sticks mounted on a pivot,″ said George Gazzam of the city’s Mount Washington neighborhood.

The 90-foot-tall figure would have three legs of curved, painted steel I- beams with a central shaft supporting a rotating disc and two V-shaped stainless steel wings or chevrons. The chevrons and disc would move slightly in the wind.

The proposed work by New York sculptor Mark di Suvero is earmarked for a traffic island in Gateway Center, near the point where the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers join to form the Ohio River.

Art adviser Alice Snyder, who proposed the project, hoped it would become the city’s ″signature piece″ and symbolize ″the history and energy of Pittsburgh through the appropriate use of materials and design.″

The nine-member city Art Commission gave tentative approval Dec. 7 and will vote again Wednesday. City Council is supposed to vote later in the day on whether to kick in $20,000 to support it.

The National Endowment for the Arts has contributed $50,000, the maximum it can donate, and Ms. Snyder arranged $430,000 in private and corporate donations.

City officials say part of the controversy stems from sketches of an early model.

″It’s a rough rendering,″ said Louise Brown, the city’s director of parks and recreation. ″I think it’s very exciting. I’m not even sure I’ll like it, but I think the magnificence, the grandeur will be truly exciting.″

Not everyone shares Ms. Snyder’s enthusiasm, as demonstrated by letters to the editors of The Pittsburgh Press and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

″His proposed sculpture looks like a throwback to the mid-1950s car hood ornaments. Installed, it may seem like beached helicopter floundering on its pad,″ said Richard Rappaport of the Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

″Only three words can describe the selection of the city’s 90-foot steel sculpture: UGLY. UGLY. UGLY. One extinct smokestack from an idle U.S. Steel mill would be just as attractive and probably more symbolic,″ said Dara Pozzuto of Forest Hills.

″To me, this piece looks like a starving bird perched on an old piano stool. Why not a genuine piece of equipment from a closed steel mill, like a blast furnace?″ said A. Fried of Baldwin.

Pat Gladis called it ″a big knick-knack table topped by a windmill.″

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