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Is Proposed Sculpture a Salute to Steel or a ‘Hunk of Junk’?

December 18, 1985

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ A $500,000, 90-foot-tall abstract sculpture hailed as a tribute to the steel industry by supporters and dubbed by critics ″a bird on a broken bar stool″ dominated today’s agendas of the City Council and Art Commission.

The nine-member commission gave tentative approval to the sculpture in a 4-2 vote on Dec. 7, and was hoping to make a final decision this afternoon.

″I want everybody to stand up and be counted,″ said commission Chairman Harold Corsini. ″We want to clear the air. We want to tie up all the loose ends.

″There’s a lot of diversity of opinion about it. The complaint I’ve heard most is how can you spend a half-million dollars on a sculpture that is a tribute to the steel industry when our steelworkers are starving?″

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

″I picture a huge piano stool topped by two hockey sticks mounted on a pivot,″ George Gazzam of Mount Washington said in a letter to one of Pittsburgh’s two major newspapers.

″Seattle has its Space Needle. St. Louis has its arch. Pittsburgh may get a bird on a broken bar stool. Shame 3/8 Don’t let it happen,″ wrote James McNally of McMurray.

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 National Endowment for the Arts has contributed $50,000, the maximum possible, and Ms. Snyder has solicited $430,000 in private and corporate donations. The city council was considering donating $20,000.

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

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.″

Her enthusiasm was not shared by everyone.

″One extinct smokestack from an idle U.S. Steel mill would be just as attractive and probably more symbolic,″ Dara Pozzuto of Forest Hills wrote in a letter to the editor.

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