Braddock Mosaic Park

Artist: James Simon
Location: Braddock, PA 15104, United States
Year of completion: 2007
Researcher: Shauna Dee

Once a thriving commercial destination amidst the industrial center of steel production in the Monongahela Valley, the small town of Braddock, Pennsylvania suffered through a brutal postindustrial decline in the 1980s. When its massive economic engine sputtered out, Braddock lost ninety percent of everything—its buildings, its businesses, its people.

Yet Braddock remains a richly historic area populated by wonderful and resilient people. Amidst the remains of housing and commerce a community grassroots effort to revitalize the town is taking shape.

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Allegheny County Economic Development constructed a bus shelter on Verona Street. It was built near the entrance to a new housing development, but a vacant lot, strewn with trash and overgrown with weeds, lay between the shelter and the new homes, creating something of an eyesore. The Braddock Mosaic Park project turned the trashed out abandoned lot into a beautiful community mosaic and green park/space.

In partnership with the Braddock Economic Development Corporation, Braddock Borough, and the Allegheny County Department of Economic Development, Braddock Redux secured funding and coordinated the installation of a mosaic park on an unused lot. Kathy Castner, a project manager who works with the county department, invited sculptor James Simon to create something for the lot. Braddock Redux, contributed rent-free studio space for Mr. Simon to work. Seven local teenagers, employed through the local Braddock Youth Project that is run by AmeriCorp through Allegheny County Department of Human Services, provided labor.

In 2008 the “Pond” mosaic was completed in the newly designed and constructed Braddock parklet at the Verona Street bus stop on Braddock Avenue. Braddock Redux won a prestigious Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation grant to create and build the mosaic parklet. The parklet also houses mosaic totem poles designed by Simon and students surrounding school districts.

One of Simon’s other public art projects in Braddock similar to the mosaic park is a welcome sign. As you cross the Rankin Bridge to enter the borough of Braddock and are greeted by a stunning 10-by-12-foot mosaic mural, which spells out the words, "Welcome to Historic Braddock," in bits of sparkling mirror, tile, stone and stained glass. James Simon unveiled the mosaic in the summer of 2007 as part of Braddock's Community Day festivities, and it continues to inspire residents.

More about Braddock Redux:

Where some people see abandoned buildings, vacant lots, and bored youth with nothing to do, Braddock Redux sees opportunity. Founded in 2003 by John Fetterman (elected mayor of Braddock in 2005), Braddock Redux promotes local environmental stewardship, arts programs, employment, training, and mentoring for local youth. They seek out creative and engaging community revitalization projects. Braddock Redux partners with Allegheny County’s largest youth employment program, the Braddock Youth Project. During the summer, the BYP hires youth who want to better their community through beautification, outreach, and grassroots organization.

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Progress Agency