Sparkle Plenty In The Square

Opening night in the Square and Diamond Diamonds scored rave reviews even before the morning papers hit the news stands. This dazzling new art installation, created by the talented Carin Mincemoyer, entranced passersby who strolled along Market Street, or as we like to call it, Pittsburgh's "Great Bright Way." On a perfect summer's eve, Diamond Diamonds lit up the skies with plenty of star power to fuel a long run in one of the city's hottest hot spots — Market Square. 

More than 15 months in the making, Diamond Diamonds was commissioned by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership and made possible through the work of the Office of Public Art and the City of Pittsburgh. Designed for daytime and nighttime enjoyment, it illuminates the Square's past as "the diamond" and serves as a guiding light to attract even more people to the Square and its many dining, shopping and recreational opportunities. 
But the real high-watt driving force behind Diamond Diamonds is Carin Mincemoyer. A CMU grad, the renowned artist led a team of welders, laser cutters and electricians to bring her stellar vision to light. The result is a brilliant scultpure in two parts, perched upon two city lamp posts on Market Street. Thus, her creation graces the street lights like a pair of Tiffany diamond earrings, Carin hopes that people will take a moment to look up. And what they'll see is a steel matrix of energy-saving LED lights twinkling inside 80 acrylic fixtures shaped like — what else? — diamonds. 

"I really want people to be surprised to see art hanging from the street lights when they're walking towards Market Square," Carin admits. "I picked the diamond theme to reflect on the Square's past and to play on the idea that a diamond is usually the focal point in a great piece of jewelry. I really hope that Diamond Diamonds will become a beacon that draws people from the Cultural District and other parts of Downtown to the Square." After teaming with Rick Frontera of Allegheny City Electric on a cloudy Tuesday morning to install Diamond Diamonds, Carin returned for the first night lighting with Rick, Renee Piechocki and Kate Hansen from the Office of Public Art, and Keny Marshall, artist, welder on the project and Carin's husband. 

As the power trio looked on, the turn of the century light fixtures flickered and then burned bright as Diamond Diamonds wowed onlookers, including Pittsburgh's own denizens and out-of-town visitors who stopped to snap a few photos for keepsakes. While Carin explained the theme behind Diamond Diamonds to admirers, Renee pointed out that "we really wanted to create something beautiful, thoughtful and interesting in this space. And to help people understand how it all ties in with the Square's history as Pittsburgh Diamond, we'll be installing be a plaque that details it all on each light pole."

Artist Talk and Reception
The Office of Public Art and Pittbsurgh Downtown Partnership invite you all to meet the artist in-person and view the sculptures.  On Thursday, July 14 the artist talk will take place on the 4th Floor of the Buhl Building, and the reception will take place in Market Street beneath the sculptures, block party style.  The event is free and open to the public but reservations are required.  For more info or to make your reservation, visit the Office of Public Art's webpage.

With Opening Night reviews in, Diamond Diamonds will be the sight to see when the lights go down in the city and the bright lights of Market Street switch on. 

For more background, see our previous blog posts on:
     The history of Market Square as "the diamond"
     Our first big post on the project
     Our first introduction of the project at the PDP Annual Meeting

Pittsburgh is full of great public art - check out this Pop City article.  In the "Oscar's of Public Art" Pittsburgh had three big wins.  Hear about these 2010 national winners and check out their nod to Carin's installation.  Kudos to the Office of Public Art, the artists and the many institutions that made these works possible!

Looking for the next big art project?  Point Park University and Riverlife have joined forces to improve the pedestrian access to the Mon Wharf via Wood Street. Wood Street - Mon Wharf Connection Project


Marketing The Square

Really, it's no secret that Market Square is one of the hottest go-to lunchtime stops for most people living, working or just dropping in on Downtown. Now one group of people — besides us — wants to spread the word that there's something going on in the Square just about anytime most days of the week. Which is why the Market Square Merchants Association (MSMA) is extending an open invitation to everyone to enjoy Summer in the Square  — and much more.

"The goal of the association is simple," says Mike Geiger, an MSMA member and owner of Moe's Southwest Grill in the Square. "We want to provide everyone who visits the very best experience possible, whether they're here for lunch, St. Patrick's Day, Light-Up Night or any other day of the year."

Now there are certainly plenty of special occasions to plan a trip to the Square. But the truth is that the very best reason to spend some time in the heart of Downtown is the merchants in and around the Square. In one of the city's most compact shopping and dining districts, you'll find hip clothing stores, stylish shoe shops, bakeries, pizza parlors, Mexican-flavored dishes, classic American burgers, longtime Pittsburgh eateries, donuts, New Orleans infused cuisine, coffee shops, traditional Italian, and hoagies and submarine sandwiches. They're all within a few seconds walk from the center of the Square — and many are open for business every day from the early hours of the morning to way past sundown.

Whether you start off with a Mellow Mondays lunchtime concert, get over the hump with some Mid-Week Music or unwind after a long week at work with a drink and dining special during Friday Night Live performances, the MSMA wants you to know this is Downtown's newest entertainment, dining and shopping venue.  Tomorrow evening features Jamie Bruno at 5pm and Saddle Up at 6pm with prizes and give aways from Y108.  It will be like a little preview for the July 2 Kenny Chesney concert - Saddle Up will be playing Heinz field that day also.

But, as they shout out in those wacky TV ads—wait, there's more! With a new can-do spirit of pulling together, the MSMA is planning to bring even bigger events to the Square all year-round, like the spooktacular Zombie Fest. And they are busy telling people that the Square is the perfect place for al fresco conferences, parties, weddings and just about any happening you can imagine.

So the next time you visit the Square, think about what brought you there. And chances are, the answer will be a stop at one of the many members of the MSMA.

To see the schedule of all weekly events, check out the Market Square Programs.  With seven regularly scheduled programs, you want to make sure you've got your days straight!


Diamonds in the Square

You don't really need a map to find your way to Market Square. But do you think you could locate the biggest Diamond in the City? Here's a clue... it's not in a jewelry store. Truth is, the "Diamond" is the historical name of the Square, which is why Forbes Avenue once was called Diamond Street. These days, we like to think that the Square is a glittering diamond that's at the heart of Downtown. So, let's take a look at how a once rough and tumble frontier spot transformed into a Diamond and then a rock solid stellar Square of a city showplace.

Now everyone knows that the British chased the French out of the region between the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers to establish the settlement in 1758. The Diamond officially took shape 20 years later when the Penn family surveyed the land nearby their manor home at Ft. Pitt at the Point. In a big time act of generosity, the Penns signed over to the city the deed to the land so that it could be put to good use as a social, civic and merchants' gathering spot. At its four corners, the Diamond pointed north, south, east and west and served as a compass for visitors who enjoyed the taverns and inns around the Diamond. Kind of sounds familiar, doesn't it?

While the British settled the area, the Diamond bears strong traces of our City's heavy Scotch-Irish heritage. Even today, one of the streets leading to the Square is called McMasters Way. And it turns out that Diamonds can still be found throughout the northern area of the Emerald Isle in places such as Rapahoe, Clones and a town called Donegal, which just happens to have a counterpart here in Western Pennsylvania. Donegal's Diamond is pictured above, used just as Pittsburgh's was before the court house and market was built. In Architectural Heritage of Western Pennsylvania, Charles Stotz writes, "Public squares or "Diamonds" were common in many early American towns, intended as 'practical provisions for the overnight parking of coaches, wagons, and horses rather than for beautification . . . [and as] social centers for towns.'"  And just across the Allegheny River, the land that sits in front of the former Buhl Science Center — now part of the wonderful Children's Museum — was a grassy expanse known as Diamond Park. Back then, it was the center of Allegheny City and just across the street from its very own Market House. Seems that Diamonds and Market Houses made good partners.

Well, very soon, diamonds will sparkle again in the Square thanks to artist Carin Mincemoyer, whose installation of 8-inch tall Plexiglas "diamonds" will accessorize lamp posts at the entrance of the Square. At night, LED lights will make the diamonds glitter and glow as people pass below to dine in the Square or just spend some time enjoying the summer winds and sounds of live music from NOLA and other hot spots. And, yes, we introduced you to Carin's creativity a few months ago, right here in this space. If you need a refresher course, just click here.

Okay, the lesson's over for today. And don't worry, there's no test — as long as you promise that we'll see you soon in the Square.

Special thanks for the historical information:
Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation; Louise Sturgess, Al Tannler and Frank Stroker
Heinz Architectural Center at Carnegie Museum of Art; Raymund Ryan, Curator of Architecture


Weiners, Wheels and Wednesday Concerts

It's not exactly the Gunfight at the OK Corral. But some of the planet's most prodigious consumers of wieners will belly up to the table for a just-past high noon showdown in Market Square on Wednesday to claim bragging rights and a chance to compete in the Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest on July 4 at New York City's Coney Island. As just one of 13 regional contests in the U.S., this matchup of select super eaters promises to bring out some formidable contenders for the championship belt, which might need to be expanded a few notches.

Photo by Bobby Banks
So here's how it works. Up to 20 contestants —both  men and women — will try to beat the clock and each other by eating as many Nathan's Famous natural casing franks, including buns, in 10 minutes. For stat happy fans, each of the dogs tips the scales at two ounces with the buns weighing in at less than a half-ounce. Just to see what local participants are up against, Joey Chestnut, the current world champ, holds the world record with a gut-busting 68 dogs in 10 minutes. While you don't need to break the current mark to qualify, female contestants need to down at least 10 dogs to qualify. Just in case you think the challenge is tough, keep in mind that the local winners will take home of year's supply of Nathan's hot dogs and receive free airfare and hotel accommodations to take part in the ESPN televised Fourth of July eat off at America's most famous amusement park, where the grand prize is $20,000. And if you're not quite ready to go bun to bun this year with the region's top eaters, you can start training today for 2012 at Pittsburgh's own Nathan's Famous location on the corner of Third Avenue and Wood Street, which happens to be owned and operated by the YWCA. The dogs go down starting at 10 minutes past the stroke of noon.

While hungry competitors prepare for the wiener wars, the friendly folks at the Market Square Merchants Association will start its Mid-Week Music Series in Market Square, sponsored by Star 100.7 with the island infused tunes of the Lincoln Park Steel Drum Band. Every Wednesday through August 24, the Square will be alive with the sound of music from some of the region's top performers. And the beat will go on during the Mellow Monday and Friday Night Live series, too, as the Merchants strike up the bands for more performances in the Square all summer long. Check back here for more info on those events.

Of course, we like to think that the Farmers Market in the Square strikes exactly the right chord every Thursday, with a pitch perfect blend of wholesome foods and music from local talents. As the growing season progresses, look for more farm fresh delectables, free City Paper, and area entertainers to show up as part of our Thursdays in the Square events.

If you're looking for a wheel deal, then pedal your way to Market Square during this week's Farmers Market for a bike-sharing program demonstration by B-cycle. Similar to the Zipcar auto-sharing program already in the city, B-cycle is designed to allow members to borrow and return bikes from designated stations for as little as $5 for 24 hours use. For more information, be sure to catch the B-cycle team from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m this Thursday. If you miss the live demo, check in with the folk at our own Bike Pittsburgh.

More than ever, there's always something happening in the Square. So make sure you check our calendar of events  We'll see you soon in the Square.


Dance To The Music

Sure you can rhyme "June" with "moon." But we prefer to go with a "June" and "Tune" match to announce the start of our weekly Thursday noontime concerts in Market Square, starting this week and going through August 18. This year's series hits a high note from the start with one of Pittsburgh's favorite rockers, Bill Deasy. And be sure to check our events calendar every week to see who's taking the stage. Best of all the hottest concert ticket in the Square is absolutely free.   All summer you can tap your feet to a variety of rock, country, soul, jazz and more as some of Pittsburgh's most talented musicians sing, dance and play during the Farmers Market. Now that's what we call one sweet duet.

While grownups get to have fun in the Square nearly every day, we're setting aside one day a week especially for youngsters to enjoy themselves during Kidsplay. The fun starts this Friday, June 3 from 10-11:30 a.m. and continues each week through August 19. With a mix of educational and entertaining activities, Kidsplay is a great for parents and their children to experience the Square in a family friendly atmosphere. From McGruff the Crime Dog to that Guy with the Birds, Kidsplay is fun for everyone. To see what's in store this year, check the Kidsplay schedule now.

School may be out soon. But we think learning never stops. And there's no better way to discover more about Market Square than a Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation tour. Led by some ace architectural and history buffs, the Market Square area tours are great to discover some of the most amazing things in and around the Square — and to learn just how Pittsburgh came to be one of the best and most important cities in the U.S.A. The tours are free, but the number of walkers is limited. You'll cover a lot of ground and information during the one-hour tours, which start at noon in the PNC Triangle Park in front of the Fairmont Hotel. To make a reservation for the June 3, 10, 17 or 24 tour, visit the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation tour site today.

If you're looking for a bit more of a workout than strolling around the city, the YMCA will lead free exercises every Friday in the Square to get in you into summertime shape. From Spinning to Zumba to Pilates and Yoga, you'll find variety and a friendly atmosphere.  Instead of taking time away from family before or after work, you can get ready for swim season on your lunch hour - buy fresh veggies on Thursday and meet up with the YMCA on Friday.  If you had pastitsio instead of veggies, well, they'll take care of that too!

And just in case all this wasn't enough to fill your June calendar, the Market Square Merchants Association will host special events during lunch on Mondays and Wednesdays during the summer and some very cool "happy hour" happenings on Fridays. Stay tuned for more information or visit our events calendar to stay current.

Summer is just heating up — and the Square is one cool hot spot to be all summer long.