Shots from the Block: the Color Park

Since I moved to Pittsburgh’s South Side last month I have been on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail nearly every day. The nearby riverfront trail has provided me with a handy outlet for active recreation or aimless wandering whenever I feel the need to escape the hustle and bustle of East Carson street or am restless in my half-empty apartment. The trail is littered with historical markers, relics of the steel industry, and various works of art, but one of my favorite features of the south shore stretch is the Color Park.

I have found background information on the Color Park to be somewhat scarce, though it seems to have officially started in April 2017 with a kickoff event to celebrate the opening day for trails. The Color Park is closely associated with local artist Baron Batch. As reported by WESA:

“Batch, a former Pittsburgh Steelers player who left the NFL in 2013, has since focused on creating his trademark colorful murals, artwork and installations. Last June, Batch was in the midst of painting several public murals around the city. He said he was so used to doing it, that he just instinctually tagged encouraging messages along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, Mon Wharf Parking lot and Hot Metal Bridge.”

After being arrested and charged with $30 thousand in fines over his graffiti, Batch explored other avenues for exploring possibilities for public art in Pittsburgh. He partnered with nonprofit Friends of the Riverfront to create the Color Park.

I wasn’t familiar with Batch’s history before investigating the origins of the Color Park. After learning some about his work I now recognize several of his designs, such as the elephant head murals, as distinctive parts of the South Side streetscape. In fact, I coincidentally captured one of his “eye” designs in the photo for my “Back in the Burgh” post.

There’s much more I’d like to know about the administration of the Color Park and its status as a sanctioned graffiti zone. I suspect Dr. Caitlin Bruce, one of my former teachers, could shed some additional light as she has extensively researched legal graffiti zones and been involved with public art initiatives in the South Side. In the meantime, the Park is one of my favorite places to ride for views of the downtown skyline and the ever-shifting spraypainted scrawl.

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