The Pittsburgh Art Commission on Wednesday rejected a proposal to place a sculpture of actress Jane Seymour on the Grandview Avenue Overlook of Mount Washington.
The proposed bronze statue is said to depict Seymour’s open heart design, which is best known from the Kay Jewelers Open Hearts jewelry collection.
An anonymous donor has offered to fund the sculpture, said Gordon Davidson, executive director of the Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation. He pitched the idea of making the sculpture a centerpiece of the gazebo – which offers a popular view of the city – to the Art Commission, hoping to unveil the statue in July with Seymour in attendance.
“The sculpture is interactive in that visitors are encouraged to touch it and pose with it,” Davidson said, suggesting it would be used in photos of balls or engagements that are usually staged at the gazebo. .
Davidson suggested the city could provide a cement pedestal and said maintenance should be minimal. Similar versions of the sculpture exist in other cities, including Bradenton, Florida.
Art Commission members quickly dismissed the idea of a statue at a site known for its pristine city views. Some have criticized the idea of placing such a commercialized work of art on any public property in Pittsburgh.
“The art on this platform is actually the skyline of the city,” said curator Peter Quintanilla, explaining that he likes to bring city visitors to the lookout so they can take in the view. “I don’t think there should be any artwork there. The platform itself is a place to see the city, not necessarily to host a work of art.
He suggested finding another location, such as a park, for the sculpture.
Commissioner Vivian Loftness also objected to the proposed “problematic location” for the piece and said she felt it would hamper popular photo opportunities.
“It blocks the view,” said Arts Commission Secretary Sarika Goulatia.
While the location was part of the problem, Goulatia said the artwork itself – which was mass-produced in jewelry – was also a problem for her.
“As a city, we have to do one-off things and not have something that’s mass-produced,” she said.
The gazebo is a kind of “sacred ground” in the city, said curator Richard Parsakian, who argued the artwork had no place in such a space.
“I just don’t feel like it belongs in the city,” he said. “It’s a commercial gem from Kay Jewelry. It is not a unique sculpture.
A recent poll of local residents resulted in more than 280 people voicing their opposition to the idea, said Pat Gianella, a Democratic committee member from Mt. Washington. He expressed concern that the local community organization would push forward with the proposal despite what he saw as widespread opposition.
“The Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation does not represent the community of Mt. Washington,” he said.
Scenic Pittsburgh also opposed the proposal. Speaking on behalf of the organization, Dave Demko noted that Seymour and his works have no connection to the city.
“This sculpture is a blatant advertisement for Jane Seymour’s Open Heart jewelry collection,” Demko said.
Davidson of the Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation offered to withdraw the proposal amid the backlash. The Art Commission members voted anyway, in an effort to ensure that the idea would not be presented to them again.
All Art Commission members present for Wednesday’s meeting voted to reject the proposal. Art Commission Chairman Andrew Moss was not present during the vote.