Earlier this fall, in October, Lisa Link and I presented End of the Line: Building Bridges with Pittsburgh’s Busways, a temporary public art project at Spark’s Lunch n Learn at the Carnegie Library. At the core of the project was our digital art and community research workshops at Carnegie Branch Libraries. The type of work we were doing in 1996-7 had not been done before in Pittsburgh; certainly not as a key component of a public art project. In our presentation we looked at End of the Line from the lens of the libraries’ recent shift to digital labs.
We used the decentralized network of Carnegie Libraries as a structure for engaging residents in these neighborhood hubs. Coming from the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, we had a research orientation towards working with project participants. We came to library workshops to conduct oral histories, to gather and copy personal and historic photographs, and to begin conversations about what mattered to people – their concerns, issues, hopes and dreams for the future of their communities. None of the hand-held technologies that we currently take for granted existed at the time. Our only hand-held was a Sony Walkman. We worked with desktops, not laptops.
Partnering with the libraries in the public engagement and outreach process was the best thing we could have done. In our Spark presentation Lisa and I talked about the qualities that librarians have which make them perfect partners for this type of project. We shared how librarians are innately talented problem-solvers, community leaders and embody the term “customer-service.” Less than month from our national election, Lisa said “librarians should be running the country.”
From the libraries we came back to the STUDIO having successfully conducted our community research. We set about analyzing materials and quickly saw four themes emerging for the design of bus billboards. In order to include everyone’s participation on the project, we created an online archive, using the 1997 Frames technology of WEB 1.0.
Here you can see one of the twenty Port Authority buses we used to transport the project. Inside the bus, Lisa and I are seated by one of the interior posters celebrating the libraries’ key role. In the bus, we are talking to Ruth Rosfeld’s daughter. Ruth was featured in our “neighborhood hero” themed bus billboard design. She is from Beechwood, and you can just see the Beechwood librarian in the background of the photograph.
You can find the original End of the Line web site here and a photo album with complete documentation here. At Spark’s Lunch n Learn we had a packed house of educators, library professionals and community leaders.