Downtown handwashing stations help fight COVID-19 in an artful way

By October 1, 2020 Press Releases

PITTSBURGH- Handwashing stations featuring colorful, eye-catching work from three Pittsburgh-based illustrators were installed around Downtown today in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19 and enliven some of the city’s most well-used public spaces.

The stations can be found on the North Shore near the Fred Rogers “Tribute to Children” statue, the upper esplanade near the Water Steps fountain, and Allegheny Landing next to PNC Park; at Allegheny Riverfront Park in the Cultural District at 6th Street and Fort Duquesne Boulevard; at Market Square; and at the Mon Wharf Landing adjacent to the Mon Wharf parking area. The stations will remain at these locations through the end of the year.

The handwashing stations are the first projects of Pittsburgh Creative Corps, a collaboration between Riverlife and the Office of Public Art with support from Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Pittsburgh Creative Corps mobilizes to provide temporary, easy-to-deploy amenities to keep people informed of COVID-19 preventative practices in outdoor public spaces.

“When you’re out on the riverfront trail or in one of our public parks and you need to clean your hands, you realize pretty quickly the lack of facilities available with soap and water,” said Matthew Galluzzo, Riverlife president and CEO. “The Center for Disease Control and Prevention cites handwashing as one of the best ways to avoid getting sick. As more and more people turn to outdoor open spaces as safer places for daily activities, these stations can be an important tool for advancing public health practices for the community.”

The three illustrators whose art appears on panels and graphics that accompany the handwashing units were chosen from nearly 80 submissions in response to a Call for Artists issued earlier this summer. Please see the next page for individual artist bios and photos.

“Artists Ally Lush, Maggie Negrete, and Marcel Walker are known in comics and illustration circles in the city for their unique approaches to storytelling. The handwashing kiosk project created an opportunity for these fantastic illustrators and comic artists–artists whose medium of pen and ink may not traditionally appear in the public realm of the city–to share their work with new audiences in unexpected settings.” said Sallyann Kluz, Director of the Office of Public Art. “We look forward to developing more opportunities in the coming months to engage the talents of our region’s artists and creative workers to support community needs through the pandemic and beyond.”

Funding and resources for Pittsburgh Creative Corps are provided by the Richard King Mellon Foundation, Riverlife, Office of Public Art, and Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.

About the Artists

Ally Lush

Ally Lush is a Pittsburgh artist who creates illustrations using both traditional and digital techniques. She is passionate about public health, equity and crayons, and aims to use her art to promote inclusivity and community.

Ally’s work is inspired by stories of people and stories of communities. She is drawn to the everyday details that make images relatable and familiar; the patterns on cloth, a favorite type of food, the shadows and cracks on a well-traveled neighborhood street.

Maggie Negrete

Maggie Lynn Negrete is a Pittsburgh-based illustrator, designer and educator specializing in portraiture, handlettering and zines. Negrete proudly serves as Art Director for Women in Sound, a digital and print zine that features women and nonbinary professionals in live and recorded sound.

For notable freelance commissions, Negrete has provided artwork for the City of Pittsburgh, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, Early Media, Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, and the Carnegie Museum of Art. In 2018, Negrete received the Transformative Teaching Artist award from the Heinz Endowments for her work with the Brashear Association and MGR Youth Empowerment.

Marcel Walker

Marcel Lamont (M.L.) Walker is an award-winning graphic-prose creator and expert in social applications for comic-book art. He is the lead artist, book designer, and project coordinator for the acclaimed comic-book series CHUTZ-POW! SUPERHEROES OF THE HOLOCAUST, published by The Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh. He is also the president of the board of directors for The ToonSeum, Pittsburgh’s nonprofit Museum of Comic & Cartoon Art.

Based in Pittsburgh, PA, Walker is active as an illustrator, graphic designer, creative writer, and comic-arts instructor. From 1993-1999 he taught comic-book creation classes and workshops, to hundreds of children and adults, at The Pittsburgh Center for the Arts; he currently continues to instruct at The ToonSeum. He has produced artwork for clients including The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, Row House Cinema, The Mineral, Metals & Materials Society, and Pittsburgh’s annual Racial Justice Summit.

In 2016, Walker was the recipient of two regional awards: a grant from The Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh Program courtesy of The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments, and an Artist Opportunity Grant from The Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council. In 2017, he was voted Best Local Cartoonist by readers of The Pittsburgh City Paper in their annual Best of Pittsburgh poll. In 2018, he was awarded a BMe Community Genius Fellowship in recognition of his work in the arts and related community activity.

About Riverlife

Since 1999, Riverlife has worked to create, activate, and celebrate Pittsburgh’s riverfronts, connecting people through exceptional places and experiences. Riverlife has been a leader in building a community vision for over 15 miles and 880 acres of Downtown riverfront parks, trails, and public open space. For more information, visit riverlifepgh.org.

About the Office of Public Art

The Office of Public Art (OPA) envisions a region in which the creative practices of artists are fully engaged to collaboratively shape the public realm and catalyze community-led change. OPA builds capacity for this work through technical assistance, public programming, artist resources, and civically engaged public art projects. Located at the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, OPA serves the thirteen county region of Southwestern Pennsylvania. Learn more at publicartpittsburgh.org.


For more information, contact Stephan Bontrager, Riverlife.

Top image by Anna Leisher for Riverlife.