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Public Art Project Inaugurates City of Asylum’s Garden-to-Garden Artway

Media contact: Henry Reese, 412-670-1202 hreese@cityofasylumpittburgh.org
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May 29, 2014—PITTSBURGH, PA: River of Words is the first of five temporary public art commissions being installed along City of Asylum Pittsburgh’s Garden-to-Garden Artway. The Office of Public Art is a partner in the project with City of Asylum Pittsburgh.

The artworks were selected during an open call, with a panel of Northside residents making the selection. Each artwork involves extensive collaboration with the Central Northside community by the artists, and each involves the use of language.

River of Words is also a cross-cultural collaboration. The artists—writer Israel Centeno and visual artists, Carolina Arnal and Gisela Romero—are all Venezuelan natives. They will be in residence in Pittsburgh during two weeks in July to complete the project, which will include temporary, ephemeral artworks, texts, and words “hosted” by community members on the exteriors of their homes and gardens.

The community collaboration phase of the project launches with two free Open Houses hosted by the Office of Public Art at the Alphabet City™ Tent, 318 Sampsonia Way. The first will be held on June 12 at 6 p.m. and the second on June 15 at 2 p.m. Community members will learn about the project from Israel Centeno and representatives of the Office of Public Art. Following the presentation, they will have the opportunity to select words they wish to “host.” Refreshments and musical entertainment will be provided.

The Opening Reception for River of Words will be held on July 25 at the Alphabet City™ Tent. The artists will all be present.

About the Garden-to-Garden Artway
The Artway will connect City of Asylum Pittsburgh’s new Alphabet Reading Garden on the 1400 block of Monterey Street to its new Alphabet City literary center in the Garden Theater block. It is a .7 mile walk transformed and activated by the arts and resident artists with temporary and permanent public art, numerous free performances on public streets and in tented vacant lots and gardens, smartphone app-tours, and community-based artist residencies with public workshops and performances.

The Garden-to-Garden Artway is underwritten in part thanks to generous grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and ArtPlace America.

About River of Words
River of Words is a collaboration between the Central Northside community and Venezuelan author Israel Centeno, and Venezuelan visual artists Carolina Arnal and Gisela Romero. Using neural synapsis as a metaphor for connection between human beings, the project will include temporary, ephemeral artworks, texts, and words “hosted” by community members on the exteriors of their homes and gardens. “Human beings make contact with each other through the exchange of energy, affection, and knowledge,” the artists noted in their project proposal. “We’ll use words and sentences as links between houses as in the synaptic space,” creating a visual array of connections and relationships.

About the Artists
Carolina Arnal is a Graphic Designer and Founder of ABV Design Workshop, who has worked in corporate imaging, design, and publishing , with particular emphasis on the cultural area. She has participated in exhibitions including the International Exhibition of Book Art, Leipzig ; Graphic Design in Venezuela at the La Estancia Art Center; and the International Children’s Library in Bologna , among others. She has won national and international awards , such as the Diploma of Honor at the International Exhibition of Book Art , Leipzig , and several awards for her work as an editorial designer. Her work has been reviewed in publications such as Graphic Design in Venezuela, Graphis magazine, and Latin American Graphic Design by Julius Wiedemann and Felipe Taborda, Taschen , 2008. Arnal is Co -founder of a group of independent pro- democracy creators , established to encourage citizen participation through visual and written ideas. www.manifiesta.org.

Gisela Romero is a visual artist who fuses images with words. Since 1999 she has developed a dialogue between her writings and images, giving her work a narrative dimension. Her artistic research is grounded in the territory of dualities, encompassing both rigorously-planned and chance encounters . Romero, who lives and works in Caracas and Playa Pintada, Boca Uchire , Venezuela, received her Master of Fine Arts from Pratt Institute, New York and a BA in Fine Arts, with honors , from California College of Arts, Oakland. She also received a certificate in Graphic Design from the Institute of Design , Foundation Neumann , Caracas . Romero studied literature at the Central University of Venezuela, and participated in workshops in Graphics at Studio Camnitzer , Valdottavo , Italy, and in poetry and narrative at the Trasnocho ICREA and Cultural Center , Caracas, Venezuela.

Israel Centeno has published 14 books including novels, short stories, and poetry. He is regarded as one of the most important Venezuelan literary figures of the last 50 years. He has won numerous awards including Spain’s Federico Garcia Lorca Award and Venezuela’s National Council of Culture Award (1991). Through his narratives, he conveys a sense of the many shortcomings of a society that feeds on grandiose historical myths that lead to poverty and violence. His fiction also accommodates his experience of exile. His most outstanding work to date is found in the novels Calletania (Monte Ávila, 1992; Periférica 2010), Exilio en Bowery (Troya, 1998; Nuevo Espacio, New Jersey 2000), El Complot (Alfadil, 2002; Sampsonia Way, 2014), Bajo las hojas (Alfaguara, 2010), and Según pasan los años (Sudaqia, 2013). He has published two books of short stories: El rabo del Diablo y otros cuentos (Eclepsidra, 1993) and Criaturas de la noche (Alfaguara, 2000, 2011). Centeno currently lives in Pittsburgh, PA with his wife and two daughters, where he has been Exiled Writer -in-Residence at City of Asylum.

About the Office of Public Art
The Office of Public Art is a partnership between the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council and the City of Pittsburgh. OPA provides technical assistance and educational programs about public art in the Pittsburgh region. Learn more at www.publicartpittsburgh.org

About City of Asylum
Founded in 2004, City of Asylum is a model for arts-based community development, bringing writers, readers and neighbors together through global literature and cultural exchange. Located on Sampsonia Way in Pittsburgh’s Northside, City of Asylum’s campus of redeveloped houses serve both as homes for exiled writers and as public artworks. It has presented more than 250 authors and musicians from 42 countries in free readings and concerts. Sampsonia Way, the publishing arm of City of Asylum, specializes in banned books in translation and anthologies of contemporary writing from countries where free speech is under threat; SampsoniaWay.org, its online journal of free speech, literature, and justice serves as a virtual home for persecuted writers and serves a growing global audience online.




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