By Gina McKlveen
Along the Allegheny River, beneath the Fort Duquesne Bridge, a garden of greatness is blooming right before our city’s eyes.
Cameron “Camo” Nesbit, the Artist Resident responsible for the 12 portraits of local Black artists, leaders, and entertainers, “see[s] this site as having the potential to grow into a public art mecca for the city of Pittsburgh, and beyond.” The faces of these colorful portraits stare across the waters towards the North Shore, intertwined with images of various bright flowers and brilliant monarch butterflies that break up the industrial feel of the bridge’s beams and invite the viewer to picture a nourished culture. Among the portraits of Black excellence are the familiar faces of the Artist Resident himself, and other well-known Pittsburghers, like Billy Porter, the Broadway and movie-star actor, Wiz Khalifa, the Grammy nominated rapper, Dr. Ayisha Morgan Lee, founder and CEO of Hill Dance Academy Theatre, Alma Speedfox, the “Mother of Pittsburgh’s civil rights movement.”
The project, which was established in 2021, grew out of a previous Black Lives Matter mural created along this same pathway by another group of Pittsburgh mural artists following the brutal murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in 2020. In concert with those mural artists and in conversation with Pittsburgh’s Office of Public, Camo sought to engage the community around the subjects of healing, strength, and enlightenment. In his artist statement, Camo declared, “I believe Pittsburgh is ready for this: a place for people to gather and celebrate new voices and a new style of street art and murals.”
Nourished by its location at the riverfront and sponsored by the Office of Public Art, Riverlife, and Pittsburgh’s Cultural Trust, Camo’s “Black Flowers” is hopefully the first of many art gardens in Pittsburgh where community and conversations around culture, civil rights, and contributions thereto can flourish. “Black Flowers,” in particular though, is a perfect bouquet—a dozen faces—all picked to honor lives and legacies that were at one point or another rooted right here in Pittsburgh. This writer was fortunate enough to experience this beautiful arrangement on the warmth of a recent February weekend, which served as a reminder that as the weather turns closer towards spring by the day soon the City of Pittsburgh will also be in full bloom.
“Black Flowers” is located along Three Rivers Heritage Trail, approximately a half mile from Point State Park, and discoverable by GPS at “Ecstatic RiverFront.” For more information, click here.