From Bridge to Bridge: Assembling Sculptures, Building Bridges, and “Crossing Paths” With Public Art Bridgeville

By Gina McKlveen

The old adage, “It takes a village to raise a child,” is similarly apropos for starting a local public arts program. Public Art Bridgeville was something like the brainchild of Guy and Elizabeth “Bitsy” Bellaver. The husband-and-wife team were originally from the Greater Pittsburgh area, hailing from Mt. Lebanon and Upper St. Clair, respectively, then moved to the mid-west to chart their illustrious careers in the arts and business worlds.

Prior to the COIVD-19 outbreak, Guy and Bitsy returned to Allegheny County, settling in the Borough of Bridgeville. Shortly thereafter, at the height of the pandemic, Guy, who is a nationally recognized sculptor and artist in his own right, asked, “Who was hurting the most?” His answer, “The arts.”

From there, Guy said he and Bitsy began to brainstorm, “Was there anything we could do to help the arts? Well, we could have shows where we could pay artists to come here [to Bridgeville]. Then, let’s see if the government in Bridgeville wants to support that [and] see if we can get public donors to support that.”

Bitsy likened the idea to the iconic line, “Hey kids, let’s put on a show,” featured in Judy Garland and Mikey Rooney films such as “Babes in Arms,” “Babes on Broadway,” and “Strike up the Band.” So, she suggested, “Hey, let’s put on a sculpture show! We can do that!”

Assembling Sculptures

At the time, Guy and Bitsy also connected with the Bridgeville Borough Manager, Joe Kauer, who was exploring other public arts options through commissioning a mural on a deteriorating bridge as a means to bring the arts into this community. After various conversations and collaborations throughout 2020 and 2021, Public Art Bridgeville was eventually born.

Virginia “BJ” Bott Schneider is the current President of Public Art Bridgeville, and similarly was instrumental in the development of the organization, including establishing its board members, Bert Chery, Justine Cimarolli, Pat DeBlasio, Annette Kirkpatrick, and Kayla Lawrence, each of whom regularly support the presence of public art around the Borough.

Bridgeville Borough contributed to the establishment of Public Art Bridgeville and the Bellavers’ vision. The Borough agreed to help put in concreate pads [where the sculptures would be installed] and allowed us to use portions of their parking lot to put the sculptures,” noted Guy.”

To this day, Borough employees play a critical role in the efforts behind Public Art Bridgeville. Bitsy described one particular instance where a Maryland-based artist was arriving to the area after a show to pick up his multi-part sculpture “made from railroad ties that were shellacked and carved” and Borough employees had carefully “lined up, exactly, in equal distance, top to bottom” with the meticulousness of a seasoned museum professional. Another instance Bitsy recalled when Borough employees went above and beyond to help assemble one of the sculptures was a 20-foot tall sculpture, titled “Red Dancer,” by Pittsburgh-born, internationally recognized sculptor, Gary Kulak, which is currently seated outside the Bridgeville Public Library.

“The Borough has done really a terrific job of just getting it clean, putting in some things like some trees and bushes, working with the building owners. It’s still a work in progress, but it’s just so vastly improved even in the few years since we’ve been here,” Bitsy said.

Building Bridges

Public Art Bridgeville also established a committee to help make some of these placement decisions, to figure out how many pieces will be exhibited and where. Guy is a key voice on this committee, knowing both the aesthetics of sculpture as well as the organizational aspects from previous experience working with Public Districts in Illinois.

“The first year we had six pieces. Once we had those six pieces around town, there was a general consensus that we need more,” Bitsy commented.

So in between the first year of exhibiting sculptures around Bridgeville and the second year, Bitsy spent months developing an artist database from the network of sculptors Guy had crossed paths with and beyond. “I tried to expand the exhibition by contacting more artists, hundreds of artists. I looked for every single sculpture exhibition I could find in the United States of America,” she said. Bitsy also reached out to places Guy had exhibited his own work in Colorado, North Carolina, South Dakota, Illinois and even universities like Appalachian State University, and local colleges where Guy’s sculptures are also displayed or exhibited namely, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Clarion, Washington & Jefferson, and Saint Vincent College.

“When you develop that database over time, whether it’s outdoor artists or indoor artists, but the bulk of them are sculptors and you just know then you have a huge database,” Bitsy acknowledged. Compared to the first year when they essentially “tapped people on the shoulder” to ask for pieces, the second year, approximately “60-70 pieces, or more were submitted,” she stated.

“The second year, we expanded over to Dewey Avenue.” Guy said. “We were two years into the pandemic, most artists weren’t sure when they would get a sale, so they were glad to have us talking to them. As an artist you want to create. So, you create, but you can’t show. It’s in that stagnation where you need an incentive to create and you realize there’s a lot of incentives to be at these shows, but also to create something new.”

Now, every year Bridgeville looks forward to the addition of new sculptures arriving to its sidewalks and parks and the artists who exhibit their works here are exposed to new audiences and opportunities.

“When we started out, I went looking for who else is doing one of these. From Ohio and northeast, I did not find one single community doing one of these. There is not another one in Pennsylvania like it. We are the only show like this,” Bitsy continued, “We wanted this idea of using public art as a way to attract people to a community. This is one of the interesting things about Bridgeville: ‘From Bridge to Bridge’ is its motto, and [Public Art Bridgeville is now] literally from bridge to bridge.”

“Crossing Paths”

This year, Public Art Bridgeville’s third-annual outdoor sculpture exhibition includes ten pieces, including seven new sculptures. One of those must-see sculptures is located just outside La Bella Bean along Washington Avenue by the famous artist and Johnson & Johnson family member, Seward Johnson titled “Crossing Paths,” depicting two elegantly dressed ladies sitting on a park bench in Johnson’s recognizable trompe-l’oeil painted bronze style.


Bitsy aptly remarked that this sculpture is “very Pittsburgh,” in the sense that the women depicted in “Crossing Paths” remind her of the women of her mother’s generation. Growing up in Upper St. Clair, she remembers her mother getting dressed up to go to the grocery store, or run errands, something that was expected of the 1950s generation, but completely unheard of in today’s day and age.

Public Art Bridgeville has showcased previous works by Johnson, including “The Whittler,” “Waiting to Cross,” “Hell, Time to Go Fishing,” “Best Seller,” and “Inner World, Outer World.”

This year, in addition to “Crossing Paths,” Public Art Bridgeville has also selected Johnson’s sculpture of a mailman, titled “Special Delivery,” which in both aesthetics and name is reminiscent of Mr. McFeely of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Once again, another sculpture that is classically connected to the Greater Pittsburgh area.

Other artists currently on display with Public Art Bridgeville’s 2024 outdoor exhibition include, Peter Calaboyias, David Boyajian, Gary Kulak, Dan Droz, Bob Doster, and of course, Guy Bellaver. An indoor exhibition of various artworks by artists from Pittsburgh’s Society of Sculptors is also on display inside Bridgeville’s Public Library until May 17th.


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