'Lotta Terra Cotta

A downtown parking-garage courtyard provides a home for charming statues.



Some of these statues are based on photographs, and some are depictions of well-known Pittsburghers.

Photo by Rick Sebak

I first spotted these stubby little statues in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article this past summer.

The piece was about “urban oases,” places where Pittsburghers can go and pause or just relax beside some body or “bubbling basin” of water. There were a few pictures of these statues, and their location was identified as the Wood-Allies Garage. I couldn’t tell the size of the figures from the newspaper article, but I thought they were very interesting in shape and execution, and since I’d never seen them, I had to find them.

They’re in a little park—a courtyard of sorts in the parking garage at 228 Blvd. of the Allies directly across from Point Park University. This garage includes the offices of Pittsburgh Parking Authority, and if you go to get a city parking permit, you will see the statues. There are 15 freestanding sculptures (all of them about 3 feet tall), and there’s a flat tower that features bas-relief images of another dozen or so figures that appear to be riding in elevators.

This parklet was included in the Post-Gazette article because these statues were originally standing in pools of water or fountains, and there was a man-made waterfall cascading down the sides of the tower. Last winter’s cold weather caused some problems, and the fountains haven’t been working much lately, but that doesn’t diminish the charm of the statues.
These figures were created in 1985 by sculptor Jerry Caplan (1923-2004), who was born in the Hill District. Caplan lived in Shadyside for many years and taught at Chatham University and at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. He called this collection of figures “Pittsburgh People” and cleverly constructed the statues by manipulating tubes of soft clay that are often used for sewer pipes.

According to Carol Siegel, an art dealer who helped put this art installation together, some of the figures were based on photographs, some are depictions of well-known Pittsburghers (like former Mayor Richard Caliguiri and Teresa Heinz) and there’s even a self-portrait of Caplan, who’s wearing a big pair of eyeglasses, in the elevator car that has four people.
A figure at the top end of the installation was added years after the others. Made in the same style and materials and sculpted by one of Caplan’s associates, it’s a reproduction of Wasindar Mokha, who was director of engineering for the Parking Authority. When he died in August 2000, his colleagues asked if they could remember him by adding his likeness to the statues in the courtyard. I think it might be the only statue of a Pittsburgh engineer in this city of great engineers.
I am not sure what exactly makes me like these statues so much, but I do. It’s probably some combination of familiarity, accessibility and the solid, thick-legged nature of most of them. None of them appear to be very happy, and except for the mother and child beside the elevator tower, they don’t seem to be interacting at all.

They’re individuals, pausing, maybe trying to get from one place to another, but they’re planted here. And why be in a hurry? They’re Pittsburghers. And I think they’re a wonderful work of art.


Rick Sebak is producing a new weekly program, “It’s Pittsburgh and A Lot of Other Stuff,” premiering on WQED on Wed., Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m. These statues of “Pittsburgh People” will be one of the first stories.

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

The month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

The list of the regions's 687 leading physicians across 80 specialities.
Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

In a city known for world-class care, a life dedicated to health is rewarding, challenging, and innovative at every level — from med school to the board room.
Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Can McLay reshape the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police in his polite, communication-heavy, community-friendly, racially sensitive, 21st-century image?
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Not Surprising: 'Burgh Among the Best for New College Grads

Not Surprising: 'Burgh Among the Best for New College Grads

According to a financial advising site, Pittsburgh is both affordable and a good place to find a job for those fresh out of college.
Harold Hayes' Biggest Retirement Fear, It's Not What You Think

Harold Hayes' Biggest Retirement Fear, It's Not What You Think

Hayes leaves KDKA TV after nearly 37 years with his legacy as one of the city's most respected, fair and accurate reporters – and his priceless sense of humor – firmly intact.
What to Watch Out For in This Year’s Pittsburgh Marathon

What to Watch Out For in This Year’s Pittsburgh Marathon

Marathon weekend can be a challenge for both runners, who are trying to finish the grueling race, and spectators who are simply trying to get around. We've got the info you need, whether you're running or watching from the sidelines.
Philly Chefs With Pittsburgh Roots Win Big at the James Beard Awards

Philly Chefs With Pittsburgh Roots Win Big at the James Beard Awards

Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook have picked up two James Beard awards this year, and Solomonov is in the running for one more.

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our new, daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

The month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

The list of the regions's 687 leading physicians across 80 specialities.
Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

In a city known for world-class care, a life dedicated to health is rewarding, challenging, and innovative at every level — from med school to the board room.
Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Can McLay reshape the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police in his polite, communication-heavy, community-friendly, racially sensitive, 21st-century image?
The Eaglets Have Landed

The Eaglets Have Landed

The bald eagles nesting in Hays once again have given birth to a new generation. We take you into the nest to see how quickly the two chicks are growing.
Review: Justin Severino Knocks It Out of the Park With Morcilla

Review: Justin Severino Knocks It Out of the Park With Morcilla

Severino's follow-up to Cure is already winning national accolades.
Edit Module

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Not Surprising: 'Burgh Among the Best for New College Grads

Not Surprising: 'Burgh Among the Best for New College Grads

According to a financial advising site, Pittsburgh is both affordable and a good place to find a job for those fresh out of college.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Umami Izakaya (Finally) Open in Lawrenceville

Umami Izakaya (Finally) Open in Lawrenceville

The much-anticipated Japanese pub from Tamari's Roger Li and Round Corner Cantina's Derek Burnell will serve food and drink deep into the night.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The quiet rise of Pittsburgh's tea scene gives us a few favorite gems.

Comments


Digital Jukeboxes are Evil, Bar-Ruining Monsters

Digital Jukeboxes are Evil, Bar-Ruining Monsters

The case against TouchTunes, the streaming music loudspeaker that can't stop screwing up the vibe at local bars.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
A By-The-Numbers Draft Has Its Advantages For Steelers This Time

A By-The-Numbers Draft Has Its Advantages For Steelers This Time

For the Steelers, this is a draft that’s long on need but short on intrigue.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Off to the Races

Off to the Races

Want to shade yourself in style at Derby Day and the PNC Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Spring Hat Luncheon? Look no further.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Your Mother Deserves Better than This Awful Mother's Day Movie

Your Mother Deserves Better than This Awful Mother's Day Movie

Reviews of "Mother's Day," "Keanu," "Green Room" and local film news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
What Type of Favor Do You Favor?

What Type of Favor Do You Favor?

Planning your wedding and can’t think of the best favor that will represent you and your big day? We spoke with three Pittsburgh-area couples to learn more about making the best and most personalized decision possible.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Phipps Kicks off the Planting Season

Phipps Kicks off the Planting Season

Welcome spring at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens with the Great Plant Auction, Party in the Tropics and May Market.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
STEM Event for Girls Planned at La Roche College

STEM Event for Girls Planned at La Roche College

The Tech Savvy program from the American Association of University Women aims to interest middle school girls in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

Comments