'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 ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

The Best Bars in Pittsburgh Right Now

The Best Bars in Pittsburgh Right Now

Many Pittsburgh bars have solid beer lists, well-mixed cocktails or a bartender who's handy with a shot and a story. We need more than that. What makes these bars the best?
View Pittsburgh & Its People From The 1850s Through Today

View Pittsburgh & Its People From The 1850s Through Today

#pixburgh: A Photographic Experience features images from the Sen. John Heinz History Center vault, which contains close to 1 million images. The show features a sampling of 400 images from the 1850s through today — including landmarks, fun, folly and floods.
In Concert: What's Next for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra?

In Concert: What's Next for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra?

Melia Tourangeau, CEO and president of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, looks to lead the ensemble forward after a discordant strike.
Restaurant Review: Umami in Lawrenceville

Restaurant Review: Umami in Lawrenceville

Umami sets the bar for izakaya openings in Pittsburgh. But its owners still have steps to take to keep raising the standard.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

By The Numbers: The Waterfront Smokestacks

By The Numbers: The Waterfront Smokestacks

The smokestacks — which are echoed in the Waterfront’s logo and pictured in the music video for Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow” — now serve as an iconic monument to the Steel City’s industrial past.
Watch: Puppy Parade, These 30 Seconds Will Make You Smile

Watch: Puppy Parade, These 30 Seconds Will Make You Smile

The Animal Rescue League/Western PA Humane Society staged a parade Monday as it moved its dogs, cats, and even a snake two blocks to their new home.
Oakland Crows: A Big Mess but a Harmless Murder

Oakland Crows: A Big Mess but a Harmless Murder

Trees around the campus of the University of Pittsburgh are filled with nesting crows, and many students are wondering why.
Inside the Ultimate Man vs. Machine Poker Match in Pittsburgh

Inside the Ultimate Man vs. Machine Poker Match in Pittsburgh

Four of the world’s best poker players are playing 120,000 hands of Heads-Up No-Limit Texas Hold’em against Libratus, the poker-playing bot created by Carnegie Mellon University computer scientists.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

The Best Bars in Pittsburgh Right Now

The Best Bars in Pittsburgh Right Now

Many Pittsburgh bars have solid beer lists, well-mixed cocktails or a bartender who's handy with a shot and a story. We need more than that. What makes these bars the best?
View Pittsburgh & Its People From The 1850s Through Today

View Pittsburgh & Its People From The 1850s Through Today

#pixburgh: A Photographic Experience features images from the Sen. John Heinz History Center vault, which contains close to 1 million images. The show features a sampling of 400 images from the 1850s through today — including landmarks, fun, folly and floods.
In Concert: What's Next for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra?

In Concert: What's Next for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra?

Melia Tourangeau, CEO and president of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, looks to lead the ensemble forward after a discordant strike.
Restaurant Review: Umami in Lawrenceville

Restaurant Review: Umami in Lawrenceville

Umami sets the bar for izakaya openings in Pittsburgh. But its owners still have steps to take to keep raising the standard.
Daytripping: Have Musket, Will Travel

Daytripping: Have Musket, Will Travel

The rest is history at ye olde Colonial Williamsburg, the former capital of Virginia and now a restored revolutionary war-era village.
Talk of the Tahn: The Consequences of Trespassing

Talk of the Tahn: The Consequences of Trespassing

I snuck into a steel mill. Bethlehem, Pa. I’d been bragging about how big Pittsburgh’s industrial ruins were when a woman in a bar told me, “Bethlehem’s are bigger.” Size matters.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


By The Numbers: The Waterfront Smokestacks

By The Numbers: The Waterfront Smokestacks

The smokestacks — which are echoed in the Waterfront’s logo and pictured in the music video for Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow” — now serve as an iconic monument to the Steel City’s industrial past.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Restaurant Industry Fundraiser to Aid Injured Chef

Restaurant Industry Fundraiser to Aid Injured Chef

Zach Behm was chef de cuisine at Cure in Upper Lawrenceville at the time of a July car wreck.

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


The Trendy New East Liberty Hangout ... Primanti's?

The Trendy New East Liberty Hangout ... Primanti's?

The latest outpost of the popular local chain is housed in the former Verde space in Garfield.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Tomlin Needs to Be Tomlin Against Brady, Belichick

Tomlin Needs to Be Tomlin Against Brady, Belichick

The Steelers are going to have to attack the game to survive it, to grab it by the throat and choke it to the desired conclusion.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Tantalizing Textiles for the Table

Tantalizing Textiles for the Table

Check out the chic decor from Pittsburgh-based artist and designer Janice Nelson.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Shyamalan's Split is Troubling For the Wrong Reasons

Shyamalan's Split is Troubling For the Wrong Reasons

Reviews of "Split," "20th Century Women" and "The Founder," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Real Pittsburgh Weddings: Why All of the Guests Got a Gift

Real Pittsburgh Weddings: Why All of the Guests Got a Gift

This couple wanted to make sure all of their guests felt as included as possible.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Making Moves: Restoration Hardware Coming to North Hills

Making Moves: Restoration Hardware Coming to North Hills

RH Pittsburgh, The Gallery at Ross Park Mall is opening later this week. The new store will replace the luxury brand's prior location in Mt. Lebanon.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Gun Violence Target of Carlow's Social Justice Institutes

Gun Violence Target of Carlow's Social Justice Institutes

The University will conduct research and offer scholarships to victims.

Comments