Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Controversial Billboard Can Go Back Up, Landlord Says

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Controversial Billboard Can Go Back Up, Landlord Says

Article excerpt

For nearly a month, an illuminated message reading "There Are Black People In The Future" perched atop an East Liberty building at Baum Boulevard and Highland Avenue.

Then, three days before its display was scheduled to end, it disappeared. Now it appears that the billboard's message will be restored

Eve Picker, whose company manages the property, said she had the message removed after concerns about it were raised. She said it violated a lease agreement prohibiting "distasteful, offensive, erotic, political ." content.

Friday morning, Ms. Picker said the message would go back up.

"Over the last 24 hours, we've received a number of emails from people who said they are not offended by the sign and are saddened by its removal," said the statement from Ms. Picker.

"They far outnumber the people who originally approached us about being offended. We truly appreciate the comments from people who reached out to us in a respectful, thoughtful manner and believe the public has spoken. We are giving the tenant full approval to reinstate the original sign. In the future, we will follow the approval process outlined in the lease the tenant signed, so that we are all informed and on board for all future signs."

Jon Rubin, the Carnegie Mellon University associate professor who coordinates the billboard's changing messages created by artists, had decried the removal.

"I find it tragically ironic, given East Liberty's history and recent gentrification, that a text by an African American artist affirming a place in the future for black people is seen as unacceptable in the present," Mr. Rubin said in a statement released Wednesday.

Ms. Picker sent a message to Mr. Rubin that day, saying her inbox was being flooded by people accusing her of being a racist. "So here we are," she wrote. "Art has caused friction. Perhaps that's what you wanted but it shouldn't be aimed at me. …

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