Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Controversial Billboard Still Not Back Up in East Liberty

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Controversial Billboard Still Not Back Up in East Liberty

Article excerpt

At the beginning of a community conversation Wednesday about the removal of the "There Are Black People in the Future" billboard in East Liberty, moderator Janera Solomon cautioned that those coming to the Kelly Strayhorn Theater looking for clear answers likely would be disappointed.

On the question of what will become of the billboard, that certainly was the case.

"We're working on something. That's all we're going to say right now," said Jon Rubin about whether the billboard would be put back up. Both Mr. Rubin, founder of "The Last Billboard" project, and the billboard's artist, Alisha Wormsley, declined to comment further.

The April 5 removal of the billboard caused an outcry on social media and in community discussions -evidenced by the approximately 200 people who showed up at Wednesday's session. A line stretched outside the door, with the lobby packed with people eating complimentary curry from Choolah and carrying "There Are Black People in the Future" yard signs and stickers, available with a requested donation.

The billboard was part of "The Last Billboard" project, a creation of Mr. Rubin, a Carnegie Mellon University art professor, that has existed in some form for nearly nine years. In its current incarnation, artists of his choice rotate monthly, choosing what the billboard will say. Ms. Wormsley chose "There Are Black People in the Future," the title of an ongoing art project inspired by science fiction that she's been working on for years.

About three weeks after the billboard went up atop a building at Baum Boulevard and Highland Avenue, Mr. Rubin was asked by his landlord, Eve Picker of WeDo property, to take it down, noting that he had violated his lease by not seeking prior approval and by posting something that was "distasteful, offensive, erotic, political ."

East Liberty Development Inc. said later that it had received multiple complaints about the billboard and had contacted Ms. Picker about it, although it had not asked her to remove it. …

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