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Pittsburgh Botanic Garden Showcases Eco-Friendly Art

Shear Beauty (2023) by Jan Loney can be found in the Garden of the Five Senses, Pittsburgh Botanic Garden
Shear Beauty (2023) by Jan Loney can be found in the Garden of the Five Senses, Pittsburgh Botanic Garden

Pittsburgh Botanic Garden explores creative ways to express its commitment to environmental conservation. This summer, their latest expression comes in the form of an outdoor sculpture exhibit called “Unearthed: Eco Art in the Landscape.”

Opening July 1 and running through October 31, the exhibit features seven local artists with a passion for sustainable art.

They’ve been tasked with creating a sculpture from things that normally would have gone to the landfill, said Beth Exton, Development Director for the Botanic Garden. The rules for submissions are simple, she said. “Everything used in the sculpture must be upcycled or recycled or all-natural materials. It’s a very eco-friendly exhibit.”

Artists were advised their sculptures also must be significant in size and hold up well outdoors during the four-month exhibit period.

Featured artists for this summer’s exhibit include:

  • Dino DeIuliis is an elementary art teacher for the Pittsburgh Public Schools, splitting time between Lincoln Elementary in Homewood and Woolslair Elementary in Bloomfield. He is a happily married father of two beautiful girls.

  • La Vispera is an art collective between Kelly Jimenez and Alejandro Franco. Both are Colombian immigrants that lived and met in Florida. Now living in Pittsburgh, their work speaks about sustainability, ingenuity, and resourcefulness.

  • Jan Loney has been a professional metal artist for 30 years, specializing in artisan metalwork and small-scale commissioned objects for decorative and functional use.

  • Duncan MacDiarmid was raised in Philadelphia, where he later studied architecture and then received his Master of Fine Arts in sculpture. Duncan has been a long-time member of Pittsburgh’s Society of Sculptors and currently serves as president.

  • Mary B. Mason was born and raised in West Virginia on the Ohio River. Her roots are often reflected in each statement piece. As a lifelong art maker and educator spanning several decades in four states, she began to explore glass and metals. She designs, manipulates the metal, and then melts it in a kiln in her home studio north of Pittsburgh.

  • Sarah Simmons collects and reuses materials that are abandoned and allows them to tell their stories in a new way, setting free unrealized potential and disrupting stereotypical expectations relating to value and purpose.

  • Sierra Weir was born and raised in Pittsburgh. Weir is a queer artist and scientist exploring place-based relationships with natural and waste-stream pigments. She has a B.A. in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, through which she has extensively studied the genetics, chemistry, and systematics of the pigments found in Betta splendens and Buprestidae (jewel beetles).

Plan lunch with a view at Pittsburgh Botanic Garden this summer. Visitors can explore 65 acres of gardens and woodlands and take a break at Canopy Café located in the Welcome Center.
Plan lunch with a view at Pittsburgh Botanic Garden this summer. Visitors can explore 65 acres of gardens and woodlands and take a break at Canopy Café located in the Welcome Center.

Artists were chosen based on submissions the Botanic Garden received after its director of education and exhibits sent out a call for artwork submissions through several artist community networks. Artists replied, and a committee of Botanic Garden employees reviewed submissions and chose the artwork to feature in the exhibit.

Kelly Jimenez and Alejandro Franco of La Vispera said they specialize in creating highly crafted works of art using discarded materials. They focus on making stained glass windows from single-use plastic as one of the many ways they strive to bring environmental issues to the forefront of their art.

“Our stained-glass pieces are a testament to our commitment to this cause,” said Jimenez. “Through the use of the material’s translucency and color variations, we have transformed what is typically a transient and detrimental substance into something of great beauty that we consider worth preserving. With Nocturnal, we aim to transport the audience to the Botanical Garden at dusk, a rarely seen time when animals come to life in the absence of humans.”

Exton said the overall goal of the exhibit is to connect with visitors in different ways.

Seedlings Class at Pittsburgh Botanic Garden
Seedlings Class at Pittsburgh Botanic Garden

“We wanted to come up with creative ways to express our commitment to conservation in the environment,” she said. “Using this artwork is one way we could share that message.”

The Unearthed exhibit is intended to bring back returning visitors while enticing new visitors to come for the first time. Coinciding with the sculptures is the addition of other eco-friendly artwork that will greet guests entering the Botanic Garden welcome center. “We figured this would be a significant way to incorporate that concept throughout your entire experience at the garden,” Exton said.

Exhibit sculptures are located along the main path, which is easily accessible to all guests. General admission to the Botanic Garden—$15 for adults, $9 for children aged 3 to 17—covers the cost of viewing the exhibit. The hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday, and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday.

Guests who opt to view the sculptures during the “Evening Thyme” hours on Wednesday and Thursday can pre-order a picnic basket for two to enjoy in the gardens while they tour the exhibit. “You can come to the garden after work to unwind or experience it in the quieter times of the evening,” said Exton.

Visitors need about 90 minutes to fully experience the Unearthed exhibit, Exton said.

Those who would like the opportunity to meet the artists behind the sculptures can attend the July 14 reception, Exton said.

“You can meet and greet the artists behind the summer sculpture series, and then walk around and tour the exhibit afterward,” she said. “You can hear what their inspiration was for the pieces they made.”

For more information about the exhibit or to buy tickets, visit

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