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James Simon (sculptor)

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Name  James Simon

James Simon (sculptor)

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James Simon is an American sculptor and mosaic artist based in Pittsburgh, PA. He is known for his large-scale public art projects-with compositions that celebrate life and diverse cultures.


James Simon (sculptor) Liberty Avenue Musicians Sculpture by James Simon 947 Liberty Ave

Early life

James Simon grew up in the Stanton Heights neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He won several national awards for his ceramic talents while attending Peabody High School, where he graduated from in 1972. He felt pulled to see the world and immediately hit the road -mostly hitchhiking and freight train jumping around the US and Canada. He learned carpentry and stained glass skills along the way. James hitchhiked east to west many times particularly exploring California, Oregon and the islands off the coast of British Columbia. He then went to Europe and the Middle East visiting Italy, Greece, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India. He lived in Australia and met the aborigines in Darwin. The aborigine’s ways and art had a profound influence on his life and work.

In the 1980s, while traveling in England he met acclaimed Hungarian child prodigy violinist and teacher Kató Havas- and followed her to Oxford to study violin. Kato introduced him to Master Luthier Andrew Dipper. James learned how to make violins and varnishes from Dipper and finesse his skills in sculpture and carving. James met Alvaro Escalante through Dipper and he was invited to move to Tepostlan, Mexico. James was influenced by the Mexican muralists such as Diego Rivera and artist Francisco Toledo and was inspired by Aztec, Mayan, and pre-Columbian sculpture.

In the 1990s, James Simon moved to São Paulo, Brazil where he opened a sculpture studio in Villa Madalena, a cultural district of São Paulo. James friended and collaborated with some of São Paulo and Brazils most distinguished artists including mixed media artist Jose Roberto Aguilar and composer and writer Jorge Mautner.

James moved back to Pittsburgh, PA in 2000 where he converted an old warehouse into his studio and living space. He hosted the nationally acclaimed Gist Street Reading series for 10 years starting in 2001. The readings were held monthly and featured local and national poets and writers. The series was directed by Sherrie Flick along with Nancy Krygowski and Rick Schweikert. The series focused on emerging writers publishing their first or second books. He continues to make sculpture and mosaics.

Notable projects

  • Downtown Pittsburgh's “Liberty Avenue Musicians.” Three 15 feet concrete musicians pay homage to the musical legacy of Pittsburgh. This project, featured in Dwell magazine, creates an architectural façade landmark, a gateway courtyard, to a modern loft building on a bustling urban street. It was commissioned by Eve Picker of No-Wall Productions.
  • “Uptown Rhythm” is a 25 feet tall relief sculpture that is the featured artwork in Duquesne University’s new multi-million dollar development. The themes depict a day-in-a-life scene that celebrates the university and the neighborhood where the school is located. The colorful composition includes sports, music, animals, and street life.
  • In Cleveland, Ohio's Buckeye neighborhood, in collaboration with Cleveland Public Art, ParkWorks, and the Buckeye Neighborhood Development - an ugly parking lot was turned into a beautiful pocket park featuring the large-scale “Trumpet Man” sculpture.
  • In Braddock, Pennsylvania, an economically depressed industrial town, James has an ongoing working relationship with internationally acclaimed Mayor John Fetterman and the AmeriCorps Braddock Youth Project to create public art for the community. James and the Braddock’s youth created the mosaic “Welcome to Braddock” sign which won Pittsburgh Magazine's “Best Neighborhood Art” award in 2009. In 2008 James received a prestigious artist in residency grant from the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation to design and create an exotic aquatic mosaic park, which is located on Verona Street in the center of Braddock, PA. This was a collaboration between Allegheny County, who donated the land, and the Braddock Youth Projects high school kids, who helped James put the mosaic together.
  • In 2011, Simon created the Fallen Heroes memorial in honor of Pittsburgh police officers Paul Sciullo II, Stephen J. Mayhle, and Eric G. Kelly, who were killed in the line of duty in Stanton Heights. The statue is outside the Immaculate Conception- St. Joseph Church on Liberty Avenue in the center of Bloomfield, Pennsylvania. The composition consists of a portrait of Saint Michael the patron saint of the Police (concrete), a mosaic podium with the officer’s images, and a large-scale stainless steel police badge laser etched with the date of their deaths.
  • In 2011, Simon created the Welcome to Uptown sign in collaboration with Uptown Partners and McAuley Ministries. Located at a strategic gateway to downtown Pittsburgh, this public art signage is part of Uptown communities revitalization vision that brings new vibrancy and life to an abandoned corridor.
  • Awards

  • James Simon was awarded the "Artists and Cities Award" in 2015 by Pittsburgh's ACTION Housing. He was the very first person to ever receive this award.
  • References

    James Simon (sculptor) Wikipedia

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