Artists showcase work around value, sustainability

Although the fall foliage has subsided and deciduous trees lay bare, colorful artwork is abundant in the Triboro Ecodistrict this winter season.

December 20, 2023

Although the fall foliage has subsided and deciduous trees lay bare, colorful artwork is abundant in the Triboro Ecodistrict this winter season.

Now through December 23, Ketchup City Creative in Sharpsburg is showcasing new works by Brent Pheto, Tara Murphy, and Grant Catton that tackle our collective social understanding of the notion of “value” during Un / Precious. The exhibit asks viewers to reflect on questions like: How do we assign value? What does it mean to value ourselves?

Flyer for an art show at Ketchup City Creative in Sharpsburg called Un / Precious.

At Etna’s EcoPark, you’ll find artist Sarah Cohen’s permanent glass mosaic fish sculptures that pay tributary to the native walleye fish found in our region's waterways. Over the course of a year, Cohen held four workshops with the Etna community and Shaler Area High School Students to collaborate on the design.

“Coming together as a group to make something has its challenges, but it also has its rewards. For me as an artist, I have learned to let go - which is a very important skill to learn in life. Others learn that as well through the workshops when many hands are working on the same piece.”

“The project that we create together won’t be ‘perfect’ so it teaches you to have patience and understanding. The finished product isn’t exactly what I would have done or how someone else thinks it should be, but that’s what makes it special. It could only be this exact way because we made it together, and that’s a statement about people and about community,” Cohen said during a conversation with Megan Tuñón, executive director of Etna Community Organization.

Glass mosaic fish art work at Etna EcoPark.

The mosaics also represent Etna’s commitment to protect the Pine Creek Watershed and Allegheny River through the rain garden that is Etna EcoPark, which sits at one of the lowest points in the borough’s floodplain.

Continuing to use art as a medium to draw attention towards the importance of environmental advocacy, The Maple Leaf in Millvale held the Triboro Ecodistrict 2023 Climate Futures Exhibition in November, which showcased artists' insights into the state and future of our collective ecology.

Lewis Pell had six of his pieces on display during the exhibition. He is a self-taught artist with a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and a master’s degree in sustainability. It was through his studies around ecology and resource management that he became acquainted with the Triboro Ecodistrict.

“I feel like this exhibit specifically was a great experience for me, because I could showcase some of the work that I’ve been doing to bring attention to these larger discussions around climate change and Co2 emissions,” Pell said.

A painting titled Meadow Science by artist Lewis Pell, which was part of the Triboro Ecodistrict 2023Climate Future Exhibition.

One of his pieces called “Meadow Science” visually represented the important role that meadows play as a diverse habitat for flora, fauna, and carbon sequestration.

Shaler Area High School sustainability students also had a project on display titled ‘Peacing’ Together Our Planet - Our Worldly Matters Mosaic.

Shaler Area High School sustainability class created artwork for the Triboro Ecodistrict 2023 Climate Futures Exhibition.

“I think a big part of that show was the diversity of the art itself and it was really well put together. The overall message carried through the exhibit,” Pell said.

If you’d like to see more work by Pell, you can follow him on Instagram at @pelllewis. If you’re interested in his work, email