Pittsburgh Connections: Iconic Rio steps inspire Southside art project

PITTSBURGH — A world famous set of steps in Rio de Janeiro is helping to inspire artwork on Pittsburgh’s Southside.

The Selaron Steps are an iconic tourist attraction, made famous in TV shows, fashion magazines, documentaries, and even music videos.

Artist Jorge Selaron spend two decades creating what he calls his tribute to the Brazilian people. He covered 215 dilapidated steps in brightly colored tiles and mirrors.

It’s those colors that Cara Jette and members of the Southside Slopes Neighborhood Association want to bring to steps in Pittsburgh.

“We just want to create a place where people can walk by and look up and smile,” said artist Laura Jean McLaughlin.

The community-driven project will use thousands of mosaic tiles to create a work of art that can be viewed from a distance. Volunteers will build separate templates. Once repairs are made to the stairs, a template will be added to each of the 77 steps.

“It’s really a collaboration,” McLaughlin said. “Truly, many pieces coming together, many people coming together, so it’s really a wonderful metaphor.”

A $100,000 Allegheny County grant is being used to make repairs to the steps. The artwork will be added in September.