See this breathtaking bronze sculpture now in Highland Park's grand entry garden.

The Artist

Marlana Adele Vassar

Marlana Adele Vassar is a Pittsburgh artist exploring ways to share her art that will enhance the City. She has 15 years of experience across a variety of mediums, with a current focus on creating distinctive public art. She believes that “art is everywhere, and the ordinary has the potential to be extraordinary.”

Artist Statement

My artistic philosophy is a balance of style and substance. Whether I am translating community stories or recounting my own, my goals are to keep strong designs, color and aesthetics in mind while incorporating meaningful images and vivid storytelling. I primarily focus on symbolism and surrealism with lush environments in my personal and public works, and include figures when I feel that human representation is necessary. While my public projects are site-specific and adjusted to reflect the communities they are placed in, each of my designs contain imagery and ideas that are relatable to many viewers.

More information on Marlana and her work can be found here.

Artwork Inspiration

Marlana explains her process in designing this artwork:

While gathering feedback for this project, community members mentioned interest in artwork that includes cultural diversity and accessibility. I have kept these points in mind while considering the rich history of Highland Park, and created designs for a piece that keeps these interests in mind while complementing the existing art and landscape of the park.

My inspiration for the concept started with the Guiseppe Moretti sculptures located throughout the park. Despite prominent distribution throughout the park, many respondents mentioned that they barely noticed these classical statues due to their location. Additionally, several comments mentioned that while the statues are impressive, they don’t feel a connection to the overall mood and subject matter displayed in the mythological figures.

Edward Manning Bigelow (Director of Public Works, c. 1888-1906) had a vision for Highland Park that was rooted in greatness, so the piers and sculptures add to this mood. The Moretti sculptures are from a time period where artists were commissioned for public art instead of collaborating, and where man’s triumph over nature needed to be emphasized. So it’s understandable that large classical sculptures were an ideal reflection of the park’s original vision. In modern times, however, figurative works need to speak to the changing world through representation and accessibility. I think that a sculpture in a similar style that emphasizes traits like respect, humility, and kindness can be just as great, so I used these ideas for the design and mood of my figurative work.

For the design, I incorporated art nouveau style and elements of nature that are found throughout my previous works and in the park, and blended these with modern ideas for a balance of classical and contemporary style. The placement in the garden will be accessible to residents so that they can see the artwork up close. The accessibility point is also addressed in the work’s size, as a child-size sculpture will be less intimidating to visitors, easier to place, and simpler to maintain over the years.

I thought that it was very important to provide symbols of progress and possibility with this work, so the figure is a person coexisting with nature rather than trying to tame it. The figure design also addresses the diversity point, since there are currently no people of color or female children represented in the park’s sculptures.

Her project received Final Approval from the Art Commission in November 2022. View the presentation here.

The work has now been installed in the entry garden of Highland Park.

Concept Renderings

The images below were created during Marlana's design development and approval stages.


The work is installed in the Highland Park entry garden. As you enter the garden and face the reservoir, the sculpture will be set into the landscaping of the garden paths to the left.

sculpture location
sculpture location 2

The Storyteller

At each Art in Parks location, local storytellers created works to document and expand the narrative of the artists.

In Highland Park, writer and cultural historian Alyssa Velazquez was inspired by The Urban Conga's interactive designs and open-ended play methodology to create The Highland Park Zine. Learn more about the artists who created work for this park, the Art in Parks program, and the surrounding communities past and present through this interactive work below!

Flip through The Highland Park Zine by Alyssa Velazquez below or at this link, and experience the work of the other Art in Parks storytellers here.


Let us know what you think of this project!

This project received a RADical ImPAct Grant from the Allegheny Regional Asset District (RAD).