Pictures of the Future

Artist collective Sans  façon (Tristan Surtees & Charles Blanc) and Steve Gurysh have created Pictures of the Future, a multi-faceted public artwork consisting of a series of interwoven elements that reframes Riverview Park's existing elements, landscape, and history.

The launch of this project is April 27, 2024, at the City of Pittsburgh's Arbor Day celebration in Riverview Park - see the flyer below for information on this event!

arbor day flyer

sans facon project logo

In The Artists' Words

Pictures of the Future
Pittsburgh PA 2023

Created by Sans façon and Steve Gurysh, Pictures of the Future, takes its name from the proclamation made by Thomas M. Marshall at the inauguration of Riverview Park, Allegheny City in 1894:

“Within its broken hills, nooks, dells, and secluded spots, the young can whisper into each other’s ears and can draw pictures of the future without either paint or brush.”

Realized through the help of arborists, wood carvers, an astronomer, observational drawing teachers, a blacksmith, a paper-maker, a filmmaker, park rangers, Tree Pittsburgh, City of Pittsburgh Forestry and Public works crews and several municipal and non-profit organizations, Pictures of the Future is a public artwork comprised of several elements that serve to resource, amplify and recalibrate the relationships between Riverview Park’s dedicated caretakers, visitors, and the unique context of a historic astronomical observatory situated within the dense, 250-acre urban forest of Riverview Park.

Through the project, the park’s heritage trees have been surveyed for the first time, finding some over 300 years old and others unique in the city. Many of these trees have witnessed the landscape's transition from indigenous homeland to farmland, the construction of an observatory, the formation of a city park, and its succession into a dense urban forest under ecological strain. The mapping and identification of these witness trees is enabling the registry of the park as one of only a small handful of arboretums in the city.

With the help of Tree Pittsburgh seeds of the witness trees have been collected for propagation, and future generations of these trees can be planted to expand the canopy within the park and into surrounding neighborhoods.

In addition, bespoke tree planting implements have been made, each embedded with meteorite to be gifted to the park’s caretakers and public works crew; a public program offering observational drawing classes with handmade paper and charcoal made from the park’s fallen trees; a faithful reproduction of one of the architectural columns within the facade of the Allegheny Observatory has been carved in-situ directly into the volume of a 200 year old wind-fallen oak deep within the forest.

Ultimately, the work will integrate into the life of the park. The meteoric dibbles will become part of the library of everyday tools for planting new trees. The distributed charcoal and paper will become traces of the public's observations of the park's daily transformations. The column will slowly decay, fungus will emerge from its intricate details. As each element recedes, these gestures will leave traces and afterlives in the cultural and environmental ecology of the city? inviting further stewards of a park in new capacities and inspire ongoing acts of care.

We are indebted to our close collaborators and partners: Riverview Park Rangers, City of Pittsburgh Forestry & Public Works, Tree Pittsburgh, The Allegheny Observatory, Friends of Riverview Park, on-site millwork by Urban Tree, woodcarver Fredy Huaman Mallqui, carving assistance from Brandon Barber, Dan Yates & Evan Miller, blacksmith Glen Gardner, printmaker Li Luijiang, papermaker Katy DeMent, and Pisano Films.

Commissioned by the City of Pittsburgh Department of City Planning for Art in Parks. This project received a RADical ImPAct Grant from the Allegheny Regional Asset District (RAD).

Images: Tree Carving

This sculpture can be found just off the trail near Riverview Avenue and Mairdale Avenue. Starting at the parking lot, head up the Wissahickon Trail. The sculpture will be seen up the bank to the left of the trail. Approximate location is shown in red on the map below.

tree carving map

About the Artists

Sans  façon & Steve Gurysh

As a collective, Sans façon shares a commitment to sustained, artistic research and conversation with landscapes, infrastructure, places, and communities in order to create responsive, layered, and experiential artworks. Sans façon (Tristan Surtees and Charles Blanc), a twenty-year collaborative team currently based in Calgary, Canada, and their collaborator Steve Gurysh, an artist and ten-year-long resident of Pittsburgh,  are interested in creating a public work that allows people to engage and connect with embedded histories and also changes how we look at, understand, and interact with a landscape.

More information on the artists and their work can be found here:

Sans façon

Steve Gurysh

Learn more about Pictures of the Future (and other work by each artist) at their websites:

The Storyteller

At each Art in Parks location, local storytellers created works to document and expand the narrative of the artists. For Riverview Park, narrative nonfiction writer Mark Kramer has penned a personal essay addressing the unbalanced ecosystems of the park forest. Read his work below, and learn more about the work of the other storytellers here.

Read Mark Kramer's essay here:

Riverview Park: A Park of Legacy, An Ecosystem Out of Balance

Community Meetings

In fall of 2021, Sans  façon and Steve Gurysh met with park rangers, members of Friends of Riverview Park, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, and other community members to begin to explore, experience, and understand the complex histories, ongoing activities, and future projects taking place in Riverview Park.

In December of 2021, the artists held a discussion and presentation to share the insights they've gathered so far and to hear community feedback.

Click here to view the recording of this meeting.

In March of 2022, the artists met with the community to share their developing concept for Riverview Park, and gather feedback from residents

Click here to view the recording of this meeting.

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