World's First Sculpture of American Icon Fred Rogers Unveiled

Thu Nov 5, 2009 10:30am EST

* Reuters is not responsible for the content in this press release.


PITTSBURGH, Nov. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- Several hundred friends and dignitaries
joined Mrs. Joanne Rogers along with children from the southwestern
Pennsylvania region as they gathered on Pittsburgh's North Shore this morning
for the unveiling and dedication of the world's first public sculpture of the
beloved American icon, Fred M. Rogers.

Known as "Tribute to Children," the site featuring the new sculpture opens to
the public today in a park on the riverfront near Pittsburgh Steelers' Heinz
Field. The bronze sculpture of children's television pioneer Mister Rogers -
created by internationally renowned sculptor Robert Berks - measures 10 feet,
10 inches in height and weighs more than 7,000 pounds. In a seated position
and tying his shoe, the embodiment of Fred Rogers faces the city skyline from
where his "beautiful day in this neighborhood" message resonates
internationally for more than four decades from the Pittsburgh studio of
public television station WQED.

A fitting tribute to children everywhere, and following 20 months of site
construction, this new destination for visitors was presented today to local
authorities as a gift to the people of the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny
County in honor of children and celebrating the enduring values of Fred
Rogers. The late Cordelia S. May donated the sculpture to Family
Communications, the company created by Fred Rogers. Pittsburgh-based Colcom
Foundation, which was founded by Mrs. May, provided funding for the site
development as well as its perpetual maintenance.

Mrs. Joanne Rogers, City of Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Allegheny County
Chief Executive Dan Onorato and officials from Colcom Foundation and Family
Communications attended this morning's unveiling ceremony, accompanied by
students from Pittsburgh Public Schools' Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA)
magnet school who performed during the ceremony.

Six years in the making

The late Mrs. Cordelia S. May, a local philanthropist and humanitarian,
commissioned Robert Berks to produce the bronze sculpture of her dear friend,
Fred Rogers, following his death in 2003. "Robert Berks is an
internationally-recognized artist whose sculptures were known and admired both
by Mrs. May and Mr. Rogers," according to Michael M. Strueber, director
emeritus of the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art and a director of Colcom
Foundation. "Berks' public works cover a broad cross-section of human
achievement as he created more than 300 portraits in bronze and more than a
dozen monuments. His famous sculptures of President John F. Kennedy, Albert
Einstein and Golda Meir are known throughout the world, and his choice to
create the monument we dedicate today was highly appropriate since public art
can do many things: inspire, unite, immortalize, commemorate and celebrate."

Family Communications, the recipient of this gift, is donating the "Tribute to
Children" site to the region under the auspices of the Sports & Exhibition

 "Tribute to Children is an appropriate name for this beautiful space," said
Joanne Rogers, chair of Family Communications. "Fred would want today's
dedication not to be about him, but to focus on the importance of being a
caring person and neighbor. Fred was very fond of Pittsburgh's rivers as they
represented a place to enjoy peaceful contemplation. We are so grateful to the
late Mrs. May, Colcom Foundation, the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County
for this very special tribute." 

"Along with Family Communications, we are pleased to honor children and Fred
Rogers through this project," added Timothy M. Inglis, president of Colcom
Foundation. "'Tribute to Children' also honors one of the last wishes of our
founder, Mrs. May, who passed away in 2005. It was her vision to create a
lasting tribute to Fred Rogers, overlooking the city he loved."

A new destination

"Tribute to Children" features a walk around platform - measuring
approximately 96 feet by 59 feet - and thoughtfully repurposes and engages the
old Manchester Bridge pier that had been abandoned since 1970. The base of the
platform is patterned from the studio floor in Mister Rogers' Neighborhood
known as the famed 'Neighborhood of Make-Believe.' The site was designed by
Pittsburgh-based Astorino, an architectural firm. 

From the landside, visitors enter "Tribute to Children" from the sidewalk
across the street from Heinz Field and are able to walk around and through a
'keyhole' design in the bridge pier that features spectacular riverside views
of the statue, the river and the city skyline. 

The site will be open during the park's regular daily hours and will not be
open at night until November 20 when it will be lit for the first time during
Pittsburgh's annual Light Up Night festivities.

"Through this new attraction, Fred Rogers will be remembered for his
philosophy and contributions to child development and for being such an
important part of Pittsburgh's history and its image as a great place to live
and raise a family," said Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

"Fred Rogers was one of our region's greatest innovators, and now we have a
lasting reminder of his many contributions to our region," added Allegheny
County Executive Dan Onorato. "On behalf of the 1.2 million people in
Allegheny County, I thank the Rogers family for sharing Fred with us for so
many years as he shaped countless young lives. I also want to thank Colcom
Foundation and Family Communications for their commitment to this monument and
for the vision of making this a unique destination for visitors." 

 "This is a historic day for many of us who shared in the experience of Fred
Rogers' lifelong commitment to enhancing the lives of children," said Bill
Isler, president of Family Communications, Inc. "We are thankful to the local
tradesmen, authorities, and our team of architects for their efforts in
creating a very special place. The generosity of the late Mrs. May and Colcom
Foundation makes this gift to the region possible and even more special to the
people from Pittsburgh and around the world who will visit this site each

Trade unions that worked on this 20-month project include: Operating Engineers
Local 66, Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 9, Construction General
Laborers Local 373, Greater Pennsylvania Regional Council of Carpenters Locals
142 and 230, Cement Masons Local 526, Iron Workers Local 3, International
Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 5, and Plumbers Local 27.

About Colcom Foundation
Colcom Foundation was established by the late Cordelia S. May, a western
Pennsylvania philanthropist committed to improving the quality of life. In
fulfilling her vision, Colcom Foundation supports local programs enhancing
Pittsburgh's parks, trails, gardens, streetscapes, lifesaving equipment, civic
amenities, and recreational destinations. The Foundation's environmental
programs in southwestern Pennsylvania address land conservation, watershed
remediation, habitat protection, clean air, and fresh water. Nationally, the
foundation strives for a sustainable population by responsibly balancing
people with resources. 

About Family Communications, Inc.
Founded by Fred Rogers, Family Communications, Inc. (FCI) is a non-profit
company that creates a wide range of materials dedicated to young children,
their families and those who support them. Now in its 42nd year, Mister
Rogers' Neighborhood is the longest running program on the PBS television
network. From its roots as producer of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, Family
Communications has expanded its educational programs to design materials in
many media that support healthy emotional, social and intellectual growth at
all ages, and that embody the philosophy and values of Fred Rogers. 

For additional information about Tribute to Children and sculptor Robert
Berks, please visit

SOURCE  Family Communications, Inc.

Bob Butter, +1-412-736-6186, or Mark Power, +1-412-401-8320
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.