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Civic Impact

Save the Carrie Deer and preserve a piece of Pittsburgh's industrial past




Among the rusted ruins of the Carrie Furnaces stands a behemoth of a sculpture known as the Carrier Deer. Since 1997, this 40-foot tall deer head created from remnants of the former Blast Furnace Plant has played an artistic homage to the remarkable natural powers of reclamation that have taken hold of the site since its closure in the 1980s.

However, just as time and nature have slowly deteriorated the Carrie Furnace, time is slowly taking a toll on the Carrier Deer as well. To help preserve this Pittsburgh treasure, The Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area is holding an event called Save the Carrie Deer on Saturday, August 16. The event will feature an open air screening of The Carrie Deer documentary and serve as a kickoff to the campaign to restore the historic sculpture. This event will be the very first public screening of the film.  

The documentary, created through a collaboration of Rivers of Steel and independent production company, Glyph, Inc., tells the story behind the sculpture including how seven core artists came together to create the Carrier Deer and the collaboration, process, and experimentation that took place to create such a giant sculpture. The Deer was created during the early years of a period where many artists were taking part in industrial salvage and guerilla site-specific artworks. The artists spent an entire year creating the Carrie Deer and in the process risked injury, fought nature, and eluded police to create this iconic piece of Pittsburgh.

The Rivers of Steel hopes to raise an initial $5,000 to get structural repair work started on the Deer and eventually a total of $20,000 to achieve a full restoration.

“The biggest threat to the Deer is time itself,” says Ron Baraff, Director of Museum and Archives at Rivers of Steel. “It is exposed to the elements and made of materials that will ultimately breakdown over time if steps are not taken to support and restore elements of the sculpture.”

Man has also been an ongoing threat to the sculpture including demolition activities and acts of vandalism that have plagued the area from 1998 to 2010. Since 2010, the Rivers of Steel has taken on the huge task of stabilizing the site structures and enhancing its security to prevent future vandalism.

The construction and location of the sculpture have also been an ongoing issue for preservation as the original team of artists that constructed the piece in the late 90s never imagined that the piece would still be standing today, 16 years later.

“They were building it in the moment and there were no guarantees that the site would be saved,” says Baraff. “It was assumed by many, if not all, that the furnaces would be torn down just like everything else at the site.”

The sculpture has no welded connections and was constructed on top of the roof of a pump building that has since collapsed. To reinforce the Deer for years to come, Baraff says a support ring needs to be created for the bottom of the Deer to support and distribute the weight of the piece and vertical supports must be added along with the shoring up and tacking of horizontal elements. After this is completed, they can reposition the sagging head of the Deer and return it to close to its original state. The pump building will also get a new roof and be repurposed into a gallery space.  

“We have in the Carrie Furnaces, a prime opportunity to showcase the rich industrial legacy of the region as well as show the impact of post-industrialism on the region,” says Baraff. “This is where the Deer really comes into play. It is the poster child of post-industrial rustbelt America and what happens to these sites when the work goes away. The Deer’s presence on the site allows us to show what happens and to use these interactions to open new and exciting doors for visitors to the site. The exploration of the aesthetics of the site and the environmental impact of the site are all possible because this sculpture is there and acting as the gatekeeper.”

Tickets for the Save the Carrie Deer VIP reception are $125 and include VIP seating for the screening, meet-and-greet opportunities with the artists and filmmakers, food and drink by Superior Motors and Dorothy 6, a silent auction, live music and a twilight tour of the Carrie Furnace site.

General admission tickets can also be purchased for $10 and include seating for the screening as well as street food vendors and live music.

For more information, visit http://www.riversofsteel.com/things-to-do/event/save-the-deer-event/
 
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