On November 5, 2009, 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 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 twenty 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.
"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."
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 riverside views of the statue, the river and the city skyline.