City of Asylum Co-Founder Diane Samuels loves finding art in unexpected places. “Walking down Sampsonia Way and finding an anthology of Chinese poetry calligraphed on the face of a house or looking inside a house in Troy Hill and finding it filled with a lighthouse or entering a church in Millvale and finding murals including a nun in a gas mask,” are delights she shares here with TABLE readers.
City of Asylum
408 Sampsonia Way
House Poem was created by Huang Xiang, the first exiled writer in the City of Asylum residency program. Because the writer’s work had been totally banned in China, he created this “house publication” to celebrate his arrival in Pittsburgh and his freedom to publish without persecution.
City of Asylum
308 Sampsonia Way
Tuhin Das came to Pittsburgh to escape death threats in his native Bangladesh. In 2019, after seeing drawings that he had made in manuscripts of his writing, City of Asylum invited him to create what is now Comma House, which was completed in 2021. For this project, Tuhin began to experiment with “concrete poetry,” writing poems in shapes related to the subject of the poem. The central poem on Tuhin’s house publication is written in the shape of a giant comma. The comma represents multiple themes related to the passage of time and the connecting of people.
24 Maryland Avenue, Millvale
A few thousand people come to Millvale annually to see the murals of Croatian-born artist, Maxo Vanka. His approximately 30 works at St. Nicholas combine Catholic imagery, Croatian heritage, and Vanka’s own observations on social justice, the horrors of war, and the dignity of immigrants. Perfectly positioned at the intersection of history and art, these striking works offer a fuller understanding of the rise and role of Pittsburgh and its people in American history.
Story by Diane Samuels