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Artist repaints dino geese on Pittsburgh’s 10th Street Bridge

October 27, 2018 GMT

The geese -- or are they dinosaurs? -- are back atop Pittsburgh’s 10th Street Bridge.

Dressed in reflective construction garb, a hard hat and climbing shoes, Tim Kaulen, who painted the figures more than 20 years ago, spent about eight hours Sunday out on the 10th Street Bridge to make sure the geese, or “dinos,” appeared once more on the gold arch connecting Pittsburgh’s South Side neighborhood to Downtown.

As Kaulen, 52, an artist living in Polish Hill, and his assistant, Brandon Barber, another local artist, were hoisted 95 feet into the crisp, fall air, the artist was overtaken with the significance of the four figures that have grown into some of Pittsburgh’s many quirky icons.

Kaulen said the geese hold a special place in his heart. As a 20-something, Kaulen painted the geese to remember his grandfather’s goose-hunting decoys. He said he doesn’t like talking about that story because the geese have taken on different meanings to different people. Many thought the geese were actually dinosaurs.

“That’s part of the power of art. People create their own meanings. I welcome those interpretations and meanings. That’s what makes it good,” he said.

The geese disappeared when crews repainted the bridge over the summer. The bridge is undergoing a $20 million rehabilitation project led by Coraopolis-based American Bridge Co. Lanes are closed to traffic, and the project is set to finish in June 2019.

That inspired Kaulen to launch an online petition to rally support to save the “10th Street Bridge Geese.”

Allegheny County Council voted 12-2 in July after the petition garnered 950 signatures in favor of saving the geese.

“This is happening because of the voice of the people in the community was heard,” Kaulen said.

Kaulen said everyone from daily commuters who wanted to continue to see the geese to county officials to paint suppliers supported the project.

“It’s so rare from an art standpoint, that so many other professions, you know, to get that much support,” he said. “I’m lucky to live here. It’s the biggest nod to our arts community. That when, given the call, they can answer.”

Many who signed the online petition said the geese symbolize the spirit of the South Side in the 1990s, before it became known for its countless bars, restaurants and shops.

Kaulen had a permit to paint the geese from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday on the 10th Street Bridge, also known as the Philip Murray Bridge. He was there early Sunday morning to set everything up. He bought special, black outdoor paint for the project and rented an aerial lift to get to the top -- something he did not have when he first painted them.

“I can’t talk on the record on scaling bridges,” he said when asked how he got up there in the 90s.

No matter how Kaulen got up there, the paint job should last another 20 years, said Tony Kostalas, a bridge inspector contracted by Allegheny County for the project.

“But it should be a better job this time,” he said.

Kostalas said the bulk of the bridge’s repainting is finished. He expects the bridge’s road to reopen in about a month.

In the meantime, supporters of the project can buy T-shirts, stickers and posters from Commonwealth Press. Proceeds will help offset the $5,020 cost of renting an aerial lift and buying painting materials, according to the website.

“Once this is over, we will stop selling these -- so any time you see any of these in the wild, you will know that this person is directly involved in helping keep this art alive,” read Commonwealth Press’ webpage devoted to raising money for the project.

Supporters can buy the items here.