Pittsburgh Art Places


Related Links


James Simon, Penguins, Southern Hilltops

Artwork Type

Design Team, Other 3D Work, Sculpture, Social Practice, Street Art, Temporary

A Hilltop Waddle, 2017-2018

James Simon


Commissioning Entity Neighborhood Allies

The Placemaking + Temporary Public Art Program is a pilot program and a collaboration between Neighborhood Allies and the Office of Public Art. This initiative commissioned six artists, or artist teams, to collaborate with an organization that serves residents from one of six neighborhoods: the Hill District, Homewood, Larimer, Millvale, Wilkinsburg, and the Southern Hilltops (Allentown, Beltzhoover, and Knoxville). 

Together, the organization selected from each neighborhood and the artists/artist teams designed a temporary public work of art that deeply engaged community residents. The process took approximately two years. During the first year, artists learned about the communities in which they worked, and during the second year, collaborated with residents and their community organization to create and implement a temporary public art project.

Southern Hilltops (Allentown, Beltzhoover, Knoxville)

The Southern Hilltops partnership was between artist James Simon and the Hilltop Men’s Group. 

Simon created 44, ceramic penguins for the Southern Hilltop communities of Allentown, Beltzhoover, and Knoxville. Groupings of penguins have been installed in selected spots throughout all three neighborhoods. 

The sculptures are based on various species of penguins such as the Emperor and King penguins, and are approximately 2 to 3 feet tall. Each penguin was custom-made, reflecting different characteristics and personalities. 

Because of how penguins live and survive, Simon states that the creatures are symbolic of friendship, loyalty, sacrifice, sharing, and living harmoniously – qualities that he and community members wanted to highlight in regard to the development and future of the Southern Hilltops.

By the Office of Public Art & James Simon
Edited by Rachel Klipa 


James Simon (1954 - ) is a native of Pittsburgh. He credits his Peabody High School ceramic teacher, affectionately known as "Mr. K," with inspiring his artistic endeavors."My career started as a hitchhiker," says Simon. "I was definitely a professional hitchhiker for like the first ten years of my life after high school." Simon traveled the world before settling in Oxford, England where he learned to craft violins. He spent the next fifteen years making violins, cellos, and violas, but the desire to return to clay was ever present. "I started to really miss clay. With sculpture, you can express what influences you," says Simon. He returned to the United States to complete an artist residency at the University of Oregon. The university had giant kilns for Simon to experiment with large-scale clay sculptures. Upon returning to Pittsburgh, Simon settled in Uptown where he started working with community groups and other artists to transform Uptown's Gist Street into a veritable public art gallery.