Artist’s painting illustrates Bird Park sign

a man, a young woman and an older woman standing in a park in front of a sign
Artist Hannah Jones, flanked by Nature Conservancy members Peter Argentine and Sarada Sangameswaran. Jones’s painting is the focus of the Conservancy’s Bird Park Riparian Zone signage. /Photo: John Schisler

“She was the perfect choice because all of her interests come together in this project.”

That’s how Elaine Kramer, board member of Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy, described Roycroft Avenue artist Hannah Jones. Jones’ painting of the riparian area of Bird Park is the centerpiece of a new sign commissioned for the park by the Conservancy and designed to educate visitors on what a healthy streamside area should look like.

A riparian zone is the interface between water and land in a woodland area, including all the plants and animals. A healthy riparian area is essential to prevent erosion and runoff and to protect the quality of the water.

Jones’ acrylic painting of what the area might look like in 10 years highlights the Conservancy’s work in removing non-native, invasive plants and replacing them with native varieties. Volunteers have removed privet, honeysuckle and bittersweet, and planted native trees, shrubs and wildflowers more appropriate to the area. Native shrubs and perennials include Joe Pye weed, blue flag iris, New York ironweed, soft rush, fox sedge and thimbleberry. Bur oak, swamp white oak, sweet bay magnolia and white pine were among the
trees planted.

“I think it speaks to Hannah’s talent and expertise to be able to depict this kind of specific plant life,” said Kramer. “It was important to us that the information conveyed by the artwork was as accurate as the information in the text.”

The text and height of the sign were designed to ensure that it is accessible and ADA compliant. The copy was written by a subcommittee made up of Kramer and Conservancy members Ron Block, Sarada Sangameswaran and Peter Argentine.

a painting of the bird park made by Hannah Jones
Jones got the commission for the painting after sending the Conservancy photos of birds she saw in Bird Park.

“What we hoped was for visitors to understand that the area had been damaged, volunteers had restored it, and this is why it’s important,” said Argentine, whose company provides media for museums, historical sites, and national and state parks.

“We got a grant in 2022 from the American Water Charitable Foundation,” Kramer said. “Some of that money was earmarked for an interpretive sign so people could understand what we’re doing and the importance of the riparian area. And in Hannah, we found someone who really knows and loves Bird Park and has a good understanding of the natural systems that operate here.”

Jones graduated from Pitt in 2023 with a B.A. in art. She credits her AP art teacher at Mt. Lebanon High School, Jennifer Rodriguez, for nurturing her talent and instilling confidence. A regular birdwatcher, in 2020 she sent photos to the Conservancy of birds she had spotted in Bird Park.

“I wanted to thank them for having this space available,” said Jones. “And through that connection, I got this commission.”

The area depicted in her painting is by the bridge between the soccer field and Youngwood Drive, near where the stream forms. Jones, who describes herself as “outdoorsy,” did numerous painting sessions en plein air, lugging her paints, canvas and fold-up stool into the park. Although she did receive payment, she considers the work a service to the community.

“The goal was to illustrate what this space might look like in 10 years after they’ve done all the work,” Jones said. “I was not just looking at the space and painting it, I was imagining a myriad of plants that they’re putting in.” After 20 or so hours of on-site work, she spent time at home painting native plant life, using reference photos for accuracy.

“I really did like learning about the different trees and plants,” she said. “That’ll stick with me for a while.”

Jones’ art was featured in a solo show at the Mt. Lebanon Public Library in June.