If you needed proof that the Pgh arts scene is thriving, look no further than Unblurred, the gallery crawl that occurs on the first Friday of each month along the Penn Avenue Arts corridor. Some call the area Garfield, some call it Friendship, and the crawl’s borders often include Lawrenceville and East Liberty, depending on the scope. I just call it cool. And home. As someone who has lived in the area for about a year and a half now, this was my second Unblurred, and I must say, it has helped me gain a sense of appreciation for my neighborhood that I didn’t possess before. We might not have an abundance of hip hangouts along Penn Avenue like the more desirable locale of Butler Street (though there are some – Roboto, Quiet Storm, Garfield Artworks), but what the area lacks in bar real estate, it makes up for with pure culture and creativity. This is why we decided to make our next Beer Run the Unblurred edition. We wanted to show a little appreciation for the galleries who add so much pizazz to the hood. We had to give them the brand new Iron City Throwback cans and boxes, which are equally as festive as they are nostalgic.
First, we stopped by to see our new friends at the Cotton Factory. If you haven’t already checked out our interview with owners Samantha Ginsburg and Stephen Streibig, do it! We learned some fantastic things about the pair, who operate the screenprinting shop during their free time when they aren’t at their day jobs. As if that isn’t admirable enough, they manage to participate in each Unblurred by hosting their shop, TeeRex alongside three local vendors, who they switch up each month. They’re currently running a special in their always-open online shop. 15% off of any order over $15. What a deal! Visit their Cotton Factory and TeeRex pages for more info on this charming operation. In addition to keeping up-to-date on their promotions, they also feature one pet in need of a home each week. They’ve helped so many worthy animals find a loving home, the least we could do is drop by with a case of beer!
Next, we hit up the Pittsburgh Glass Center. This state-of-the-art facility is a public access school, gallery and studio. They had their annual holiday glass sale this past weekend, and needless to say, it was a hit. Wait times exceeded two hours on Saturday, which is quite refreshing for those of us who are trying to buy local this holiday season. We managed to snap a picture of our gift on a table that featured an assortment of glass items blown by various artists who use the Glass Center. Support local business by signing up for a class or dropping by during one of the center’s glass sales. They also frequently host “Make-It-Now” events, which give those inexperienced in the world of glass a chance to blow a piece of their own. The most up-to-date info on events and promotions can be found on their Facebook page, as well as beautiful photos of some of their glass offerings!
Disguised as a regular house on Broad Street in Garfield, one block up from the Quiet Storm, you’ll find The Garfield Bridge. This community arts organization, run by the duo of David T. English and W. Donald Orkoskey aims to be a “good neighbor”. Their primary goals include providing exposure to the arts to existing residents, to help see that they are not brushed aside during economic redevelopment, and to advocate for the needs of the neighborhood. They also look to international, national and local artists to bring new vision and creative spirit to both Garfield and Pittsburgh as a whole through an artist residency program. They claim to be un-gentrifying the area, and I’d have to say, they’re doing a pretty snazzy job thus far. I entered to the sounds of a ukelele played by a woman in a black dress. The captive audience didn’t seem very concerned with hitting up the other gallery spots at that moment, or perhaps they were staying to see Rose Clancy burning art work that no longer represents her as an artist. Either way, this hidden gem of the crawl is one not to miss!
As soon as I stepped into ARTica, I was swept away into a world of antiques, instruments, old photos and toys, and random odds and ends. There was so much packed into the space, we had to move a few things around to get this photo framed properly. I must say, the old school look of the beer fits in quite nicely with the nostalgic feel I got from walking into ARTica. It was difficult for me to find any information online about the space, which is operated by the most welcoming woman whose attention to detail had her still setting up well into the time she wanted to open. I thought of my roommate, whose fondness of tchotchkes goes further than anyone’s should and told the woman I would be back, if nothing else than to buy her something for Christmas. There’s truly something for everyone at ARTica.
Awesome Books might be posting up on the final frontier of book stores in general, as it’s one of a handful of bookstores remaining in the city and Garfield is lucky enough to host the quaint little store. I surprised the woman working with a case of the Iron City Throwback cans and asked what was going on that evening for the crawl. She politely informed me they stopped having any type of readings during the crawls, as the constant traffic is disruptive to the readers they host. Events aren’t their only forte, they’re also operating a pop-up store downtown. If you don’t recall hearing about Project Pop-Up, more information can be found here.
I was greeted at assemble by an adorable and friendly girl named Nina who immediately explained to me they were hosting a hyper-local art show in the space. Anyone who lives within a 10-block radius of Assemble was allowed to submit a piece in the show. They even gave guests the opportunity to create art throughout the evening, contributing to the hyper-local theme by creating art in the actual gallery. Assemble is quite an inviting space and one of the only spaces on the gallery tour that had chairs, so we chilled out and enjoyed a brew or two before hitting our next stop. They’re a relatively new gallery, but don’t fret, they’re online! Be sure to check out their South Seas Sneak “Christmas Episode” Show coming up on December 22. They also host events in their downstairs space, Steal City, from time to time.
The newest addition to Unblurred is Artisan: Tattoo, Coffee, Gallery. They hosted the traveling oddities show produced by Trundle Manor, hence the costumes and bad ass tent that they were still putting the finishing touches on when I arrived. The “coffee” aspect is coming soon, but for now take advantage of fine art custom tattoos from Jason Angst, Michael Patrick, and Nathan Mould. In addition to tattoos, Artisan offers laser fading, editing and removal by Meliora Angst, certified laser technician. In addition to hosting a stop on the crawl, they collected donations for Occupy Pgh. We’re very excited to see what Artisan has in store for future crawls!
We next entered the happenin’ space of Most Wanted Fine Art, one of the busiest stops of the crawl, due in part to the musical stylings of Grand Snafu. This gallery, studio and performance space hosts a plethora of events throughout the year. They hosted “Word Circus” – a reading and open mic night on the Saturday after the crawl and frequently have “painting days” to spruce up the Penn Avenue Arts District. I also learned that the car that resides directly outside the gallery almost year-round is a demolition derby car, though it often passes for art. Multi-purposing is something that comes easy to these folks.
I entered the bustling confines of Modern Formations and weaved my way through the crowd until I reached the very end where I found this nice young woman who was more than happy to take the case of Iron City off of my hands. I’m really digging the art in this picture, which reflects the atmosphere of the gallery – lighthearted, entertaining and inviting. Recent events at the gallery include Blood and Cupcakes, an event in its fourth edition where individuals bring cupcakes and donate blood to the Central Blood Bank. Pgh-based online magazine New Yinzer frequently hosts events there as well.
Last, but certainly not least on our Unblurred tour was Garfield Artworks, a Pgh staple. Undiscovered and rising bands have been touring through the nationally-known venue for seven years as a result of the TLC provided by none other than local promoter Manny Theiner, who is responsible for maintaining the underground element of Pgh’s music scene for two decades, with no plans of slowing down, as far as we know. The beer we brought, in fact, helped to provide hospitality for Brooklyn band Crystal Stilts. Be sure to check out Mixed Threads next Saturday. We’ll be doing a post on the event later on this week, but for now read up on the event here. We wouldn’t be surprised if Iron City makes an appearance too!
Another Beer Run has come and gone and we can’t help but enjoy ourselves more and more with every Run. Getting to know the faces and businesses around the Pgh is inspiring and exciting. The more people I meet here, the more proud I am to call Pgh home. Now that I’m an Unblurred vet, I’ve found one more reason not to leave. Check out our photos below from the crawl. Until next time!