The North Side of Pittsburgh is an area that is on the brink of revitalization. From the extended T service to the plans for the Garden Theater block, this area is poised to be Pittsburgh’s next Lawrenceville if all goes as planned. We recently had a chance to visit 10 North Side businesses to learn a bit more about the area’s history, which is heavy on the museum and photography front. We also hit a few of our favorite spots that make the North Side the charming neighborhood it is today. We encourage you to visit each of these places and tell them NakYouOut sent you! Just a short distance from the neighboring North Shore, it only made sense to gift each of these establishments with a special Pirates edition case of IC Light.
The first stop on our journey was Artists Image Resource, or AIR for short. Located at 518 Foreland Street, just a block from East Ohio, AIR “is an artist-run organization that integrates the production of fine art printwork with innovative educational programs that explore the creative process. AIR provides print and imaging services to professional & emerging artists and educators”. A lot of young creatives operate this space. We’ve had the opportunity to attend a few parties here over the years and meet some very interesting people in the process. They are currently hosting a juried show: Printwork 2012, with a deadline for entries of October 1. The opening reception will take place on December 7. For more information on the event and how to enter, visit here.
Right down the road at 422 Foreland Street, we stopped by James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy. This place is rapidly becoming a gem of the neighborhood, hosting a variety of open mics and musical performances almost every night of the week. Their manager, Kevin, hit us up to see if we would be interested in covering their establishment in the future and also shares our notion that the North Side is bursting with culture and diversity. Catch great bands like The Backstabbing Good People, Black Coffee and a variety of jazz musicians or visit every other Thursday for Colors and Bottles, a unique and interactive art-themed event.
In need of a re-up, we visited Priory Fine Pastries for a sugar boost. Located at 528 East Ohio Street, this bakery offers a variety of delicious and beautiful pastries, such as cookies, cakes, coffee and even breakfast. Their weekends are wedding-intensive, as they are affiliated with the Priory Hotel and Pittsburgh’s Grand Hall, a beautiful building that hosts weddings, receptions and other functions throughout the year. Might we suggest an overnight getaway at this luxurious destination and a visit to the pastry shop after checkout as a great way to treat yourself.
The next few stops on our journey peaked our curiosity because of the rich history that lies behind the door to each establishment, all of which are owned by this man to your left, Bruce. His passion for photography is unparalleled, and his shop, Bernie’s Photo Center, is his home base. Each of his establishments have been impacted by changing technologies and the shift from film to digital. We’re uncertain if this inevitable transition has helped or hurt business, but this man has managed to stay afloat through it all. Located at 525 East Ohio Street, Bernie’s Photo Center is Pittsburgh’s largest used camera dealer. He buys and sells new and used cameras, lenses, accessories and other photographic equipment (primarily on eBay), though his retail store is still open.
The Photo Antiquities Museum, located at 531 East Ohio Street, was the highlight of our day. Touted as the only 19th century photography museum in the country, the rich history the space contains is truly impressive. We got a private, yet brief, tour and learned that Liberty Avenue in the Strip District from 16th all the way to Lawrenceville was a shantytown during the depression. This museum contains the only known photos of the shantytown, which became plagued with cholera and other diseases as a result of the area having no running water and therefore, nowhere to put human waste. Interested parties are encouraged to call the museum to set up a private group tour, but keep it small, as the many rooms inside the museum aren’t large enough to accommodate big groups. A typical tour takes about an hour and includes Daguerrotypes (the earliest form of photography), Ambrotypes (images on glass plates), Tintypes (images on a thin metal plate) and a three-story enclosed natural light atrium. If you enjoy photography as a hobby and have yet to visit, make this place a priority.
Next up was Pittsburgh Custom Darkroom, and yes, they still do it the old school way. Located at 521 East Ohio Street,this place also features a custom framing studio, all of which is assembled by the man pictured here. They offer custom digital prints, custom black and white printing, photo restoration, scanning and copying services and an in-house photo studio. While the shop has lost a lot of business due to the availability of photo technology at home, they’re still staying alive. For a full list of pricing information and services offered, be sure to visit their website.
Fein Art Gallery, located at 519 East Ohio Street, is housed in a beautiful space. According to the brochure, “the gallery staff specializes in commercial, as well as residential installations of large scale projects to the design trade or direct to the public”. The gallery is dedicated to exhibiting the work of ambitious contemporary artists at all levels of their careers and development. Their multidisciplinary approach and diverse perspective help build community partnerships and professionals from various disciplines of art. Best of all, their events are always free and open to the public!
Next up, we hit one of Pittsburgh’s premiere attractions, The Andy Warhol Museum. This museum “is a vital forum in which diverse audiences of artists, scholars, and the general public are galvanized through creative interaction with the art and life of Andy Warhol. The Warhol is ever-changing, constantly redefining itself in relationship to contemporary life using its unique collections and dynamic interactive programming as tools.” They offer a variety of unique programming, including their Sound Series, which hosts different musicians and performers in their auditorium. Tonight they have São Paulo Underground, a new jazz and Brazilian tropicalia band. They’re also hosting a Naughty or Nice holiday party later in the year featuring RuPaul’s Drag Race winner and hometown superstar Sharon Needles.
Buena Vista Coffee, a short distance from our last destination, is a hidden gem of the North Side. A shop named after the street it resides on, it’s located in a residential part of the neighborhood and caters to those who live nearby. Even those who have moved away from the area still crave their delicious treats and friendly atmosphere. They serve light fare and host musicians from time to time, including local alt-folk darlings The Armadillos. Sometimes they’ll host a happy hour and offer $1 off selected drinks. They also bake their own pies and make soups and grilled cheeses that are to die for. Pieces from local artists adorn the walls while the sun shines through the large picture windows of the storefront. They also host an after hours series called “Make-and-Learn” that teaches attendees how to make homemade products such as bug spray, natural cold/flu remedies and more!
The last stop on our journey, the Mattress Factory, is home to one of the swankiest parties of the year and one of our personal faves, the Urban Garden Party. Their annual benefit offers the best in local dining, spirits and entertaining music programming from both locals and out of town guests. This museum’s focus is on installations “created on site by artists from across the country and around the world”. Their “unique exhibitions feature a variety of media that engage all of the senses”. Comprised of a main building and smaller annex building down the block, the museum hosts a “growing-and distinctive- permanent collection, featuring artists James Turrell, Yayoi Kusama, Winifred Lutz and Rolf Julius, as well as innovative exhibitions that change throughout the year”. If you’ve yet to visit this spectacular museum, we aren’t sure what you’re waiting for. Engage your senses and open yourself up to art that’s off the beaten path.