2013 Annual Convention Spotlight: Exploring Pittsburgh’s Art Community

Posted by Michelle Clesse, Apr 17, 2013 0 comments

Michelle Clesse Michelle Clesse

An installation art museum, a nationally renowned glass studio, and a cartoon museum walk into a bar. Just kidding. Museums and studios do not have legs, and therefore, cannot walk anywhere.

Plenty of cities have great art resources for artists and art enthusiasts alike. When I stumbled into Pittsburgh in 2009, I was amazed by the combination of major arts institutions, niche arts organizations, and scrappy little start-up arts groups; but even more so by how approachable and accessible the Pittsburgh arts community was.

I had a hotbed of arts at my fingertips. By the time I’d been in Pittsburgh for a year, I’d taken two glass blowing classes at the Pittsburgh Glass Center, dragged every out-of-town visitor to the Society for Contemporary Craft, and learned about Gertie the Dinosaur at the ToonSeum.

Now, I certainly didn’t limit myself to the visual arts scene. During my first year I also saw the Pittsburgh Ballet perform twice, checked out the Pittsburgh Symphony, and saw The Mikado performed by CMU’s School of Drama.

As I’ve settled into the city and put down more roots, I still frequent some of my favorite art spots fairly regularly. I have also continued to explore both large and small performance art groups, while keeping my hands busy (and dirty) at many of the public access and cooperative art studios.

I spent last Tuesday evening covered in clay and listening to the Penguins game with a slew of other ceramic artists. This weekly ritual is part of the wood fire seminar at Union Project’s ceramics studio. Ceramic artists eager to learn about the firing technique spend eight weeks working in the studio together, and then pack up their bisqueware and head out to spend the weekend stoking the wood kiln and making s’mores.

I jumped at the chance to join the wood fire seminar, largely because during the 15 years I’ve worked in clay I’ve never had access to a wood kiln before. It also gives me the chance to meet new folks and create art in a group setting.

Every new person I meet has their own piece of the Pittsburgh art scene that they’re truly passionate about. I’ve learned about new experimental theater groups, galleries housed in abandoned spaces, and solo artists producing their next body of work. Just about everyone involved in the arts community has their hands in a few different projects, and wants to share that art with you.

Pittsburgh has plenty of possibilities for the art lover. Excursions range from busting out your best duds and enjoying an evening with the Pittsburgh Opera to throwing on your ripped jeans and heading over to Artist Image Resource to screen-print concert posters for your band.

So, when you come to Pittsburgh for this year’s Americans for the Arts Annual Convention, be prepared to prioritize your "To Do List." Visit your favorite Pittsburgh art spot, but be sure to try something new. Maybe something you’ve never had the chance to experience before—I’ve heard the Pittsburgh Banjo Club’s Wednesday night jams are not to be missed!

The Americans for the Arts Annual Convention is heading to Pittsburgh in June. Follow along as we spotlight the city every week between now and then here on ARTSblog. Also, don't forget the Early Bird Registration deadline is April 26 so be sure to register before then to receive a big discount!

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