Free food and culture at gallery crawl

If you’re looking for a great way to get culture and eat free, delicious food, try attending a gallery crawl in Pittsburgh’s diverse cultural district. During this event, presented by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, doors to over 20 galleries, dance studios, and shops in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District are open. The event is free to the public from 5:30 to 9 p.m. for mingling and munching. And if you missed the crawl, these exhibits will be showing throughout the month, and there’s a lot to be discovered.

In the Liberty Lofts at 905 Liberty Ave., the exhibit Downtown Living Exposed gave a glimpse into the daily lives of Pittsburgh locals. A photograph of a silhouette of a woman and her child strolling along the downtown sidewalks conveyed the eerie stillness that overcomes the financial district on the weekends. A woman in an evening dress walking her dog across the yellow bridge at night offered another perspective of the city after hours. Accompanied with an array of cheese, fruit, and unique types of beer, this photography exhibit was definitely my favorite stop along the crawl.

A few blocks down, the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute showcased their students’ sugar sculptures and dished out delicious chili and homemade cookies (for $1 each!) to the hungry patrons. If you’re into “food art” or good food in general, a stop at the Institute is a must. But don’t make this your last stop — by 8 p.m., the food had run out.

For history junkies, a political puppet show inspired by American historian Howard Zinn was performed on the third floor of 937 Liberty Ave. The story of Columbus’ landing and subsequent search for gold in America was parodied by puppeteer Amy Trompetter. On the walls of this expansive gallery was the work of cartoonist Mike Konopacki, who was present at the gallery to sign copies of the illustrated book A People’s History of American Empire wherein he and Paul Buhle transformed Zinn’s text into a cartoon story.

Representing art in the form of dance, the Arthur Murray studio on Sixth Street held free lessons in swing, salsa, rumba, and meringue from 7 to 8:30 p.m. And for those gifted few who can appreciate art while dancing, live music at 709 Penn Gallery accompanied the Dreams Inside Reality exhibit of Leslie Ansley’s images of the Hill District.

Missed the crawl? These exhibits are still open downtown and well worth a visit. Take any of the 61 buses from Carnegie Mellon’s campus to Liberty Avenue and Wood Street. Visit www.pgharts.org for gallery hours. The next Pittsburgh Cultural event is the “First Night Pittsburgh 2009” Wednesday, Dec. 31, a New Year’s Eve Party from 6 p.m. to midnight with live music, fireworks, and dancing. The next Gallery Crawl is scheduled for Jan. 23. So mark your calendar for a fun (and filling) evening!