Art takes over downtown

Members of kNOTdance, a dance theater company  based in Pittsburgh, perform at the Gallery Crawl. (credit: Courtesy of Leah Yingling) Members of kNOTdance, a dance theater company based in Pittsburgh, perform at the Gallery Crawl. (credit: Courtesy of Leah Yingling)

Last Friday, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust held its first quarterly Gallery Crawl of the year. The Gallery Crawl — which includes over 30 venues in 14 square blocks of the Cultural District — features local, national, and international artists and includes visual, audio, and performance art.

Darcy Kucenic, director of Highmark First Night Pittsburgh and manager of education and operations at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, manages the Gallery Crawls. She explained, “The winter Crawl is probably our smallest in attendance, because it’s, you know, winter. But we still get a couple of thousand people that come down.”

With so many venues involved and such a large number of attendees, planning the event is a long and complicated process.

Kucenic, who received her master’s degree in arts management from Carnegie Mellon in 2000, works with galleries to determine what type of work will be shown and then brings everything else together. “Based on what new exhibits are open, I manage the whole Gallery Crawl process. I invite other participating organizations in the district to have something and be in the Crawl,” Kucenic said. “Every Crawl is different, so it gives me a chance to bring in all different kinds of groups.”

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust operates many of the galleries within the Cultural District, including Wood Street Galleries, Space Gallery, and 707 and 709 Galleries, among others.

Murray Horne, curator of Wood Street Galleries, provided some insight on what it’s like planning for the Gallery Crawl from a curatorial standpoint. “We’re always preparing a new show to open with the Gallery Crawl,” he said. “So it takes us about three weeks to prepare for that before the Crawl.”

Wood Street Galleries is known for displaying installation work and art based on technology. According to Horne, he’s most concerned about “the quality of the work and the variety of it” when planning exhibits.

For this Gallery Crawl, Norwegian artist HC Gilje explored the perception of space and time through light projection with his exhibit in transit. In his statement about the project, Gilje wrote, “I try to engage in a sort of conversation with the spaces I work with, to be able to transform an existing space or object using image, light, sound, and motion.”

He added, “Being able to control what is visible and when it is visible gives me the opportunity to influence both the perception of time and space.”

Down the street at Space Gallery was an exhibit titled Out of Rubble, which featured work from 16 international artists, including Wafaa Bilal, who gave a lecture at Carnegie Mellon last Tuesday. According to the gallery guide, the exhibit was focused on “the consequences of war, moving from decimation and disintegration to the possibilities of regeneration and recovery.” A combination of photography and mixed media pieces, the exhibit was politically charged and seemed to be a favorite among the younger crowd.

Horne lauded the Gallery Crawl’s knack for presenting diverse work and the quality of the overall arts scene in Pittsburgh. “I think it’s really healthy when you can mix them up — create conceptual and visual buzz — and when the work [at different galleries] is different from each other and different from the previous shows.”

He added, “Cities like New York and L.A. have a really large private gallery scene that we can’t compete with. However, in the nonprofits, I think we can compete with anyone in the country, really. The quality of the work that’s shown in Pittsburgh is just outstanding.”