Gallery Crawl features film, sculpture, food, vendors, live comedy of the Cultural District
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust held its quarterly Gallery Crawl on Friday. The Gallery Crawl is a grand tour around the galleries, shops, studios, and restaurants of Pittsburgh’s Cultural District and is free and open to the public.
The Gallery Crawl features an eclectic selection of venues, artists, and performers designed to reflect the lushness and variety of Pittsburgh’s flourishing art scene. It includes both professional and amateur works of art and performance, as well as the wares and services of independent local vendors and businesses.
With nearly 40 stops to see and even more events to visit, the Gallery Crawl was completely overwhelming. It is impossible to cover all of the events even in four hours. Throughout the night, there were restaurants filled with activity, music filling the streets, and people rushing in and out of venues; it is almost the exact picture you would think of if asked to dream of a city.
The venues that inspired the atmosphere of the night were just as important as the aura of the Gallery Crawl. There were some truly awe-inspiring works on display. For instance, in the Wood Street Galleries, Gregory Barsamian’s exhibition Memento Mori features a dozen or so fascinating and dark machinations. Using strobe lights and spinning kinetic sculptures, Barsamian is able to create a new creature altogether, a sort of mesmerizing Frankenstein of sculpture and film. Based on his dream recordings, Memento Mori features works that are dark, intense, and surreal. There are paper worms writhing around in tiny rooms, paper bags breathing in and out, and human hearts turning into birds.
Another incredible exhibit is Tony Tasset’s Magnolias for Pittsburgh, an outdoor installation on the corner of Seventh and Penn avenues. Magnolias features a deceptively simple concept that nonetheless manages to stun: two bronze magnolia trees placed in a landscape with a few live magnolia trees and some ivy.
At first sight, it is almost impossible to tell that the flowering magnolias are indeed fake; each petal of every flower had been individually hand-painted and the tree itself had been cast from a hand-sculpted replica. The trees, with their fresh, eternally blooming pink flowers on dark black boughs, exude an ethereal sense of beauty that becomes even stronger the moment you realize the trees are not real.
Another highlight of the evening was the Night Market, a gathering of local Pittsburgh vendors to display their wares. There was an incredible variety of vendors there, selling food, jewelry, beauty products, art, clothing, accessories, and more. The Night Market was an amazing opportunity to see the creativity and workmanship of these local artisans and buy souvenirs.
Yet another major component of the Gallery Crawl was familiarizing audiences with the local community. The Gallery Crawl itself required attendees to venture into restaurants and buildings all around the Cultural District and invited exploration into what the city had to offer. There were also a number of venues dedicated to showcasing work from students in schools around Pittsburgh, as well as from local artists and businesses.
One of the venues that featured the most student work was the Trust Arts Education Center, which displays the works of Pittsburgh public schools students, grades K–12. There is an undeniable charm in the works of some of the younger students: a sense of innocence and imagination, filled with bright colors, smiley faces, and the occasional sense of great artistic promise. Among the older students, there is a more refined sense of creative expression and a wide variety of subject matter, ranging from marriage to race to transportation. After a few hours of seeing professional artwork, it was relaxing to look at the work of these younger artists.
Other venues were focused on exploring a certain concept or theme in their exhibits. For instance, the SPACE gallery— partnered with the mentoring program Strong Women, Strong Girls (which has a branch at Carnegie Mellon) — featured Mean Girls, an exhibit designed to raise awareness of bullying among girls in America and to encourage positive social change. Another venue, the August Wilson Center for African-American Culture, celebrated and honored the vivacity and diversity of African-American culture in Pittsburgh.
On perhaps a less sociopolitical note, there were also medium-specific venues such as the ToonSeum, which features the work of cartoonists and animators. The ToonSeum is part museum and part comic book shop, a combination that would excite any cartoon aficionado. Featuring political cartoons, Sunday-morning newspaper comics, and animated movie stills, the museum takes visitors on a lovely little trip down memory lane to rediscover the magic of cartoons and animation and appreciate the medium in a new light.
The evening also featured a number of performances and musical acts. For instance, the Arcade Comedy Theater, which specializes in alternative and improvisational comedy, continually held brief, bite-sized snippets of improvisational comedy throughout the night. Also, its neighboring venue, Harris Theater, played regionally made short films shown on a loop.
Pittsburgh public school students also put on a number of performances. Between the Trust Arts Education Center and August Wilson Center there were student musicals and choir performances, a fashion show, and plenty of dance shows.
The Gallery Crawl is a unique opportunity to experience what Pittsburgh has to offer in terms of culture and entertainment. The only complaint it raised was that it is only a one-day event; it would be more successful if it spanned over two days. During the Gallery Crawl, there were many performances that played at the same time, making it impossible to see the events all in one night.
Anyone who lives in Pittsburgh should go see the Gallery Crawl at least once. No matter the person, the Gallery Crawl will have something to please them. But most importantly, it is an integral part of the city experience. There is a tangible thrill of excitement and grandiosity up and down Liberty and Penn avenues, with music and activity infused in the evening air, as you pass the shops, restaurants, and bars on an art excursion.