Art Notes: Glass Center takes a step to attract visiting artists

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The Pittsburgh Glass Center checked another item off its wish list with the recent purchase of a former coffeehouse at 5447 Penn Ave., about a block and a half away. The row house will be renovated to provide housing for visiting artists and students, a provision offered by most similar organizations, such as the Pilchuck Glass School, which was co-founded by Dale Chihuly in Washington state.

"It's been one of those elephants in the room since the Glass Center opened," says executive director Heather McElwee. Other concerns, such as furnishing studios to support classes in a range of glass techniques, received priority in the center's first decade. Then Kim's Coffee Shop closed and the building came on the market.

A housing option will make center classes more competitive in attracting both students and nationally recognized artists. Typically, established schools that offer residencies and short-term intensive arts and crafts classes are rural, like venerable Blue Ridge Mountains-based Penland or Touchstone Center for Crafts in Fayette County.

"People say, 'But you guys are located in the city,' " presuming places to stay are readily available, Ms. McElwee says. "The students pay in the $600-$700 price range for a weeklong class. The cheapest hotel room they could find in the city was $115 a night, plus taxes. For seven nights, they'd spend more on housing than for a class with a master artist."

The center has owned an adjacent four-bedroom house on Clarendon Street since its founding in 2000. Three of those rooms are usually occupied by tech apprentices who come to the center annually to learn and to teach. The fourth houses artists who create gallery installations while in residence. But during summer sessions, several instructors may overlap. Instructors and students keep long hours, another reason near housing is advantageous.

The new building is among eight properties in what is referred to as Bride Row, a name derived from an enigmatic mural of a bride in flowing white gown and veil ascending the steps of an apparently deserted house. It's actually a trompe l'oeil rendition on the side of a business. The mural was commissioned by the Bloomfield Garfield Corp. and painted in 1995 by Pittsburgh architect Jill Watson and New York artist Judy Penzer, both of whom died in the July 1996 explosion and crash of TWA Flight 800 soon after it departed JFK airport.

Two of the Bride Row properties are privately owned. The remaining five are owned by Friendship Development Associates, a nonprofit community development organization. The FDA and BGC facilitated the center's purchase of the property, and both supported the center's establishment at 5472 Penn Ave.

"We're hoping we can be a catalyst for other of those houses to get renovated," Ms. McElwee says.

The property isn't move-in ready and the center will be approaching individuals and foundations for renovation funding. "We're not going to gut it. It has great bones." But there will be some re-configuration of spaces, she says, and probably bathroom additions. An architect is drawing up plans and reviewing code requirements.

One hope is that rent could become an income source, from center students and from other arts and community organizations housing their own guests during the center's low season. The center is also thinking ahead to developing a street level retail space for glass art and supplies, Ms. McElwee says.

"It would be a huge leap for us. And I think it's attainable."

Hunt Brooklyn BG show

Lugene Bruno, curator of art and senior research scholar of the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, will answer questions about the exhibition "Portraits of a Garden, Brooklyn Botanic Garden Florilegium" from 1 to 4 p.m. on its last day, Sunday.

The exhibition comprises watercolors and drawings by 48 American botanical artists who adopted the centuries-old tradition of the florilegium to create a visual archive of plants growing within the historic grounds and buildings. The artwork, on loan from Brooklyn, is arranged by the gardens the plants grow in, and displayed with photographs of them. Ms. Bruno said visitors have remarked, after seeing the exhibition, that they would like to visit the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The themed gardens illustrated include native plants, herbs, rose and Japanese ponds. Conservatory rooms, such as the tropical house, are also visited.

The institute is on the fourth floor of Hunt Library, 4909 Frew St., Carnegie Mellon University campus. Hours are 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. today through Friday. Admission is free. For information, call 412-268-2434 or visit

Carnegie docent class

Carnegie Museum of Art is accepting enrollment for its winter docent class, and is inviting others interested in taking a university level art history survey to join. The class will be taught in the museum theater and galleries. "Art through the Ages: An Art History Survey" will cover ancient to contemporary periods with a special focus on objects in the museum collection. Readings and take-home exercises will complement the lectures.

Docent applicants will in addition receive training in subjects such as art education techniques and tour presentation. Classes are offered during two time slots: 10 a.m. to noon Feb. 20 to May 29 (no class March 13) or 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 21 to May 30 (no class March 14). Registration is $180 ($162 museum members); scholarships are available. Register at 412-622-3288.

Off the Wall 2013

The Andy Warhol Museum has announced the Off the Wall: 2013 performance series, a selection of contemporary artists who consistently amaze with visions of what can be when creativity trumps commercialism. All begin at 8 p.m. Dates and venues are given below. Tickets: or 412-237-8300.

• It opens Jan. 25 with "Chelsea Madchen," in which country singer/performance artist Tammy Faye Starlite channels Nico -- the German actress and model, Andy Warhol superstar, and onetime The Velvet Underground singer -- through VU songs, Nico covers and interview material. Warhol theater.

Feb. 8: "Whispering Pines 10," a one-act opera by Shana Moulton wherein a hypochondriac agoraphobe finds life's answers in a real-time multimedia delivery system called live animation. Support for the piece came, in part, from The Kitchen and the New Museum of Contemporary Art. Warhol theater.

Feb. 22-23: David Cale, Obie-winning writer, actor and lyricist, returns to Off the Wall on the heels of two sold-out shows. He performs "Harry Clarke," a shy midwesterner who becomes sexually precocious after moving to New York City and adopting a cocky English persona. Warhol theater.

March 8-9: "Sayonara" and "I, Worker," two short plays set in the near future featuring human-robot interaction, developed by the Seinendan Theater Company, Tokyo, and the Osaka University Robot Theater Project. Co-presented with Japan-America Society of Pennsylvania. Warhol theater.

• March 30: "Untitled Feminist Show." Young Jean Lee's Theater Company celebrates feminism after previous Off the Wall shows inspired by Asian American stereotypes, African-American culture and life's futility. Co-commissioned by Spalding Gray Award consortium members, including The Warhol. New Hazlett Theater, North Side.

• April 19-20: "MIRIAM," dancer Nora Chipaumire and performer Okwui Okpokwasili present a commentary on the feminine filtered through singer and activist Miriam Makeba, Joseph Conrad's writings and the Christian iconography of Mary. Score by Afro-Cuban composer Omar Sosa. Kelly Strayhorn Theater, East Liberty.

• April 27: "I Love Being Me, Don't You?" Sandra Bernhard -- actor, comedian, singer -- called "A living, breathing, bonfire" by The New York Times. Byham Theater, Downtown. Co-presented with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Warhol portfolio

Buy now and save. Whether for love, investment or both, connoisseurs snapped up almost half of the limited-edition portfolio "William John Kennedy: The Warhol Museum Edition" when it debuted at a private reception last week at Villa by Barton G. (the former Versace Mansion) during Art Basel Miami Beach. A small group of the original 50 is available for public purchase at $30,000, a number that will climb to $40,000 in the final offering.

The set comprises five signed and numbered photographs of Andy Warhol made in 1964: the chromogenic color print "Flowers" and four black-and-white gelatin silver prints showing Warhol with his works "Marilyn," "Birmingham Race Riot," "American Man" and a "Self-Portrait." They are packaged within an aluminum archival box with foreword by Warhol director Eric Shiner, introduction by noted art historian Thomas E. Crow, and essays by museum curator Nicholas Chambers and chief archivist Matt Wrbican. Photographs and text are 22 by 28inches.

Mr. Kennedy's career in commercial and fine art has aspects in common with Warhol's. Earlier this year, 100 signed and numbered photographs taken of Warhol by Mr. Kennedy in the early 1960s were gifted to The Andy Warhol Museum. In addition, the museum was given permission to sell in limited edition the "Self-Portrait" and "Flowers" works included. This is the first print portfolio released by The Warhol.

Purchase information at or 412-237-8360.


Post-Gazette art critic Mary Thomas: or 412-263-1925.


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