Pittsburgh sports fans may be disheartened by losses and lockouts, but the ToonSeum hopes to revitalize fan fervor with a Pittsburgh scoreboard animation exhibit.
"With the Penguins sort of on hiatus and the Steelers maybe not doing so well this year, we thought it would be fun to have an alternative," ToonSeum executive director Joe Wos said. "This seemed like a good year when we could use a bit of positive sports imagery."
The ToonSeum, in the Cultural District, hosts an event Dec. 21 for the opening of the gallery "Pittsburgh Scores! The Pro Scoreboard Art of Kensington Falls Animation," which features art from local sports animations seen on Jumbotrons at sporting events. The exhibit runs through Jan. 27.
Mr. Wos hopes the exhibit will open the door to cartooning for general sports fans.
"Sports fans may not realize how much they have in common with the cartoon geeks out there," he said.
The ToonSeum, a nonprofit cartoon and comic art museum, features a comic and pop culture gift shop, a comics reading courtyard and two galleries.
The new exhibit, in the "StarKist [Tuna] Hall of Legends," will feature stills from Pittsburgh sports animation, such as the iconic Captain Jolly Roger on a train and a machismo version of Iceburgh the penguin in hockey gear.
"This is the first time we have done a celebration of scoreboard animation," Mr. Wos said. "It's definitely a medium that is overlooked in the animation world."
Kensington Falls Animation, an animation studio in Ambridge, created and supplied all of the artwork for the gallery. The studio has created animations for MTV, PBS and major sports teams, and it produces animation for local ad agencies, the animation studio's co-founder, owner and executive producer Mike Schwab said via email.
These animations have become a part of Pittsburgh sports history and have been embraced by thousands of fans "...screaming 'Woo-woo' when the original train would play on the scoreboard at Three Rivers Stadium," Mr. Schwab said.
"I think the reason animation became popular on scoreboards is specifically for that reason. Young and old fans like to be entertained, and animation entertains and lifts the spirits of fans," he said.
The gallery opening, a casual 21-and-over event, will have a party-like atmosphere, allowing people to admire the art, have a few drinks, and mingle and speak with the creators about their craft and creative processes.
"The ToonSeum always throws the best parties in town," Mr. Wos said. "You get to meet Pittsburgh's art luminaries."
Pittsburgh-based, nationally renowned comic artists such as Jim Rugg (graphic novel artist best known for "Street Angel" and "Aphrodisiac"), Ed Piskor (of Wizzy Wig comics, who is best known for his work on Harvey Pekar's biographical comic "American Splendor") and Ron Frenz (who has done art for Spider-man, Superman and other iconic superhero comics), commonly frequent these events.
"Our last event, when we did our annual fundraiser, George Takei ['Star Trek'] showed up out of nowhere," Mr. Wos said. "We've come to be known as this cool thing to do when you're in town."
Although these events may be more appropriate for die-hard pop culture fans, Mr. Wos and Mr. Schwab are hoping to reach out to sports and cartoon fans alike with this exhibit.
"[This is] for sports fans who might not normally come to the ToonSeum; might not know what we're about," Mr. Wos said. "This artwork speaks to them."
"Many adults are probably not sitting around watching cartoons on Saturday mornings or Sunday evenings on Fox," said Mr. Schwab. "So the scoreboard animations are a way of reaching more people."
Unaware of the ToonSeum and the event, local sports fan Jeffrey Tabaka said that the steadfast zeal of Pittsburgh sports fans might be reason enough to bait the average person to this event.
"Anytime there is some sort of Pittsburgh sporting event or any type of social gathering that relates to sports, people are willing to turn out for that," Mr. Tabaka.
Limited edition prints of the iconic Penguins scoreboard animation, signed by Mr. Schwab, will be available for purchase at the event.
"It's a unique opportunity for someone who is looking for that ultimate gift for a sports fan," Mr. Wos said. "They can own a piece of history."
The event starts at 7:30 p.m. at the ToonSeum, 945 Liberty Ave., Downtown. Admission is $5 for the general public and free for members. The 21-and-over event includes a bar, and tickets can be purchased at the door or online at http://scoreboardartopening.eventbrite.com
"The great thing about this is that it's going to reach both audiences," said Mandi Bridgeman, the ToonSeum's marketing and programming director. "We're not only going to have people at the event who love animation, but also sports enthusiasts who may be like 'We don't like art, but we like the Penguins, the Steelers,' a different crowd who can appreciate it from their own perspective."
"It's very low-key, very down-to-earth," Mr. Wos said. "It's just a lot of artists and fans sitting around drinking beer and having a good time."
Justin Brown is a Point Park University graduate journalism student.