Pittsburgh's ToonSeum eager to expand

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It was late 2011 that the ToonSeum broke through a next-door wall to add a room of gallery space to its Liberty Avenue digs in the Pittsburgh Cultural District. But the museum of comic cartoon art, one of three of its kind in the country, wants more. Joe Wos, executive director of the ToonSeum, said today that the expansion could mean a move back to the North Side, where the ToonSeum began as a corner of the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, or renting space within the August Wilson Center of African American Culture, the Goliath directly across the street from the storefront museum.

"The first words out of our mouth after the expansion were, 'We need more space.' Our fan base and collection have just continued to grow," Mr. Wos said.

Mr. Wos told a gathering of fellow comic and cartoon artists about the expansion plans as the National Cartoonists Society Conference got under way today in Pittsburgh.

While courting funding and support for the venture, the ToonSeum has moved ahead with talks with a North Side developer to become part of the Charm Bracelet of cultural attractions including the Mattress Factory and The Andy Warhol Museum. Remaining Downtown and renting space is also an option.

"We have a proposal in to the August Wilson Center [board of directors] that we think would be a win-win for everyone," Mr. Wos said, "providing a stream of revenue and spillover guests for them, and keeping us on the 900 block of Liberty we love so much in a larger space."

The proposal calls for the ToonSeum, which has shared programming with the AWC before, to have a separate entrance while sharing resources such as classrooms and event space, along with the creation of a shared Black Cartoonists Hall of Fame Gallery. Mr. Wos noted that Pittsburgh was home to the man considered to be the first African-American comic book artist, Matt Baker, and the first African-American woman cartoonist, Jackie Ormes. "At one time Pittsburgh was home to the highest number of syndicated African American cartoonists. It's a legacy many are unaware of," he said.

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Sharon Eberson: seberson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1960. First Published May 26, 2013 3:30 PM


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