Renee Piechocki, director of the Office of Public Art at the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, says the idea for the new website Pittsburgh Art Places has been percolating since the organization first published the Pittsburgh Art in Public Places Downtown Walking Tour guide in 2006.
“It began cumulatively with filing suggestions from colleagues,” Piechocki said.
Shortly after OPA published the guidebook, Piechocki was approached by Tinsy Labrie, vice president of marketing for Visit Pittsburgh, who wanted to catalog all the public art in Somerset County as well.
“So I said, please hold … for seven years,” Piechocki said with a laugh. “I’m going to get back to you.”
Then, in 2007, OPA launched the Pittsburgh Artist Registry, which Piechocki described as the sister site to Pittsburgh Art Places.
“And as soon as we did that we started noticing a couple galleries and a couple of museums had profiles on there, and it was awkward because it wasn’t really for them,” Piechocki said. “But then we realized, there’s no where for them to go, there’s no one online place in this region.”
Now there is an online place for galleries and museums in Pittsburgh, Somerset County and beyond. Pittsburgh Art Places, launched Tuesday, is an interactive registry of all the places to experience literary, visual and performing arts in the 13-county southwest Pennsylvania region.
Piechocki said that the registry is inclusive in another way too.
“You’re a bar and you have live music? That’s an art place. You’re a bookstore, that’s an art place. You’re a public library, that’s an art place,” Piechocki said. “We really want to engage the widest array of visitors and residents to this site.”
Tami Dixon, producing artistic director for Bricolage Production Company in downtown Pittsburgh, said joining Pittsburgh Art Places was a no-brainer.
“It’s free, and all small arts organizations are struggling to put butts in seats, that’s what we’re all doing,” she said. “Our marketing dollars only go so far.”
Dixon said this site will help Bricolage reach a greater number of Pittsburgh residents, but that it will also help them bring tourists in to see their productions.
“As we all know, Pittsburgh has been featured on number one lists everywhere, we’re the best city for everything, apparently,” Dixon said. “So when all those people are visiting, how do they know about us?”
One of the ways that Bricolage has taken advantage of Pittsburgh Art Places is to create a custom tour. Dixon said that since their productions often begin around 9 p.m., audiences have plenty of time to kill between dinner and the show.
“So in that hour or 45 minutes to an hour that you have before our curtain, go out and explore,” Dixon said. “Go see the two Andys. How often do you look up and you see that, that incredibly view of Andy Warhol and Andrew Carnegie getting their nails done together? It’s awesome.”
Anyone can create their own custom tour on the site. Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald’s tour features stops at the Allegheny County Courthouse, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, and the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse, among others.
Jeff Carpenter, artistic director for Bricolage and GPAC board member, said the site is part of a collaborative spirit that seems to be taking hold in the local artistic community.
“I don’t know if it’s a product of our hills and bridges and topography, but it always seems like we’re all working in our little enclaves and creating these things,” Carpenter said. “It feels like we’re just sort of coming up and looking around and making these connections.”
Pittsburgh Art Places currently has just over 200 places on its registry, but organizers are reaching out to venues, galleries and other art spaces encouraging them to create pages. Once the site hits about 400 places, organizers plan to roll out a comprehensive marketing campaign to reach potential users.