Art from the Ground Up

Shuttered factories, abandoned warehouses and boarded up store fronts are being re-purposed as galleries and performance spaces by people with passion and vision. Art From the Ground Up was created to provide a showcase for some of the most innovative members of Pittsburgh’s emerging arts community.

Art From the Ground Up is hosted by Bob Studebaker and is a monthly series highlighting small grass roots arts organizations and individual artists that take non-traditional approaches to the creation, presentation, and even the definition of art.

Know an organization Bob should check out?  Email him with your suggestions.

Courtesy photo

When Zak Kruszynski came across the phrase “bones and all,” he thought it got to the root of what he wanted to accomplish with a woodworking business.

That is, to reuse materials — often totally discarded — as often as possible, and to try to use every bit to reduce waste.

"Also, I thought it had a great ring to it,” he said.

Bob Studebaker / 90.5 WESA

NPR once referred to the Conflict Kitchen in Schenley Plaza as “an experimental public art project, and the medium is the sandwich wrap.”

It’s take-out food where you take away more than just something to eat. Conflict Kitchen only serves food from countries with which the U.S. is in conflict.

Co-directors Jon Rubin and Dawn Weleski schedule events, performances and discussions that seek to expand public engagement with culture, politics and issues at stake within the focus country.

silkscreenfestival.org

Music that is centuries old is being reborn as a new sound in Pittsburgh.

Silk Sound Asian American Jazz Orchestra is an amalgam of different cultures and musical traditions coming together under the direction of Harish Saluja.

Larry Rippel / Courtesy of the artist

Callán, a Pittsburgh-based traditional Celtic folk ensemble, is comprised of artists from a wide range of backgrounds.

Percussionist Kip Ruefle found his way to traditional music by following his interest in the bodhran, the traditional Irish drum. He brings decades of performing rock and jazz into the mix.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Kristy Dubinsky, from Irwin, recently walked through the RAW/Pittsburgh exhibition enjoying the diverse collection of emerging artists.

“There’s definitely a collaborative nature and aspect to this,” Dubinsky said.  “They bring together everything from fashion to music to fine art, photography, film.  It’s just a great way to bring everybody together.”

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Kente Arts Alliance is an organization whose mission is to present art from the African diaspora. TV and radio personality Chris Moore says they are “a great civic resource” and believes that if they weren’t here, “there would be a void.”

Brooklyn native Mensah Wali and Pittsburgher Gail Austin founded the organization in 2007 and have presented a wide variety of artists to Pittsburgh audiences. 

Wali terms it a “weave of culture.” The word Kente is West African in origin and describes a type of cloth common in Ghana.

The Black Orchid String Trio is comprised of Amber Rogers, Rachel Smith, and Jennifer Sternick.

“We’re new musicians,” said Smith, the group’s cellist. “We do play classical music now and again, but part of a contemporary performance, especially, is to present it in a way that classical music isn’t standardly presented.”

“Cities of asylum” form a global network of support for oppressed and endangered writers.


In Europe they are supported by governments. In the United States they are usually sponsored by universities. City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, however, operates on a different model.

Bob Studebaker / 90.5 WESA

Vocal coach Daniel Teadt discovered his love of music when he was a student at the University of Illinois.

The early days of his career required traveling to many different cities, including a stop here as an artist in residence with Pittsburgh Opera.

Teadt, who met his wife in Pittsburgh, didn’t initially stay in the city. But now they’ve returned, and he’s feeling quite comfortable in his wife's hometown.

“We now have a family here and a great network here,” he said.

Bob Studebaker / 90.5 WESA

Ryan Neitznick and John Fischer comprise the production team known as La Harrier.

Their studio in Lawrenceville is also known as La Harrier, and it’s part of  a growing aspect of Pittsburgh’s arts community — nontraditional, independent music producers.

They each grew up and began their musical careers in Pittsburgh but actually met and formed their partnership about six years ago in Philadelphia.

The Pillow Project

It began nearly ten years ago as “an evolving experiment for improvisational free jazz movement, performance-happenings and new ideas in dance,” and The Pillow Project has never wandered far from its roots. 

Pearlann Porter heads the group that sees the word “jazz” as a verb. The group gathers the second Saturday of every month at “The Space Upstairs” in Pittsburgh's East End to perform.  Project members call the studio in a repurposed warehouse a “4,000 square foot canvas where audiences and artists interact.”

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