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May 14, 2008

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DAVID'S DEN                               Pittsburgh’s 250th Birthday



by David Zuchowski

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    This year, Pittsburgh is celebrating its 250th birthday in grand style.
    by Dave Zuchowski

    "Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art." - Andy Warhol

    On November 25, 1758, British General John Forbes occupied the smoldering ruins of the French-built Fort Duquesne at the forks of the Allegheny and Monongahela and renamed the site, Pittsburgh, in honor of William Pitt, then the British Secretary of State. This year, Pittsburgh is celebrating its 250th birthday in grand style with a series of special events in which art is playing a major role.

    Ranked third best in the nation as an arts destination among other mid-size cities by American Style magazine, Pittsburgh is capitalizing on its wealth of art museums and galleries by making them a major component of the anniversary celebration. First and foremost is the May 3 opening of the 55th Carnegie International, the oldest exhibition of international contemporary art in North America and the second oldest in the world.

    Founded in 1895, the International is held every three or four years in the Pittsburgh Museum that bears Carnegie's name. This year, however, marks the first time in its 112-year history that the exhibit has a title other than the Carnegie International.

    Life on Mars is very much a poetic gesture in terms of thinking about our place in the universe as humans," says exhibition curator, Douglas Fogle. "The thematic premise behind the show has to do with the idea of the intimate moments in our daily life that we miss by walking through our worlds and not seeing what is right in front of us. It also has to do with the more infinite sense of being part of the larger universe and finding ourselves on the inside and looking out."

    This year's International, the title of which is appropriated from a David Bowie hit song, runs through January 11, 2009 and includes the work in many media of 40 artists ranging in age from 29 to 89 from 17 countries. As an accompaniment to the exhibition, the Carnegie Museum of Art has developed an interactive website with outlets for blogging and discussion, video interviews and more which can be accessed at

    Throughout the remainder of the exhibit, a series of lectures, performances, classes and other related events have been scheduled. A 440-page color catalogue of the exhibit is also available in the museum store for $39.95. For hours, location, scheduling and more information, phone 412-622-3131 or website

    On Pittsburgh's North Side, the Andy Warhol Museum may be one of the most comprehensive single-artist museums in the world and one of only a handful in the nation, but it is often also the home of some very captivating traveling exhibitions.

    Besides being the repository of some 800 paintings, nearly 100 sculptures and 2,000 works on paper and close to 4,000 photographs related to one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, the museum is currently showing a special exhibit of 24 abstract paintings by Dutch artist Piet Mondrian, many of which have never been seen in the U.S. It runs through August 31.

    "The paintings are arranged in roughly chronological order, starting with the 1907 The Red Cloud and ending with Composition with Blue, Yellow, Red, Black and Grey, completed in 1922," said Tom Sokolowski, museum director.

    Running simultaneously with the Mondrian exhibit, Transformer: The Work of Glenn Kaino is a collection of 12 installation works created by the Los Angeles artist known for his large-scale, mixed-media and kinetic sculptures. The exhibit runs through August 31.

    Also on Pittsburgh's North Side in the historic Mexican War Streets district, a preserved zone of roughly 300 houses built between the 1850s and 1890s, the Mattress Factory has worked with over 300 contemporary installation artists, including John Cage and James Turrell, since its founding in 1977. Housed in what used to be a mattress warehouse at 500 Sampsonia Way, the cutting edge art institution is currently showing site-specific works by nine artists from six different countries in an exhibit titled Inner and Outer Space.

    The title's theme not only serves as the conceptual underpinning of the exhibition, the artists have also created installations that extend from the inside to the outside of the gallery building in a very visceral way.

    "Their works ask where we are and where we are going -- both physically and philosophically," says Dara Meyers-Kingsley, curator. The exhibit runs through January 11, 2009.

    A stop on the campus at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh's Oakland section is a good idea if you'd like to see more interesting art. One very visible piece just off Forbes Avenue, Jonathan Borofsky's Walking to the Sky is installed in front of Warner Hall.

    Borofsky, a CMU alumnus, created the 100-foot tall, seven-ton sculpture in his ongoing effort to explore universal human forms. His 100-foot tall stainless steel pole is installed at a 75-degree angle and includes a little girl, businessman, young man and several other individuals walking skyward to the top of the structure.

    Another must-see site, the Kraus Campo has been conceived as a single integrated work combining art and landscape design. Located between the College of Fine Arts and the Tepper School of Business, the work is both a garden-as-a-sculpture and a sculpture-as-a-garden.

    For more information on other events celebrating Pittsburgh's 250th birthday celebration: Tel: 800-359-0758 or log on to

    For a place to dine, Soba serves upscale Pan-Asian cuisine in a comfortable, contemporary, chic decor in Pittsburgh's trendy Shadyside district. (Tel: 412-362-5656 or Located at 5847 Ellsworth Avenue, Soba is close to the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, which is currently staging its 2008 Biennial. The exhibit features the work of more than 40 regional artists who live within a 150-mile radius of the city and runs through August 24. 6300 Fifth Avenue. Tel: 412-361-0873 or visit

    For a fabulous view of downtown Pittsburgh from atop Mount Washington, the LeMont Restaurant at 1114 Grandview Avenue is one of the city's most romantic. The area's only 5-star rated dining establishment, LeMont features award-winning Continental cuisine. For an adventurous experience on the way up, ride the Duquesne Incline, which starts at the foot of Mount Washington at Station Square and heads skyward up along a steep funicular rail line.

    For a place to stay, the Residence Inn by Marriott is convenient to both downtown and Oakland/Shadyside. The inn features a complimentary breakfast and manager's reception Monday through Friday. The inn's 174 suites have full kitchens and separate sleeping and living areas. The Residence Inn by Marriott, 3896 Bigelow Boulevard, Pittsburgh, PA, Tel: 412-621-2200.

    Close to Pittsburgh International Airport, the Pittsburgh Airport Marriott offers complimentary shuttle service to and from the airport and is close to the area's top shopping district. Fresh from a $12 million renovation in 2007, this revitalized Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania hotel boasts a contemporary atmosphere accented by brilliant hues and local artwork. Tel: 412-788-8800.

    Dave Zuchowski has been writing about travel for twenty years and his articles have made the pages of many newspapers and magazines across the country, including AAA, Pathfinders, West Virginia Magazine, Southsider, and Westsylvania. Currently, he is the travel correspondent for the New Castle News, a daily in the Pittsburgh area. In his spare time, he also puts his horticultural interests to good use on his 15-acre farm located near Centerville, Pa.

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    Pics From

    The Trip


    Daytime view overlooking Point State Park and the Pittsburgh skyline


    Permanent exhibit, Repetitive Vision, at the Mattress Factory

    Nighttime view from Mt. Washington, voted one of the country’s best views

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