Dear Pittsburgh…

“Chris, you fall in love easily. Specifically, with cities.”

This was a comment made by a colleague after the recent UNLISTED artist meeting. Over the course of my two and half weeks in Pittsburgh, I’ve come to the realization that this statement is true. I love becoming intimate with a city. The relationship I form with new neighborhoods. Running my proverbial fingers over each area and discovering the nuances. Examining and learning the psyches that make up the whole of a city. Learning how these individual psyches have been influenced by histories, socio-economic factors, the accessibility of cultural resources, the quality of transportation, the amount of green space, and on and on.

 

This list of what forms a cities identity could scroll down the length of Penn Ave. But how can an artist, arriving from thousands of miles away, create a productive relationship with a city in the span of slightly more than one week? How can an artist simultaneously learn the nuances of a city (the histories, socio-economic factors, the accessibility of cultural resources, and on and on…) while working collaboratively with a neighborhood to produce a site-reactive project?

 

When we speak of the sustainability of a project and the affective value of an ephemeral performative event, this productive relationship with a city carries with it challenge and promise for an endeavor such as UNLISTED. With an influx of non-Pittsburgh based artists bringing with them a wealth of perspectives and experiences, this thrusts a great deal of responsibility on the match-maker – the local curator. Being embedded in the city, the local curator is the lead producer of a site-specific archive of knowledge. This doubling of roles produces resources which might allow for the visiting team of artists to preemptively fall in love from long-distance. To preemptively have an investment in the community. To preemptively form a productive relationship.

 

As a local curator/neighborhood researcher (or perhaps archivist is a better word… I’m not entirely sure), there are three pillars for creating this preemptive investment in a community – creating an archive of knowledge, forming partnerships with local organizations, and identifying (alongside the newly developed neighborhood partnerships) how UNLISTED can support preexisting initiatives.

 

I will be citing three cases to address my points and to support the potential advantage of having a dual role local curator. The first are the challenges I have faced as a non-Pittsburgh based artist during my work in the Northshore neighborhood. The second will be an observation of Hill District curator Gavin White. Gavin will serve as an example for what this role could potentially become in future iterations. While not working specifically with Gavin, I have had the distinct pleasure of observing and gleaning some insight from his process. The third will be an example pulled from my community engagement experience in Cloneen, Ireland and the potential for an effect beyond the stay of the artists.

 

As to not produce a blog that continues on and on ad infinitum, I will be releasing these cases studies over the next two days.

 

With much love to the city of Pittsburgh,

 

Chris Bell

How can an organization provide non-Pittsburgh based artists with the resources to form productive relationships with a city?

How can an organization provide non-Pittsburgh based artists with the resources to form productive relationships with a city?

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