Sturdy red-brick buildings in the Strip District painted on wood salvaged from an old house. A richly detailed pencil drawing of an automotive supply store. Aluminum sculpture, mixed media on canvas and memorable photographs.
These are some of the artworks created by 33 new members of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh. The 2019 New Member Exhibition is on view through June 30 at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and Media, 6300 Fifth Ave., Shadyside. Admission is free.
This year, competition for membership was keen; 140 artists applied.
The AAP board invited a jury of six artists at Transmitter Gallery, an artist collective in Brooklyn, N.Y., to review applicants’ work. From the entries, jurors chose 33 people for membership.
“We do it all online,” said Madeline Gent, the AAP’s executive director.
Each applicant submitted images of three to five artworks plus a statement, biography and resume. Artists 18 or older who live or maintain a studio within 150 miles of Pittsburgh are eligible to join AAP, which has 570 members, Ms. Gent said.
This show is an immersion in many media. Brent Nakamoto’s large black-and-white oil painting of a swimmer standing on a California beach is rich in dimension and tone. Stephanie Martin’s biomorphic ceramic pieces resemble ocean coral. Christopher Hofmann’s blue cane glass mug and a goblet made of glass and copper are sterling examples of marrying craft to decorative, functional art.
AAP board member Jeff Schwarz was the connection to Brooklyn, where he lived from 2011 to 2018. He invited Jen Hitchings of Transmitter Gallery to curate the AAP exhibition.
She is a 2011 graduate of SUNY-Purchase, where she studied painting and drawing. Ms. Hitchings then moved to Bushwick, a Brooklyn neighborhood filled with artists. With five other artists, she runs Transmitter Gallery in Brooklyn.
“We are all artists as well and have our day jobs,” she said in a telephone interview.
Even with thousands of artists in Brooklyn, “it still can be very insular. A lot of the same people end up showing in the same spaces,” Ms. Hitchings said. “We want to get out of this neighborhood to bring our curation and our taste to another city and have some dialogue with artists in another city.”
That’s one reason she accepted Mr. Schwarz’s invitation. She said the jurors chose a broad range of work and media. Hanging the AAP exhibition, Ms. Hitchings said, was like “trying to formulate six cohesive group shows into a larger group show. There were six rooms but I wanted there to be some consistency within each room.”
Mr. Schwarz moved back to Pittsburgh last year and bought a three-story brick building with a storefront on Saline Street in Greenfield. The storefront is his studio and he lives above it with his wife, Judy Fisher. Life is more affordable here than in New York, where he was paying rent on an apartment plus a studio. In Pittsburgh, Mr. Schwarz and his wife could afford a mortgage.
Since returning to Pittsburgh, he said he sees more places for artists to make and exhibit their work and increased availability of studios in Braddock, Homewood, Wilkinsburg, the Brew House on the South Side and Radiant Hall’s locations in Lawrenceville, Nova Place and Homewood.
“People do move here because of that. Studio rent is cheaper than in other cities,’’ he said.
Mr. Schwarz credited Ms. Gent for finding more opportunities for AAP members to show their work.
“The number of exhibitions for AAP members have increased from before she was here until now. She is such a hard worker and I think she has an energy level that is impressive,” he said.
The Associated Artists of Pittsburgh began in 1910 when the energetic Lila Barr Hetzel invited two colleagues to her Downtown studio. Her father, George Hetzel, founded the Scalp Level School of painting in the 1860s after discovering the rural retreat outside of Johnstown, Pa.
George Hetzel encouraged his colleagues and students at the Pennsylvania School of Design for Women to paint outdoors at Scalp Level, a Cambria County community in the valley of Paint Creek. The first exhibition by the AAP featured more than 200 artworks on view at the Grand Opera House, which stood at Fifth and Forbes avenues.
The ranks of AAP membership have included Andy Warhol, Philip Pearlstein and Cynthia Cooley, a local painter who began photographing exteriors and interiors of Western Pennsylvania steel mills during the 1980s while that industry collapsed.
Through June 30
Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and Media
6300 Fifth Ave., Shadyside