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The Steel City's Brilliant Art Scene

Pittsburgh’s thriving arts scene has made the city a regular capital of culture. Follow along as we explore its choice galleries and first-rate performances.

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Photo: Courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust / Agnes R. Katz Plaza

Public Art

There is so much artistic energy in Pittsburgh now, it's pouring out of the galleries and theaters and onto the sidewalk in the form of public sculpture, murals and installations. You can thank the nonprofit arts organization Pittsburgh Cultural Trust for much of the outdoor eye candy, especially downtown. The Trust has realized its multidecade goal of transforming Pittsburgh's former red-light district into the Cultural District with a vibrant arts scene full of galleries, theaters and restaurants; attractive outdoor spaces; and regular community events. The Trust purchased old theaters and commissioned murals for the outside. It transformed abandoned lots into parks and installed world-class art in them. And functional art? Pittsburgh has the most intriguing water fountains and bike racks you've ever seen. The Trust has grand plans for the future, too, with a new Cineplex and more cultural urban amenities on order. Visit its website for a self-guided tour map of the Trust's public art projects specifically, and the Greater Pittsburgh Art Council's page for maps by neighborhood. Now, let's head inside and see what Steel City galleries have to offer.

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Photo: GettyImages/Teenie Harris Archive Carnegie Museum of Art

Carnegie Museum of Art

Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA) is one of four Carnegie museums in Pittsburgh and one of the first contemporary art museums in the nation. This spot is a do-not-miss for the rotating exhibitions of famed artists from around the world and its 30,000-piece permanent collection of painting and sculpture, including notables like Monet and Degas. The most boast-worthy of recent acquisitions is the Charles "Teenie" Harris Archive, comprising 70,000 of the Pittsburgh newspaper photographer's negatives from 1935 to 1975 chronicling the black urban experience. CMOA has a dedicated gallery to Harris's photography and the museum has been showcasing portions of his work in themed exhibits since 2011. As mentioned, Carnegie Museum of Art focuses largely on contemporary artists or, as they put it, “the Old Masters of tomorrow." For the Old Masters of yesterday — particularly early Renaissance painting and classical decorative arts – visit the Frick Art Museum about 10 minutes away.

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Photo: Dean Kaufman / Courtesy of the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh

The Andy Warhol Museum

Our next stop is the Andy Warhol Museum. The museum celebrates Warhol with the largest collection of his art and archival materials (seven floors plus a basement), spanning his entire career. It's all here, organized roughly by era: student works, the artist's pop art and his 1980s collaborations in the form of paintings, sculpture, prints, sketchbooks, film, even wallpapers and books. Four floors rotate selected Warhol works, one floor is dedicated to archives, another showcases other contemporary artists or "deep dives into the museum’s collection," and a fourth-floor permanent film and video gallery screens Warhol's bountiful films and videos. The Factory, the resident studio in the underground, allows visitors to make their own Warhol-inspired piece using his signature techniques in silkscreen, watercolor painting, acetate collage and blotted line drawing. The museum offers gallery talks daily at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Check the Warhol website for Factory hours, which differ from the rest of the museum’s.

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Photo: Randyland and Foo Conner


Continuing our North Side exploration, we head to the Mexican War Streets neighborhood for a stimulating afternoon. Our first stop is Randyland, artist Randy Gilson's self-described "house of happiness." For the visitor, this amounts to a magnificently colorful expression of Gilson's creativity, starting with the flamboyant building itself and spilling out into the courtyard in the form of reclaimed furniture and reimagined junk. Gilson has had a knack for seeing the unrealized beauty and potential in objects since childhood, repurposing old toys for his siblings and shaping neighborhood hedges into castles and animals. He started the Old Allegheny Garden Society in 1982, filling whiskey barrels with flowers and placing them around the Mexican War Streets neighborhood. In 1995, Gilson bought the condemned space that would become Randyland, made it his home and started painting. Now visitors from all over the world visit his cheery retreat. Though he welcomes donations to support his work, Gilson doesn't sell his art and his inspirational speeches are free. Stop by and prepare to be awed, and possibly hugged.

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