OBJECTIVES & METHODS:
The main issues upon which Whitney Avenue Art Gallery will focus are urban decay and lack of access to art and cultural events for those living in disenfranchised areas within the Pittsburgh region. The project addresses these issues by spotlighting a pocket of Wilkinsburg to show the potential existing for a truly progressive lifestyle in a formerly blighted neighborhood, and by actively engaging community members of all ages in the creation of art.
The theme “Houses in Waiting” intends the board-up art to act as a placeholder while interest is generated for a wide spectrum of homebuyers to invest in the neighborhood and take advantage of Wilkinsburg’s ten-year property tax abatement program. WAAG wishes to spotlight many great initiatives in Wilkinsburg to serve as a model for those living within the greater Pittsburgh area, and beyond.
There will be two series of community workshops – one for youth, and another for adults and seniors. Artists selected to lead these workshops will be encouraged to tour the Hamnett Place neighborhood and will be required to participate in community meetings to better interpret the “Houses in Waiting” theme as it applies distinctly to the history and hopeful future of Wilkinsburg. To reinforce the theme, plywood for the artwork will be specifically cut to size for all windows to visually preserve the architectural lines of each unique home.
These community workshops will provide a forum for both young and old participants to discuss issues important to them, and how they would like to raise awareness of these issues through art. While the theme “Houses in Waiting” may prove the perfect vehicle for some of these ideas, the creation of garden sculpture out of recycled materials will invite a more broad interpretation.
WAAG’s anticipated audience comprises residents of all ages from the greater Pittsburgh area, but is especially focused on residents from the borough of Wilkinsburg, and even more specifically, the culturally diverse Hamnett Place neighborhood encompassing the 700 block of Whitney Avenue. Despite the number of abandoned dwellings in the Hamnett Place area, there are a tight-knit group of residents committed to the future development of their neighborhood. WAAG identifies this group as the core team, but intends to invite all residents of Wilkinsburg to participate in the creation of art.
Project planning began May 2009 with the modest budget entirely secured by October 2009.
AmeriCorps KEYS implemented a first-run clearing of the brush and debris along the 700 block of Whitney Avenue on Martin Luther King Day (January 18, 2010).
April/May: Selection of two artists to lead the two community workshop series.
May: Plywood boards cut to size by Wilkinsburg Department of Public Works.
May 29th: In celebration of National AmeriCorps Week, KEYS Service Corps implemented a second-run clearing of brush and debris. AmeriCorps also provided volunteers to prime all plywood boards in preparation for the community art workshops.
Late-May: GigaPan* "before" photos.
June / July: Hands-on creation of art via two community workshop series.
Mid/late-July: Installation of art by Wilkinsburg Department of Public Works.
Late-July / Early-August: GigaPan* "after" photos.
July 31st (Sat) 4pm-9pm: WAAG’s official opening and street celebration.
*high resolution panoramic images
Board-up art will be left in place until Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation (PHLF) begins renovations on selected properties along Whitney Avenue, at which point the board-up art will be auctioned off. These proceeds will be maintained in a fund to repeat the event at a different Wilkinsburg location the following year.
The WAAG acronym will be kept and rebranded as Wilkinsburg Area Art Gallery in future incarnations of the project.
WAAG is designed to be an investment in Wilkinsburg capable of having a positive economic impact on the community, not simply a one-time event. Future locations will bring new challenges, and WAAG strives to remain flexible to meet each one with innovative solutions while building upon the strength of past success.