Snowstorm Gallery-Hop | Program Notes

Snowstorm Gallery-Hop

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The snow was mounting, and the Port Authority buses had already stopped running, when I ran into musician and artist Evan Knauer at the Irma Freeman Center for Imagination, on Penn Avenue. Knauer noted that there's a certain kind of art-crawl magic that can happen on stormy evenings: Expectations of quiet galleries are thwarted by intrepid locals who venture out on foot. And so while attendance at events like Friday's Unblurred might be down, it seems positively huge compared to empty. And among those who have made the trek, there's a distinctive sense of comradery and merriment abroad.

So too had the evening begun when a 71D dropped me at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. Despite the inch or so of slushy stuff already on the ground, nearly every room in the old manse buzzed for the opening of the group show Cluster. The PCA, in a novel turn, was serving soup (wedding; tomato bisque) on the second floor. It made one reluctant to leave, but at 7 p.m. I set out for Penn.

It wasn't quite blizzarding, but the empty streets of Shadyside and East Liberty suggested there mightn't be anyone home at Unblurred. To the contrary. Though the quantities of liquid fortification necessary to complete such an arduous journey on foot might impede my memory a bit, here's highlights from a snow-coated, but not snowbound, Unblurred.

A newer art space at 5405 Broad Street (uphill from Penn) is a converted house dubbed Schmutz Lodge. Owned by artist Connie Cantor, it's run by artist Dave English and is currently home to Unstill'd -- a substitute venue for artists from the shuttered Brew House's "Distillery" residency program. Of the several room-sized installations, I especially enjoyed Becky Slemmon's medieval-castle wall: Look through the door's little window for a special vision -- one that changes when you open the door, though as Slemmons notes, most people don't seem to think to do so.

Down on Penn itself, a few venues had canceled due to the weather. But you could still be privy to the grand opening of the world's best instant bookstore: Rob Ziller's Awesome Books. Ziller, an artist and poet, last year took possession of the long-sequestered stash of thousands of volumes from the South Side's defunct Riverrun Books. Ziller's spouse, ceramacist Laura Jean McLaughlin, has let her Clay Penn studio and gallery be turned into an in-progress used-book outlet, complete with cats. Ziller was busy shoveling the sidewalk all night, even as the store received a steady stream of visitors; he promises more unpacking and more organizing of the already intriguing collective of fiction and nonfiction classics and curiosities.

My shoes soaked by now, I still couldn't help noticing a nearly full People's Indian Restaurant, or the teeming Spak Brothers storefront. Image Box Gallery was warm and welcoming with the fascinating pinhole photography of Brian J. Krummel. There was more intriguing photography at Garfield Artworks ... and the opening of a show by mixed-media artist Joan Brindle at the Freeman Center.

Lucky I stopped in the latter. The storm-crafted Unblurred was fun, but I'd been counting on the buses. Had I not run into Knauer and his four-wheel drive pickup, I might be trying to write this from a different neighborhood this morning.

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