Pittsburgh Artists Make History, Literally, with Plaque Unveiling and New Troy Hill Gallery Space | Visual arts | Pittsburgh


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Courtesy of Lenka Clayton and Phillip Andrew Lewis

Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation Historic Site Plaque at 1733 Lowrie St., Troy Hill

Anyone who has ever had to climb Rialto Street, the incredibly steep entrance to Troy Hill from Route 28, would be devastated to know that a slope once carried passengers down the slope. A plaque on Gallery Closed, a new open art space in the neighborhood, details how the Lowrie Street building served as the former Upper Slope Station until it ceased operations in 1898.

Now, Pittsburgh-based artists Lenka Clayton and Phillip Andrew Lewis, owners of Gallery Closed and the studio behind it, will explore the site’s history with their “Historic Site” art installation.

“Historic Site” will be unveiled on Saturday, September 18 at a community gathering that also celebrates the opening of the gallery. The event will include a performance by the Teutonian choir Männerchor and Damenchor, and a recital of the plaque’s 1,000-word text by artist John Carson.

The “Historic Site” plaque will serve as an 8-foot-tall companion to the 12-by-18-inch plaque that has been on display since the 1980s. Clayton and Lewis even used the same foundry that cast the old plaque to establish further. the link between the two.

However, Clayton and Lewis say the new, much larger plate will cover more than what is detailed on the current plate.

“So we looked at that and read it as kind of like that first place to start,” says Lewis. “And immediately we started to ask ourselves the question like, ‘OK, that’s about 10 to 15 years of history being told on the plate, but is that when the story took off. begin ? Is that when the story ended? What happened before, what happened after?

Both say the new plaque will document the site’s history dating back to when it was Troy Hill’s first silent movie theater and where a major landslide occurred in the early 20th century. Clayton says it also served as a grocery store, ice cream shop, and the headquarters of the Republican Party, as well as two bakeries and several banks.

The plate always comes back, manner millions of years ago, to describe how a long-extinct prehistoric amphibian, the Fedexia striegeli, roamed the land where Gallery Closed now stands. Bones of Fedexia striegeli were discovered near the FedEx depot at Pittsburgh International Airport in 2004 by a geology student, hence the odd brand name. It was later identified by staff at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History as a new species.

Clayton and Lewis say they used their time during the pandemic lockdown to research archives and talk to experts, including anthropologists, architects and historians, to make the project perfect. Their work was made possible thanks to an artist grant from the Sabrina Merage Foundation offered through the nomadic contemporary art museum, Black Cube.

Click to enlarge Text from

Courtesy of Lenka Clayton and Phillip Andrew Lewis

Text from “Historic Site” by Lenka Clayton and Phillip Andrew Lewis

“And I also think for us, what was interesting was, you know, going right back to recognizing the early European settlers, but then going back to the people who lived there before, and what happened to them, then come back, and where were they from? said Clayton. this plate. ”

Lewis says that in carrying out the project, they “immediately noticed that we were writing a new story, and as part of questioning our own authority, we decided to expand it even further.” As a result, they invited 27 artists of local and international renown to respond to different sets of words taken from the plaque. Demand turned into Historical sites, a one-year exhibition at Gallery Closed featuring a rotating selection of paintings, drawings, sculptures and other works created by the artists.

The opening of the exhibition will coincide with the event celebrating the unveiling of the plaque. The pieces will then remain in the showcases of Gallery Closed, where everyone can view them 24 hours a day.

“We are thinking about how to open a studio space that is normally very private, and our building is really special because, on one side, it overlooks Route 28 and the whole city, and then on the other side, it has that very intimate public side of the bus stop and a whole neighborhood, ”says Clayton. “So we started it as a way to connect with the people who live around us.”

Clayton says the pandemic that has shut everything down has made them wonder how to keep a gallery physically closed to crowds, and only allow people to see art through windows, could “actually make it a lot more accessible.”

“You would never have to go in, you would never have to buy tickets, you wouldn’t have to speak to a receptionist,” says Clayton. “The lights will be on all day and all night. So you can come and see him in the middle of the night in your pajamas.

She and Lewis say that, like its predecessor, “Historic Site” will last as long as they own and manage the building. They also plan to add to it over time.

“We recognize a certain amount of story that we could capture on it, and as soon as we unveil it, we’ll uncover other things,” says Clayton.

Inauguration of the “Historic Site” and inauguration of the closed Gallery. 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, September 18. 1733 Lowrie Street, Troy Hill. To free. closed gallery.org

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