SouthSide Works is known for shopping, not art. But this March, the retail complex donated an East Carson Street storefront to The Pittsburgh Community Gallery Project for its new initiative called Youth Arts Month. With help from the nearby Silver Eye Center for Photography, "Eye Spy on the South Side" encouraged children to take photographs of the neighborhood and create collages to hang in the SouthSide Works gallery -- all for shoppers (and their children) to see.
The South Side was one of four communities participating in Youth Arts Month, open to parents and children in target communities including the East End, the Hill District and the North Side. Community Gallery Project director Lissa Rosenthal says the project is meant to promote "identity and understanding of your neighborhood."
Businesses, galleries and organizations worked together on the events. "Every time I would hear from one of the organizations, something exciting was happening," says Rosenthal, who launched Youth Arts Month with foundation funding from The Grable Project. The initiative wraps up Sat., March 31, with closing receptions for the Hill District and the South Side exhibits.
"Each neighborhood took on its own flair," says Rosenthal. The East End, home of the Penn Avenue Arts District, was the busiest. AKA Goods, Inter Architecture, ModernFormations, The Clay Penn and Edge Studio all participated. So did Whole Foods Market, which hosted juried artwork from those Penn Avenue sites. Inter Architecture had perhaps the most serendipitous collaboration: Carnegie Mellon graduate students, who were using the space to work on their own project, came together with seventh-graders from the city's Creative and Performing Arts school. Each grad student paired up with a child to make videos entitled "30 seconds in the Neighborhood," which explore the East End through interviews and environmental footage.
In the Hill District, Hill House Association provided workshops and hosted an exhibition. Meanwhile, the Children's Museum hosted the All City Elementary and Middle School Arts Exhibition, which concluded March 28.
By the end of April, a free catalog from the shows will be available through the project's partner sites and from pittsburghcelebrates.org. In addition to documenting Youth Arts Month, the catalog offers a guide to cultural activities for parents and kids.
Yet the dedication to youth creativity doesn't end here: Next year, Gallery Project organizers plan to make Youth Arts Month even bigger. Rosenthal says, "These kids are so proud of the work they've created, and they get so excited. That's the power of art."
Pittsburgh Community Gallery Project closing receptions 12 p.m. Sat., March 31 (SouthSide Works Gallery, 2629 E. Carson St., South Side), and 1-3 p.m. Sat., March 31 (Hill House Association, 1835 Centre Ave., Hill District, 412-392-4400). Both events are free. www.pittsburghcelebrates.org/commgalleries.asp