Brew House Open House | Program Notes
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Monday, August 17, 2009

Brew House Open House

Posted By on Mon, Aug 17, 2009 at 8:43 AM

Summer and fall are house-tour season, but I doubt there's a more intriguing look at living spaces than the one arranged by this South Side artists' co-op.

The former Duquesne Brewery (whose big clock tower looms over the neigbhorhood) is some three decades into an experiment begun when a group of artists squatted in a portion of the huge old vacant space. After years of legal battles, the co-op got all legal-like, with official control of its portion of the building, enough for dozens of artists.

Even for audiences who haven't been attending the monthly art exhibits in its first-floor gallery space, or the frequent performances in its theater, the Aug. 15 open house demonstrated that the Brew House remains a pretty vibrant space as well as a practically venerable landmark.

Saturday, you could have spent the evening either in that theater -- with a variety of edgy acts from experimental music to a fire-breathing sideshow dude -- or wandering the studios and live/work spaces on the second through sixth floors. The place retains admirable demographic variety, from a young painter fresh out of Pitt who'd just moved in to a commercial photographer (his portfolio older than the aforementioned painter) who's been there for years.

The work ranged from high-end woodcraft to macabre oil paintings and a one-night installation featuring goofy variations on county-fair games (like throwing a small bike tire over a traffic cone 20 yards down the hall while balancing on a wheeled rocker board).

The event was well-attended, visitors streaming through the lobby and traversing the stairwell. The dozen artists I visited included self-taught Curt Sell, who uses a big magnifying glass to melt colored glass (bottle or stained) for sculpting. It's about as green as you can get working with molten glass.

The turn-of-the-century industrial brewery, with its steel bones and concrete skin, is great for creating art, but aesthetically too it makes for a wide variety of spaces. The Brew House has everything from little windowless chambers to grand corner lofts with full kitchens and big casement windows overlooking the South Side, even Downtown panoramas. Some are just studios; others mostly apartments, or some combination of the two. (In the higher-ceilinged spaces, living areas are often added with a half-story platform.)

One space is also a school: The Academy of the South Side, a collaboration by three local artists to teach classic portraiture the old-school way. Two of the artists, in fact, had spaces on the tour. One was Tim Meehan, who showed off paintings he and his students had done, including a work-in-progress from that day, when their model was a man dressed as Napoleon. 

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