Local Artist's Skywriting Venture | Program Notes
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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Local Artist's Skywriting Venture

Posted By on Thu, Sep 30, 2010 at 12:27 PM

Wherever you are Friday night and Saturday afternoon and evening, look into the sky over central Pittsburgh and you'll be gazing at one of the largest canvasses any artist has ever had.

There, a skywriting outfit will replicate seemingly mundane but secretly poetic messages swiped from signs and billboards around Pittsburgh.

Imagine SPACE AVAILABLE in mile-high letters. (Space for what? Outer space?)

ALL SALES FINAL. (Will there ever be another?)

And the almost spiritual EVERYTHING MUST GO.

The perpetrator is Kim Beck, a nationally exhibited artist and associate professor at Carnegie Mellon's School of Art.

Most of Beck's work is, you know, normal art-sized, stuff on paper and canvas. A while ago, she went bigger with the blank replica billboard that sits atop the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts (even if many passersby have never noticed this work perched on the Shadyside landmark).

Beck wanted to go bigger still. She was inspired by those ubiquitous signs announcing both business closures and big sales -- and, it must be said, by the "Surrender Dorothy" message the Wicked Witch smokes out in The Wizard of Oz.

With help from The Andy Warhol Museum, The Pittsburgh Foundation, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and the Sprout Fund, Beck assembled a budget of about $10,000 to design the project and hire a skywriter.

There aren't many skywriters left; Beck's pilot flew in from Colorado, she says.

Beck even purchased ad space in some rag called City Paper, featuring the same messages.(See page 10, for instance, of this week's issue.) These ads, Beck notes in a press release, "will perplex readers, while also pointing to the changing nature of the newspaper industry." (Editor's note: We have no idea what she's talking about. We're doing fine here, just fine.)

The skywriting itself will be documented photographically, and prints will end up in area storefront windows, bringing things full circle.

Look for the messages starting at 5:30 p.m. Fri., Oct. 1. Another round follows at 3 p.m. Sat., Oct. 2, and then at 5:30 p.m. that day. Flights will last from 30 to 60 minutes.

Then the letters, like sheets of newspaper on the sidewalk, will blow away fast, so look sharp.

You can also follow the venture at http://www.twitter.com/idealcities.

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