Zachary Brown, Artist and Local Degenerate
I call it The School House, a live/work artist space [with gallery]. Originally it was the John Munhall Neighborhood House, and it has pretty much been everything at one time. It was a school, then a youth community place up through the earlier 1980s, and then it was a building supply place until the Waterfront moved in.
Do you have ongoing exhibits in the gallery space?
Sometimes just as an artist pop-up that I enjoy — Justin Emmanuel Dumas, whose work is absolutely killer and he’s such a sweetheart himself. ... I don’t think of it as a gallery it is more like a cocktail hour and I want to show people artists I really like.
What is your connection to Pittsburgh?
Conceived here and grew up in Mars.
Yes, my mom loves when I tell that story. [Laughs] Yep, grew up in Mars but visited Pittsburgh a lot to play in bands. It felt like a low-level Batman teen by day and hanging out in bars at night. We played at places like Club Cafe and Gooski’s — we were always accompanied by adults. [Laughs]
Where did you go to art school?
Rhode Island School of Design. After that, I went to New York for grad school, then realized I didn't want to be in New York. Pittsburgh is fun, it has its secrets, there are ghosts, valleys, and places that [make it] feel like your city.
So tell me what you’re wearing?
Well, I spend a lot of time at St. Vincent de Paul [thrift store] — these are actually Pittsburgh throw-back Gimbles [trousers] and I just got them tailored to fit a little better. I have this great towel upstairs that my mom almost put in the rag pile. It says, “Pittsburgh is fun” with a cartoon [Pittsburgh] landscape, [and the only building with branding] is Gimbels. If it is on a beach towel, you know it is true. [Laughs]
The five-pack Jockey t-shirts. The shoes are old wingtips I got from the thrift store and then re-soled. The treads are new. A great guy, shout out to Wexford shoe and leather repair, he does a great job.
The earring is very cool ...
Just a little silver in the ear for good luck. I pierced it back in middle school with a safety pin in the boys bathroom.
[Long sigh ...]
In high school, I pierced my nipple in the art room paper closet.
No you didn’t!
Oh yeah, I was an edgy kid with two studded belts with a lot to prove. [Laughs]
I had the old fez hat on earlier. I like to find fraternal club things — Oddfellow stuff, Order of the Owl, Mason stuff — the trappings are kind of fun.
Are you wearing anything that is a gift from someone?
The earring is a gift from [my partner] Erin. She also got me this great hand hat pin, like a Victorian elegant hand. It looks creepy and fun. I guess the goal is kind of to join the Addams Family. The Addams Family motto, something like, “We gladly feed upon those who subdue us.” It is a great family motto.
A gift to yourself that you particularly like?
A gift is being able to drive out to St. Vincent De Paul in Butler. Finding vintage men’s clothes can be fairly difficult because men tend to wear clothes until they are unwearable. One addiction I have is vintage men’s coats — they are made well with great, old world wool that is just tough to beat. These were the Sunday clothes so they can be in good condition; they took care of them.
What are challenges and fun aspects of finding vintage menswear?
If you can find something that fits you in the shoulders, you can get the rest tailored. So spend like $10-15 on a suit [and] $50-60 bucks on tailoring, [then] you have a wonderful, unique piece with great material.