Since late last year I have been working with Ron Baraff of The Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area on multiple projects revolving around urban art and culture. This is my first big step in changing the perception of Pittsburgh Graffiti Art and Culture.
Recently I conducted a tour with Ron the introduced people to the convoluted history and culture of the graffiti world while giving them real examples through the graffiti still visible at the Carrie Furnaces in Rankin, PA. The turnout was great and the group ranged from teenagers to retirees. As with other classes I’ve taught on graffiti history and culture, we treated the tour as an open forum for people to freely ask any questions they had. The second half of the tour consisted of a hands-on workshop where I demonstrated how to design/create, fill in, outline and clean up graffiti lettering with spray paint. The group then created their own lettering on heavy weight paper with markers we provided and give painting with spray paint their best shot. The whole tour/workshop went so well that we are doing another one in the Fall and possibly more in the future.
I’m excited to work with Rivers of Steel and demonstrate how the histories of the steel/iron workers of the furnace and the urban artists blend together through different generations. It’s also very interesting to work / speak to people who are not associated with the graff scene at all. In many cities through the US there was a surge of graffiti blending into popular culture during the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s, but the positive side of the creative genre seemed to overstep Pittsburgh’s art culture. Educating people and shining some light on an art form usually shrouded in darkness is usually a challenge but it is also very rewarding to hear people’s new found opinions of the art’s culture and history. I’m eager to continue working with Rivers of Steel on new projects, tours, workshops, events, and other creative endeavors.
The local newspaper, The Post-Gazette, gave us a nice write up about the tour and workshop: post-gazette.com/stories/life/lifestyle/writings-on-wall-at-carrie-furnaces-693611
The second project that we are collaborating on is to have designated permission walls on site of the Carrie Furnace to paint new graffiti and keep the artwork on site to continue and flourish. Initially, Ron and I were talking about urban exploration, graffiti at the furnace, and photographing the historical graffiti at the site. Over time (and many meetings) he helped setup multiple walls for me to curate with new graffiti artwork. To christen the project I painted a 30′ x 10′ mural that consists of the words “Rivers of Steel” and the heritage organization’s logo placed in the center. We plan to have artists from all over the county (and world) come to paint some of the newly sanctioned wall space.
If anyone is interested in painting there then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org – experienced aerosol artists only, please. There are some specific rules for painting at the site and it is not a free-for-all, so please email me if considering painting there. Thank you!