Pittsburgh's Vibrant Art Museums Draw Global Visitors

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Pittsburgh, with its magnificent skyscrapers, copious bridges and dynamic industries is a city that excels in progress and creativity. This inventive dynamism, together with fascinating history and diverse neighborhoods, shaped a flourishing art culture that continues to burgeon and draw global visitors to Pittsburgh's spectacular museums.

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The Society for Contemporary Craft, located on Smallman Street, features contemporary art in craft media by international, national and regional artists. Since 1971, Contemporary Craft has focused on multicultural diversity and non-mainstream art with innovative exhibitions to promote a socially engaged art experience. In addition to Society For Contemporary Craft's changing exhibitions, the gallery also offers a wonderful education center, small permanent collection and retail store. Often, artists with works in exhibitions sell their work at gallery and it is an excellent opportunity to purchase unique pieces. Make sure to check SFCC's website for a current schedule of exhibitions; free addmission. An example of past fantastic shows includes the poignant Mindful.

If you visit SFCC, it is located in the Strip Historic Market District. The neighborhood is fun to explore with boutiques, specialty grocers, ethnic shops, restaurants and cafes. Stop by Bella Notte for delicious Italian Hoagies.

Andy Warhol, a native of Pittsburgh, had a profound and creative impact on visual arts and his art will continue to do so for generations to come. His massive art legacy is on display in the city's fantastic Andy Warhol Museum, located on Sandusky Street. Upon entrance to the museum, the journey into Warhol's pop culture begins. A large video screen displays his gravestone, located at the Saint John Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery in Pittsburgh. The video screen refreshes every few hours and monitors tributes to Warhol with fans leaving everything from stacked Campbell Soup cans to Coca-Cola bottles and Champagne.

The seventh floor of the Warhol Museum exhibits a linear exposition of his life beginning with his birth name of Andrew Warhola, born in 1928. From here, visitors are able to learn about his family history, early life and see several of his first drawings, oil paintings and his commercial illustrator success. Moreover, as you explore the museum, you'll discover Warhol's vibrant and fascinating films, video collections and sculptures, as well as his 1960's pop art, such as the Three Marilyn's and Mick Jagger captured in acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas.

The interactive museum engages visitors in Warhol's art with two cool exhibits to explore, the three-minute film test and Silver Clouds. The film screen test enables visitors to create a black and white, three-minute screen test of themselves and then have it sent to their email address (portray your best pensive look). The Silver Clouds room is a Floating Sculpture of inflated silver rectangles that float about the room, aided by floor fans, while visitors gently push the silver clouds into new configurations.

Another visually stunning and intriguing contemporary art museum to visit is the Mattress Factory, located on Sampsonia Way. Originally, artists founded the museum in 1977 to support artists working in residence for the creation of site-specific installations. The Mattress Factory presents the works of established and emerging artists each year with 30 to 40 exhibitions remaining on display from two to twelve months. Exhibitions such as, Chiharu Shiota's Trace Of Memory, is visually haunting with webs of yarn encasing household objects throughout several rooms of the museum's ancillary building. The installation is reminiscent of an almost forgotten dream that surfaces with feelings of loss.

The museum's permanent displays are captivating and striking, from Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Dots Mirrored Room to celebrated American artist James Turrell's light installations. However, the museum's exhibitions can also be disarming in their intensity, such as Greer Lankton's It's All About ME, Not You is autobiographical in nature with her exhibit reflecting her life as transgender and a drug-addict.

With brilliant, thought provoking art located on four floors in the main building, additional exhibition sites and a satellite gallery, the Mattress Factory is an exciting museum to visit in Pittsburgh.

For those interested in Pittsburgh's gilded age, The Frick Art & Historical Center, located on Reynolds Street, is situated on five acres of gorgeous landscaped lawns and gardens. Henry Clay Frick, was Pittsburgh's coke king in the 1880s (bituminous coal) and produced almost eighty percent of the coke used by Pittsburgh's burgeoning iron and steel industries. He was an avid art collector for over 40-years. Frick's daughter Helen Clay Frick became a major art collector as well and established the Frick Art Museum to display her collection 1970. In addition, she willed her family home Clayton and the surrounding estate to be preserved and opened to the public after her death. The Center, with the restoration of Clayton, a superb cafe, orientation center and museum store opened in 1990.

The Frick Art & Historical Center is one of the most fascinating art and historical home museums in the country. The Italian Renaissance-style art museum houses a fabulous permanent collection of art by European masters from the 14th through the 18th centuries. As visitors stroll through the museum's elegant oval rotunda and intimate galleries, they'll find decorative arts, tapestries, Renaissance and Baroque bronze statuettes, Chinese porcelain and rare paintings. Works by artists such as Rubens and Giovanni di Paolo adorn the Gallery of Italian Art. Exquisite French art pieces (several that were originally from the Palace of Versailles) grace the collection as well. Further, if you visit, make sure to check the museum's website, as significant, special exhibitions are on display three times a year with past exhibits that include the magnificent porcelain art, Forbidden Fruit Chris Antemann At Meissen.

Read more about museums of Pittsburgh at http://www.offbeattravel.com/pittsburgh-vibrant-art-museums.html
Clayton, the meticulously restored Frick family home, is equally amazing with its grand collection of fine and decorative art; it is one of the most beautiful historic homes in the nation. The interior is breath-taking and the guided tour highlights the life of the immensely wealthy Frick family in the late 19th-century home. Moreover, one of the rare aspects of Clayton is that 93 percent of the home's decorative and fine art on display was purchased by Henry Clay Frick, such as the Monet painting, Bords de la Sein a Lavacourt, that hangs in the library.

With the fine art museum, historical Clayton, the Green House and Car and Carriage Museum, the unique Frick Art & Historical Center offers visitors an extraordinary opportunity to view fine art and experience the life and era of one of America's wealthiest families and philanthropists.

Of course, no Pittsburgh art museum tour would be complete without a visit to the Carnegie Museum Of Art, considered one of the most vital art foundations in the country. Located on Forbes Avenue, the museum features an outstanding collection of international art, architectural art and sculpture. A great place to begin your exploration is The Hall Of Architect, a dynamic gallery with its plaster cast collection of architectural masterpieces from the past. To walk through the remarkable and enormous gallery by the plaster casts, Roman cast columns and sculptures affords a glimpse of early Greece or Roman times. After your visit, head up the wide, grand staircase and venture into the Scaife galleries to view the 19th-century Impressionists, such as Van Gogh, Renoir and Monet. Or, visit the Hall Of sculpture to gaze upon the beauty of Greek, Egyptian and Roman reproduction sculptures.

Whatever your preference of art, the Carnegie Museum Of Art is a fantastic museum for exploration and contemplation. The museum is quite large, so make sure to plan enough time for your visit.

If You Go

Pittsburgh offers an excellent range of accommodations, but contemporary art enthusiasts and travelers will love the marvelous Hotel Monaco, located on William Penn Place. This trendy and arty hotel is a fusion of inspired design with birdcage light fixtures, brightly hued bathrooms tone-rich mirrors and fresh wall art. The beds are wonderfully comfy, the hotel modern chic and the atmosphere imbued with positive energy. In addition, if you are a bit lonely, ask the front desk for a goldfish during your stay. They will bring you your very own gold fish in a bowl to keep you company.

With 90 neighborhoods to choose from, Pittsburgh offers a supreme array of fantastic restaurants from classic to ethnic. For a lunch or dinner with great handcrafted beer, located in a former church, visit the Church Brew Works. For inspired Asian-Fusion cuisine, trek to the Lawrenceville neighborhood and get a table at Pan . If you want a stellar view of Pittsburgh at night and desire grand and elegant ambience, make a reservation at theGrand Concourse. The restaurant is located in the former but lovely Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad Station with excellent cuisine and service; focus fresh seafood and American cusine. Throughout Pittsburgh and its 90 neighborhoods, visitors will find every genre of art in stunning galleries and a wide variety of museums that range from fine art to contemporary. And, with city's transportation options, it is easy to get from one museum or gallery to the next or go on public walking art tours. For additional information, visit . For additional information on Pittsburgh and the city's museums, visit Visit Pittsburgh.

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Patrice RapleePatrice Raplee is an experienced travel photojournalist and editor of Travel Excursion and Seattle Spotlight for Positively Entertainment magazine. In addition, she writes a monthly travel column for the award-wining site OffbeatTravel.com and is a regular contributor on travel radio shows. She is a member of North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA), International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) and the Recording Academy. Her articles and photographs have appeared in numerous international publications, as well as NW newspapers such as the Seattle Times, the Stranger and Seattle Weekly. Patrice travels the globe to cover destinations that feature fascinating culture, art, culinary, history and soft adventure.

Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by the author

Published: February 24, 2016

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