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FYIWhat is art for?

Expressing ourselves

The Arts in Pittsburgh


What is art for?
The famous
The folk
Where art lives

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Discussion & Activities

Expressing ourselves

How do you communicate your observations about life? When you're happy do you say, "I'm in the pink?" When you're sad do you "sing the blues?" Do you tell others you plan to "paint the town red" when you're excited about going out on the town?

Whether an event uplifts or dismays, inspires or infuriates, we all express our "art" in unique ways, and Pittsburgh offers numerous examples that help to expand our understanding of important events throughout history. In dance, painting, performance, sculpture, writing, and music, each work and action of art, captures the values, goals, and experiences of the artist at that particular place in time and history.

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You will discover art in as many shapes and sizes as there are artists! Some create unique and individual works of fine art, while others re-create time-honored designs and perform the traditional dances and stories defined by folk art. Some create messages of popular appeal and others provoke controversial debate. The artwork might be etched on a cave wall or hung on a refrigerator with a colorful magnet. It is contained within the walls of museums and galleries, on the stages and concert halls of the city, and on the shelves of our libraries.

Banjo and piano player
Rick Sebak

But where else might we find artwork and art actions that hint at our history? Murals painted on the sides of houses depict life in Lawrenceville. The stained glass creations at Calvary United Methodist Church capture the passion of that congregation's faith. Musicians on the street corner in the South Side express their art in song. The grand designs of downtown skyscrapers celebrate an era of wealth and prosperity in the city. Graffiti on North Side underpass walls express political viewpoints. Indian women at a Hindu temple in Monroeville paint their hands and feet with traditional Mendhi designs to recognize their upcoming marriages.

Neighboring houses of worship on Fifth Avenue in Oakland use art to express faith.

Top: Terra cotta tiles on Rodef Shalom

Bottom: Mosaic images from the Bible cover Holy Spirit Byzantine Catholic Church

Rodef Shalom terra cotta decoration
Mosaics on Holy Spirit Byzantine Catholic Church
Tom Altany
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Some art is an act of individual expression. Perhaps the poet tries to describe an elusive emotion using a particularly evocative combination of words. A dancer or musician may convey emotion without using words at all. The painter or photographer captures a single frame of time and lets others in the world see the image as it appeared in their own mind's eye.

Of course, artwork does not have to realistically interpret a picture of the "real world." Some artists intentionally exaggerate an image. This is called caricature. They reshape it, augment it, to emphasize the emotions the image inspired in them. Some of the Modernists chose to forego realistic images completely in favor of colors and shapes that inspire emotions on a visceral level.

In every part of our lives . . . in more forms than we can imagine . . . spanning time, geography, and social class . . . artwork exists. And each work of art helps us wash away a little more of the dust from our everyday lives, and celebrate the soul that lies underneath.

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