On December 4th Chatham University Alumni Assosiation decided to pilot a new tradition to go with their annual holiday luncheon. Working with local arts organizations like Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, they invited artists, makers and crafts people to participate in the first ever event. I exhibited my original art, prints and greeting cards. People always respond with interest to my silly ink drawings of Pittsburgh, which I try to have some framed versions of and also as sets of greeting cards for these events. I also brought an example of one of my custom house portraits. I did not have room to show my Allegheny River paintings except as greeting card sets but they are on my website under “Shop” then go to “River.”
The Chatham University campus is a jewel in the heart of Pittsburgh, and I really hope the festival will become an East End tradition and be open to the public in years to come.
An idea for a good subtitle for this future event could be:
“Locally Grown Sustainable Arts Festival” and for me personally something like…. “Rachel Carson shake hands with Andrew Mellon”
Most people have arrived at the common knowledge that buying locally grown food from regional farmers is a good idea. The Chatham University Alumni Holiday Party & Art Bazaar committee will likely be brainstorming various ideas as they consider the future for this tradition. My idea is they could incorporate the theme of appreciating and purchasing locally produced arts and crafts by artisans who are from the region, much like buying from local farmers instead of corporate agribusiness. Instant understanding, when you think about it.
It doesn’t take a marketing genius to connect the dots from Chatham University’s “most famous alumni Rachel Carson” and the addition of their new School of Sustainability and the Environment. Chatham U is, no doubt about it, branded with Rachel Carson! That’s a good thing!
Schenley Park may have been one of the very first things I discovered and loved about Pittsburgh when we moved here in the early 1980’s, it’s so easy to notice and experience! I exhibited my altered vintage map of Schenley Park at the Holiday sale and it always attracts interest and study. But the fact that Rachel Carson grew up in a humble, small, white colonial house on a hill above the Allegheny River and went to college at Chatham (then PA College for Women) was not something I was expecting when we moved here! It’s only a 15 mile drive from Carson’s home (open to the public) to Chatham’s campus and I like to think of her father borrowing a Model T Ford to drive her to school with all her things that first time, a great freshman-going-to-college moment.
Visiting Carson’s home over a number of years I finally began using it as a subject for my artwork. I have created art about Carson’s home (written about by art critic Kurt Shaw of the Tribune) and I also LOVE the fact that Andrew Mellon’s Pittsburgh house is an important part of Chatham’s campus. So when I was accepted to be a part of Chatham’s Holiday Party & Art Bazaar, located in his Pittsburgh home, I said yes immediately, even though I am not an alum myself.
It ties so many of my regional interests together. The Mellon back story is so much centered in East Liberty less than a mile away. I am beginning to feel like James Burke in his Connections series for BBC!
In addition to my artwork of Rachel Carson’s home mixed with the images of nearby power plants, I have created a more bucolic pastel of Carson’s house (sold) and greeting cards of that pastel of her house, always available. It’s always amazing to me the hold an image of a white colonial house has on people. This is the kind of thing you notice if you have your work at an arts festival. It’s the only time you notice what people are noticing about your work, and that is why it is so important to be there with your work whenever you can.
One of my MOST favorite rooms in all of Pittsburgh, the conservatory of Andrew Mellon’s home on the Chatham University campus- was my spot in the 1st annual Chatham University Alumni Artisans Festival. You could say with regards to the research I did on the Mellons/Negleys and East Liberty for my “Fake Urban plan for East Liberty” last summer, I was in the lion’s den! And, what a lovely den.
I have to mention a book where I gathered much of my understanding about the Mellons. I really only intended to read the first part to get a better understanding of Andrew’s father Thomas Mellon, the history of their earliest days in the region and a sense of the family before they immigrated. But I ended up happily plowing right through it.
Mellon: An American Life, 2006, Knopf by David Cannadine (Professor at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London)
“A fascinating biography . . . A compelling portrait of a dour and lonely financier who was wounded in love, disappointed in his children and, tragically, ill-rewarded by his government . . . Mr. Cannadine paints a vivid picture of 19th-century Pittsburgh as a crucible of the Industrial Revolution. Among Mellon’s customers or business partners were a Who’s Who of American tycoons . . . A sprawling work for a sprawling life.”
–Roger Lowenstein, New York Times
“Absorbing . . . Cannadine writes like a storyteller, and the book often reads as compulsively as one of those immense fictional sagas that weigh down the best-seller lists. Sin and redemption are always close to the center of those family tales, and so they are in Mellon . . . Cannadine has the gifted writer’s eye for a good story. He is a rarity among modern academics: a historian who writes well and has the storyteller’s instinct for exploring personality and its effect on events . . . He dares to write history as if he wants his readers to enjoy reading it . . . An interesting exploration of a man who, at first glance, seemed to exist only to be disliked.”
–Russell Baker, New York Review of Books
“Fascinating . . . David Cannadine has spent the past twelve years on this brilliant and reclusive figure . . . There is no easy way to sum up a figure so complex, influential, ruthless and benevolent, whose faults and virtues loom equally large . . . Cannadine has accomplished the rare feat of describing in meticulous detail the personality of someone one can admire and even feel sympathy for, who is nevertheless not very likable.”
–Meryle Secrest, The Washington Post