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Turning Empty Storefronts into Art venues

By: Krista Marple, Point Park News Service

Photo by Krista Marple

Pittsburgh is one of the many cities that are making better use of empty storefronts by transforming them into art galleries joining cities like Chicago, Vermont, Connecticut and New York City making this cultural change.

Artists are being offered temporary spaces to showcase their work at a discounted or even no cost price in exchange for something to replace empty storefronts throughout cities. In downtown Pittsburgh, galleries are popping up on both Liberty and Penn Avenues within the city.

“It’s awesome seeing people like myself getting the attention and appreciation they deserve. It’s hard getting your name out there sometimes,” said Joshua Michelson, a local artist from Green Tree.

One of the more popular art galleries is more commonly known as Space which is run and organized by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. They host about five different exhibitions annually with the hopes of bringing light to that local artist’s work. Space hosts artists for a few months at a time with no charge of admission.

Space is also known for providing a venue for musicians. While there are no current musicians lined up to play at the gallery, there are many previous musicians who have appeared at Space.

“I really love what is being done for artists. It’s refreshing to see that this city cares so much about the arts,” said Mikayla Nowels, a Space promoter, from Oakland.

While Pittsburgh expands the Cultural District within the city, New York City tenants are looking to also fill their empty spaces.

In 1995, an organization called Chashama was founded. Chashama, which means “to have vision” in Farsi is a nonprofit that helps repurpose empty spaces for artists to present their work. This organization has helped 15,000 artists in the New York City area.

“We really aim to make great use of our empty spaces within the city. Teaming up with organizations is really important,” said Zachary O’Rourke, a property owner in New York.

O’Rourke is one of many tenants who like to use some of their properties as galleries for local artists. “It’s very rewarding to be able to help these people,” said O’Rourke.

O’Rourke is among many property owners who allow artists to use their spaces at a small cost. To them, the most important part is bringing activity to the area and light to the artists. Bringing traction to the areas is also a key factor in these galleries.

“Not only are we looking to bring more people to these areas that we have the galleries, but we’re also really trying to help out local artists. Art is sometimes so underrated, but we want to make sure that people are appreciating art more and more,” said O’Rourke.

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