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The Toonseum: A celebration of comics, characters and culture

By Casey Hoolahan, Point Park News Service

Comics: you’ve grown up reading them and watching them on television, but have you ever thought about their cultural and artistic value?

The Toonseum in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District is just one of three museums in the United States focusing on exhibiting comic art. Established in 2007, the Toonseum was originally located at the Children’s Museum on Pittsburgh’s North Side. In 2009, it moved to its Cultural District location.

Incoming board president Marcel Walker said the Tooseum’s mission is to “celebrate the art of cartooning and the comics creating community.”

After almost a decade on Liberty Avenue, the Toonseum team has decided to leave the location for a number of reasons.

“This space has been great for us and great to us, but our mission is becoming a little bit more expansive now. We’re looking to include more people in our audience and, quite honestly, make our programming more inclusive,” Walker said.

The last exhibit in this physical location, “Wonder Woman: Visions,” displayed art from many diverse artists depicting their interpretation of the superwoman for her 75th anniversary.

Artwork at the “Wonder Woman: Visions” exhibit, the last exhibit at the Toonseum’s Pittsburgh location. Photo by Casey Hoolahan.

“It’s their visions of the character,” said Walker. “By them providing us with their visions it gives us yet another window into something that we think that we’re familiar with, but we’re not really as familiar as we thought.”

The exhibit includes artwork from the first cartoonist to depict Wonder Woman, H.G. Peter and interpretations from cartoonists behind other famous series such as “Archie.”

“We also included new pieces of artwork created specifically for this show from several regional female comics artists,” Walker said.

Looking toward the future, the Toonseum plans to find a new home in the Pittsburgh community. The only other museums showcasing comic art are located in San Francisco and New York City.

“Basically, we’re going to spend the next year looking for a new home,” Walker said. “There’s really going to be no dormant period because we’re still going to offering programming, we’re still going to be offering workshops, and lectures, and presentations.”

The Toonseum has partnered with organizations such as The Woman and Girls Foundation and the Girl Scouts of Western Pennsylvania.

“It’s a great marriage of resources and audience,” Walker said. “Moving forward we hope to do even more things like that, where we are partners with organizations and agencies that have their own missions to make the world better.”

Over the next year, as they expand their program and look for a new physical location, the Toonseum team hopes to continue to inspire the creativity of the Pittsburgh community.

“We can be our own superheroes,” Walker said. “This is the place where we can learn how to do that.”

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