“Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
— Ozymandias, Percy Bysshe Shelley
THE POET Shelley’s images of ruined palaces decaying in a post-imperial Egyptian desert can easily bring to mind equally desolate scenes of shuttered factories and blighted landscapes scattered across post-industrial America.
But not in Swissvale, Pennsylvania, where for the next month Alloy Pittsburgh 2021 showcases six local artists envisioning vibrant new looks and intriguing new roles for the iconic structures still remaining at the former U.S. Steel Homestead Works site now preserved by Rivers of Steel Heritage Corporation.
This year’s installations highlight a wide range of artistic media at the Carrie Blast Furnaces National Historic Landmark area — photography, knitting, metalwork, drawing, augmented reality, light technology, sculpture, murals and painting.
An opening reception and artist-led tour happens this Saturday, Aug. 28; it’s free but requires registration.
If you go, you’ll get a chance to talk with Alloy Pittsburgh 2021 artists Darnell Chambers, Reba Harmon, Lori Hepner, Sandy Kessler-Kaminski, Jan Loney and Bradford Mumpower and learn their sources of inspiration.
“Alloy Pittsburgh 2021 is a program that gives the artist an opportunity to think broadly,” says Chris McGinnis, director & chief curator for Rivers of Steel Arts. “It’s meant to encourage the individual artist and their own intuition about how they can show why this place is important, what it means, what it could be — no matter what medium they choose.”
The artists also connect with a broad range of community partners during their three-month residency in a neighborhood workspace. The residency widens the artist’s access to the community and inevitably infuses the finished site installation with ideas and artwork drawn from students and other participants with whom the artists have interacted. “It’s an approach that provides an important channel for residents across the Mon Valley to celebrate and share their industrial heritage,” notes August Carlino, president and CEO of Rivers of Steel.
This year’s Alloy Pittsburgh 2021 partners include Dragon’s Den (Homestead), Three Rivers Village School (Hazelwood), Braddock Carnegie Library Association (Braddock), Rankin Christian Center (Rankin), Rivers of Steel at Carrie Blast Furnaces (Rankin & Swissvale) and Wilkins School Community Center (Swissvale).
The Alloy Pittsburgh 2021 exhibit is an integral part of Rivers of Steel’s ongoing Arts and Grounds Tour that shows how the site is interpreted through a creative lens, from management of its ecology to the numerous art programs that activate the site. The one-hour tour includes the Iron Garden, graffiti artworks in the Ore Yard, the renowned Carrie Deer sculpture, other metal arts sculptures and current and past Alloy Pittsburgh installations.
Alloy Pittsburgh 2021 runs to Sept. 21, 2021. Meet-the-Artists Happy Hours take place Sept. 9 and 23 and are $25 per person; tours are $10 per person. Event and tour information is available here.