Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

Public Innovation Session with MAYA Design


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Thank you to everyone who participated in our Public Innovation Session with MAYA Design on July 18! In a lively conversation led by Mickey McManus, visitors shared their thoughts about current and potential experiences at Carnegie Museum of Art with each other and with museum staff (including museum director Lynn Zelevansky). We’re still sorting through the copious sticky notes on which people jotted down their reactions to and hopes for the museum; we’ll share some of the most powerful insights in posts to come. Stay tuned!

Video: The Art Connection


We just wanted to say thanks to everyone who came out on Sunday, April 14 to mark the opening of The Art Connection Annual Student Exhibition! Check out the video to see our student artists hard at work in the museum’s studios as they prepared for this year’s exhibition. Throughout the school year, students in grades 5–9 worked through the creative process with the help of teaching artists in the museum’s galleries and studios. Artworks in this year’s exhibition reflect the influence of recent exhibitions such as White Cube, Green Maze: New Art Landscapes, Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Art at the World’s Fairs, 1851–1939, and Cory Arcangel: Masters.

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Wrapping up Oh Snap!


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Oh Snap! combined 13 new photographs from our collection with nearly 1,500 photo submissions from the public.

Wrap Party, Lytro Workshop, and more—Saturday, May 4
First things first—submissions for Oh Snap! Your Take on our Photographs are now closed, but we are excited to celebrate the thoughtful and creative collaboration of the hundreds of participants in the project. Don’t miss the three closing events for Oh Snap!, with a special focus on new photographic technology. A Lytro workshop gives you the chance to try out a whole new kind of camera in our galleries. A public talk with industry insiders from Lytro and GigaPan examines how these new technologies will change the way we take pictures in the future. And at the wrap party you can see all the photos in the exhibition, share your views on our feedback wall, and get your own copy of the  poster showing details from the works sent in by you (below). We hope to see you all there! The exhibition will still be on view in the Forum Gallery through May 12, but as the end of the project nears, it’s a good time to think back on how it all came together.

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The limited-edition Oh Snap! poster (36.75 x 24 inches). ORDER

Process
“If you’re not innovating you’re stagnating” asserted Jeff DeGraf, founder and guru at the Innovatrium, a consulting firm/think tank in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Jeff was speaking to small teams of staff members from six American art museums, including Carnegie Museum of Art and the Warhol that had signed on for an 8-month project to explore what’s working and what’s not in art museums with the goal of injecting a spirit of innovation and experimentation into our organizations. Practically speaking, we all had our sights set on devising new ways of staying relevant to our communities, especially to our younger visitors. Oh Snap! is the most recent manifestation of the ongoing soul-searching and fresh thinking inspired by our Innovatrium experience. We’re feeling pretty good about how the project has turned out.

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The Oh Snap! cross-departmental team brainstorming names for the project—sometimes you just have to get up on a table to get it done.

While Oh Snap! presents 13 works of art—all recently added to the museum’s photography collection—framed and hung on the walls of the museum’s Forum Gallery, the relationship to a traditional exhibition pretty much ends there. We’re calling it a “collaborative photography project,” and collaborative it is. The 13 photographs from the museum’s collection were selected by a cross-departmental team with the explicit goal of motivating the public to send to us photographs that are somehow inspired by one of the museum’s works. As new photographs came in from the public, we printed and hung them in the gallery next to the related museum work. Visitors could view the museum’s Oh Snap! selections either in the gallery or on the project’s website.

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Working on the gallery model to figure out the best way to accommodate submissions from the public.

Opening a gallery that was purposefully “unfinished” was an entirely new experience for us and signaled a new relationship we’re interested in pursuing with our audience, one in which our expertise comes together with the public’s curiosity and imagination to leave all of us a bit richer for the experience. We’re also recognizing that visitors increasingly are not limited to only those who come through our physical doors. As our physical gallery walls have changed over the past two months, our digital “gallery” has grown and changed as well. Photographs were only accepted through the website, making the web a crucial element in the project. When a submission made its way onto the wall, the sender received an email with a free pass to come see it. Submissions have been sent from locations remarkably distant from Pittsburgh, including Peru, Taiwan, France, Germany, and Finland. The project is helping us explore how Carnegie Museum of Art might build relationships through our collection and the ideas it inspires to individuals who might never have the opportunity to be our physical visitors.

Read Jeffrey Inscho’s Oh Snap! overview on Nina Simon’s Museum 2.0 blog.

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Education staff reviewed all submissions as they came in, printing and posting them directly in the gallery.

Response
Two months ago we had a nearly empty gallery and have watched Oh Snap! take shape a little bit each day—growing and transforming thanks to public participation. So the first question of the project—would anyone find it compelling enough to send us their photographs—has been answered with nearly 1,500 submissions. But beyond seeing a full gallery, we are even more rewarded by what’s happening in the gallery and what participants are saying (quotes from the gallery comment book):

  • “Being able to contribute to an exhibition was thrilling. I hope the Carnegie will do many more things like this! Overall, I think the project is Brilliant!”
  • “I think it’s a great way to get the community engaged in what it means to make a photograph art.”
  • “I love seeing the public’s perspective on these photographs.”
  • “Brings art into our lives and our lives into art.”
  • “I could spend all day here but I won’t ‘cause I’m going home to look for something I can submit.”

Ok, it’s pretty hard not to feel elated about comments like that! Many similar messages in the gallery comment book make it clear how appealing it is to be part of the experience. But more than just rallying the crowd, Oh Snap! has also motivated real looking, thinking, and responding to art. The project doesn’t ask for any photograph you want to send us, it invites the public to collaborate with us in interpreting—finding meaning—in specific works in our collection.

It seems that by literally “leaving room” on the gallery walls for the public’s photographs, visitors took up the challenge of seeing the museum’s works as catalysts provoking reflective thinking, inspiring comparison, and motivating action. In Oh Snap!, we actively welcomed those responses, sharing them with other visitors, and acknowledging that a museum experience is not one-directional. The project has produced a real and dynamic partnership between museum and public. That partnership inspires further impact as new visitors—whether contributors or not—linger in the gallery every day comparing museum photographs and public photographs, chatting actively with friends, speculating about connections, and marveling at the range of interpretations a single work of art might inspire.

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Charlee Brodsky, Last Smokestacks at the Homestead Works, c. 1995, gelatin silver print, Gift of the artist, 2009.29.4 © 1995 Charlee Brodsky. By permission

Charlee Brodsky’s image, Last Smokestacks at the Homestead Works is one of the photographs from the museum’s collection selected for Oh Snap!; it is now surrounded by over 170 public photographs (examples below). Several of them capitalize on the image’s powerful composition—a broad flat plane of dirt punctuated by a single vertical element directly in the center of the scene. Many of these submitted photographs achieve a similar sense of order, calm, and solitude through similar arrangements of horizontals, verticals, and measured proportion. But others take a different approach. One submitted photograph offers no visual similarities to the museum’s work but instead shows the facade of Pittsburgh’s United Steelworkers Building, perhaps calling to mind the thousands of workers who once brought life to the site, the former Homestead Steel Works plant. I hear lots of gallery visitors wondering aloud about a photograph of a limp and lifeless bird and another of a dead fish stuck in an expanse of wet sand both of which, when placed near Charlee’s quiet image, take on a sense of poignancy. Then there is the picture of the glowing ball poised in the center of a well-mowed back yard. What might that one be about? These leaps in thought and imagination show just how much room for interpretation the project allowed. Thankfully, art endures because it keeps speaking to people about its own context but also in new and personally meaningful ways.

Some Stats

Age breakdown of the nearly 600 contributors:

  • Not indicated: 7%
  • 18–24: 21%
  • 25–34: 20%
  • 35–54: 29%
  • 55–64: 14%
  • 65 and over: 8%

How contributors heard about the project:

  • From a friend: 38%
  • At the museum: 33%
  • Online: 27%
  • Print media: 2%

CAKEitecture!


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This past Saturday, five teams of local architects and bakers competed for the title of “Master CAKEitect” to mark the opening of 20/20: Celebrating Two Decades of the Heinz Architectural Center.

The teams wowed everyone with their edible versions of iconic architecture from Pittsburgh and around the globe. Guest judges Virginia Montanez (aka PittGirl), Charles Rosenblum, and Jason Roth rated each cake on aesthetics, taste, and architectural integrity.

And the awards were…….

Honorary CAKEitect: Springboard Design and Sugar ‘N Spires, Rietveld ReWind: From Concept to Reality, yellow cake with buttercream icing:

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Honorary CAKEitect: Architectural Confections (The Design Alliance and Gluuteny), Sydney Opera Cake, white cake and chocolate cake:

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3rd Place, Apprentice CAKEitect: The Dirty Dozen (Young Architects Forum and Dozen Bake Shop), A Delicious Day in the Neighborhood!, rosemary bourbon cake with honey buttercream icing:

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2nd Place, Journeyman CAKEitect: Perkins Eastman and Madison Ave. Cakes, East End AAA Building, chocolate cake and yellow cake with vanilla buttercream icing:

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1st Place, Master CAKEitect: Loysen + Kreuthmeier Architects and Prantl’s Bakery, Fallingwater, yellow pound cake, white buttercream icing, and toasted almonds:

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Visitors were also invited to cast their vote for their favorite CAKEitecture with Monopoly money and buildings.

The winner of the People’s Choice Master CAKEitect award was Young Architects Forum and Dozen Bake Shop:

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Congratulations to Loysen + Kreuthmeier Architects, Prantl’s Bakery, Young Architects Forum and Dozen Bake Shop, Pittsburgh’s 2013 Master CAKEitects! The winning teams were awarded a trophy and an exclusive, behind-the-scenes museum tour with Heinz Architectural Center curator Tracy Myers.

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Members of Team Loysen + Kreuthmeier Architects / Prantl’s Bakery show off their 1st place trophy.
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Dozen Bake Shop cake decorator Megan Hart stands next to the team’s People’s Choice creation.
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Parkhurst Dining Service’s executive pastry chef Alice Leich joined in the celebration with a birthday cake depicting HAC.
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Visitors examine a model of the Yokohama International Port Terminal by Foreign Office Architects in 20/20
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Adults and children alike created their own festive party hats. 
guests 8Visitors donned handmade party hats and sampled ice cream with their CAKEitecture.

A monumental thank you to all participants for sharing your confectionary creations with CMOA and the community—we’re in awe of your talent (and incredibly full)! You made CAKEitecture one of the museum’s best attended events, attracting 2,500+ Pittsburghers!

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Photo op of The Design Alliance and Gluuteny’s Sydney Opera Cake
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Demolishing Rietveld ReWind: From Concept to Reality
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Father and daughter pair Paul and Ella Rosenblatt of Springboard Design / Sugar ‘N Spires
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We couldn’t wait to get our hands on a slice of the Sydney Opera Cake!
the-endThese cakes never stood a chance.

Check out these shout-outs:

The Carnegie’s CAKEitecture: Building cakes, and a fan base

The Food Column: Let them build cake, then eat it, at CAKEitecture

Bakers, architects team up for Carnegie Museum pastry competition

Objects of Desire: Dawn’s Pick


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Installation view, Carlo Bugatti, Cobra chair, 1902, wood, parchment with painted decoration, and copper, Berdan Memorial Trust Fund, Helen Johnston Acquisition Fund, and Decorative Arts Purchase Fund

Choosing my favorite object from Inventing the Modern World is nearly impossible—my “favorite” tends to shift by the hour or according to my mood (this says more about my love of objects than it does about my indecisiveness). There’s one extraordinary object however that stands out no matter the time of day or my disposition—the Cobra chair designed by Carlo Bugatti.

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Bugatti was one of the most eccentric European designers working at the turn of the century and his furniture is truly fantastical, bordering on bizarre. Inspired by nature, architecture, and decorative elements of the Middle East, North Africa, and Japan, he worked in unusual combinations of materials.

The Cobra chair was part of a suite made by Bugatti for the 1902 Turin Prima Esposizione d’Arte Decorativa Moderna, the first world’s fair devoted exclusively to decorative arts and design. The organizing committee declared that only original and innovative designs free of historical precedent would be accepted. It is obvious that Bugatti rose to this particular challenge.

cobradetail2The dynamic form of the Cobra chair blurs the boundaries between sculpture and functional design with a revolutionary assembling technique decades ahead of its time. Composite wooden elements were joined and shaped to create a curving silhouette that anticipates the cantilevered designs of the 1920s and 1930s by Mies van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer, and Kem Weber. Bugatti disguised and unified the composite parts with stretched and joined parchment, making the chair look like it’s a solid piece. The vellum is painted with stylized flowers, dragonflies, and geometric shapes while the applied copper disc on the back further accentuates the cobra imagery. Although the chair exhibits the exotic influences, organic shapes, and naturalistic references that typify Art Nouveau, the chair stands out as a thoroughly modern product of Bugatti’s vivid imagination.

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The otherworldly aspects of Bugatti’s designs are truly elucidated in the image of the Snail Room at the 1902 fair. One of three complete rooms Bugatti designed for the exhibition, the Salle de Jeu et Conversation (room for games and conversation) contained a spiraling banquette and table surrounded by Cobra chairs and circular panels mimicking the chair backs. The room is at once futuristic, organic, and exotic.

Though Bugatti’s Cobra is beloved by art historians today, it was a bit too radical to be widely accepted in 1902. Nevertheless, Bugatti was awarded a diploma of honor by the Turin jury. They clearly found the Cobra chair to be as unforgettable as I do. As one contemporary critic of the exhibition wrote, “the artist who knows how to give a truly individual imprint to his furniture is C. Bugatti.…Bugatti, living outside every movement and owing everything to himself and demanding everything from himself, is the exhibitor who most clearly remains stamped in one’s memory.”