Friday, August 29, 2014

MF In the News: Artforum September 2014

Carrie Mae Weems's work "Lincoln, Lonnie, and Me" was featured in the September 2014 issue of Artforum magazine. The piece was featured in the "Feminist And..." exhibition held at the Mattress Factory from September 2012-May 2013. Click on the images below to read the full article.

For more information about Weems, visit

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

August 19, 2014 ARTLab: Penny Arcade!

I’m so excited because this week for ArtLab we have Penny Arcade Comedy getting silly in the museum! Penny Performers Tessa Karel and Renee Rabenold will take inspiration from our permanent collection and create improvised scenes right in the galleries. You’ll have a chance to discuss the artwork and witness a one-of-a-kind theater and comedy experience that is shaped by your very own ideas! As usual, ArtLab is free with museum admission and is super fun for all ages!

Improv comedy is a type of theater experience where an entire show is made up right on the spot. Penny Arcade is a comedy show especially for children and families based out of Arcade Comedy Theater in downtown Pittsburgh. During a typical Penny Arcade show, the audience participates in “collaboration stations” which use crafts to make silly props and costumes and literary prompts like lines of dialogue or character names to help generate ideas that are used in the show. Because the show relies on audience participation, each show is unique!

As a museum educator and improv performer myself, I see a lot of connections between installation art and improv. An installation is not complete without visitors walking through and interacting with the artwork, just as an improv show relies on audience suggestions and engagement to give life and energy to the show. Both are site-specific: an installation is created for a specific location and is influenced by the space, community, and context in which it exists, just as improv show is shaped by the ideas that were generated at that moment by that particular audience and group of performers. Once an installation is taken down, it cannot exist anywhere else because it’s meaning and context would change, just as each improv show is only seen once and never seen again, because the chain reaction of ideas could never happen in the exact same way ever again. The ephemeral quality of both improv and installation art is what makes it very special. It also means your physical presence is required to fully experience both installation art and improv. Luckily our permanent collection isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but the Penny Players will only be at the Mattress Factory for a short time so you better be at our ArtLab this Saturday at 1pm!If you can’t make it this Saturday, Penny Arcade will be performing in The Kids Comedy Cabaret, part of the first-ever Pittsburgh Comedy Festival! The show is on Saturday, August 23 at 1 p.m. at the Stephen Foster Memorial in the Henry Heymann Theatre. The Mattress Factory education department will also be there with an installation activity for audience members to build! The final product will give inspiration to the show! Both the installation and the show will be one-of-a-kind, and once the show is over, it will never be seen again.

Looking forward to seeing everyone at the Mattress Factory this Saturday, August 16th and again at The Kid Comedy Cabaret on August 23rd for some art and some laughs!

   -Karen Forney, Museum Educator

Friday, August 8, 2014

Factory 500 Collection Tour at BNY Mellon

Factory 500 members were out on the town on Friday, August 1 for a private after-hours collection visit at BNY Mellon's downtown offices. Curator Brian Lang toured the group through "Works on Paper by Sculptors," an exhibition organized from the BNY Mellon corporate collection, which features work by MF alumni Kiki Smith and Jessica Stockholder.

Brian Lang describing a work by Spencer Finch.
Members enjoyed wine tastings with Syma Hajian of Pittsburgh Winery. Syma described several varieties of wine that they produce at the winery's Strip District location. 

Mattress Factory Archivist Molly Tighe was also on hand during the evening to show off some of the museum's archive records from Kiki Smith's 1997 installation, Flight Mound. Brian and Molly discussed the Mattress Factory museum's Limited Editions program, which features pieces by artist Jessica Stockholder and about a dozen other Mattress Factory artists.

Molly Tighe, Museum Archivist, at the Factory 500.

In addition, Brian was able to give us some insight into the corporate art world. The group discussed specific works by artists including Spencer Finch and Franz West, methods of collecting, and the rules of buying art for a corporate environment.  

Thank you to everyone who came out to BNY Mellon on August 1st! You can see more photos from this and past events on our Flickr page.

Factory 500 is the museum's premier membership program, chaired by Susan Lammie. The group tours private collections, artist studios, local businesses and other arts destinations in Pittsburgh several times throughout the year. Don't miss out – join now!

Abby, Membership Coordinator

Thursday, August 7, 2014

2014 MF ArtMarket: an art market you can get into

Saturday, September 27, 2014, from 10am-5pm


Over the past several years, the Mattress Factory has hosted local artists and crafters during semi-annual CraftFactory events. This fall, the museum is seeking painters, photographers, illustrators, sculptors, printmakers, designers, etc. to vend during a pop-up ArtMarket on September 27, 2014. Artists who “think outside the box” and create artwork that may appeal to Mattress Factory visitors are welcome to apply. Prints, framed artwork, drawings, paintings, sculptures and art books are all welcome. Artists are encouraged to offer cards, posters, or reproductions of their work, as we hope to offer a variety of price points.

Applications must be received by Monday, September 1, 2014.

Accepted artists will be notified by Friday, September 5, 2014.

Accepted artists must pay the $40 vending fee by Friday, September 12, 2014.

Vendors will be provided with an eight-foot table to display and sell their work to museum visitors and attendees of the ArtMarket. Available spaces include the MF lobby with wall space for hanging work and our tented outdoor garden area. The 2014 ArtMarket will coincide with the Artists in Residence exhibition, on view in the museum’s galleries at 500 Sampsonia Way and 1414 Monterey Street.

A panel of MF staff members will select vendors based on strength and style of work. All applications must be received by Monday, September 1, 2014. Artists who are accepted to vend will be notified by Friday, September 5, 2014. Once accepted, vendors are required to pay a non-refundable $40 vending fee to reserve their space - due Friday, September 12, 2014. Detailed information regarding set-up times, Internet access, and other particulars will be emailed to accepted vendors at a later date. Any questions may be directed to

Apply to vend at ArtMarket HERE.

Questions may be directed to 
This ArtMarket is sponsored by the MF Shop

Thursday, July 3, 2014

July 5 ArtLab: Low-Tech Overhead-Projector and Sun Animations!

James Turrell
Catso, Red (1967)

Using cut paper, collage, transparencies, and found objects, make your own low-tech animations on an overhead projector, or, weather permitting, using the sun outside!

I’m really happy to be demonstrating a low-tech animation workshop for the Mattress Factory ArtLab on July 5th. Visitors will use an overhead projector, cut paper, found objects, and transparencies to create an animation that they can capture on their devices and upload for their friends to see. I used this technique to create the video backdrop for a physical theater show called The Gift, a performance by myself and Ben Sota, Artistic Director of Zany Umbrella Circus. With basic materials and some experimentation, I was able to make something fun as an additional artistic layer that also served a practical purpose--something to allow for our transitions while Ben and I change our costumes in our 2-person show.

Humans like to play with light and shadows. Overhead projectors remind me of school and the irresistible desire to play with the light, the focus knobs, and make shadows. Using a projector to make animations is very similar to shadow puppetry (the paper and hand varieties), something I’ve seen nearly every kid do when there’s a light in a dark room. If you’ve never been to the Mattress Factory before, I bet you’ll have the same urge when you go visit the 2nd floor and discover Turrell’s Catso Red.

This ArtLab is meant to take advantage of that playful desire to have fun with light and shadows and come up with something creative with just a few materials. Come have fun with us!

The Gift, an experimental physical theater show by Zany Umbrella Circus at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, will have performances and workshops on July 19th, 20th, 26th, and 27th between 1-4:30pm.

The “Low-Tech Overhead-Project and Sun Animations” ArtLab takes place on Saturday, July 5 from 1:00PM to 4:00PM

ARTLab is FREE with museum admission and is open to all ages.

ENTER FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN! "Circus + Activism" Scholarship

Have you read the MF Blog interviews with "Circus + Activism" workshop leader Ben Sota? The class is an amazing opportunity for students ages 14-18 who are interested in learning all about performance art and activism, or might be building their portfolios. We are now celebrating this one-time-only workshop with a Scholarship Giveaway!

This class, offered July 21 to August 8, will look at how site-specific performance and activism intersects with installation art. Students will study circus, physical theater, clowning without borders, circus activism and have a real-life theater experience by performing at sites located within Pittsburgh's Northside community. The class will be inspired by artists exhibiting at the Mattress Factory, and students will be given the opportunity to experience and participate in scenic design, sound design and costume design as they form their own socially minded circus.

From now until Wednesday, July 16 at 5 p.m. Mattress Factory Fans can enter to win a full scholarship to this one-of-a-kind workshop. Classes are held 1-4 p.m. July 21 to August 8. Email with your name, age and email address, and a response to the question:

            Why do you want to spend your summer at the Mattress Factory?

You must provide full address contact information, along with a valid email address, to be eligible to win. To be eligible to win, you must be between 14-18 years of age and be able to provide your own transportation.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Ben Sota of Zany Umbrella Circus on Factory 14S: Party II

This summer's Factory 14s workshop at the Mattress Factory is an amazing opportunity for 14-18 year olds to really see behind-the-scenes at the Mattress Factory. Participants get to explore all of the exhibitions, meet incoming exhibiting artists, hang out with and learn directly about the creative process of an artist and use all of that inspiration to create their own work and performances. The Circus + Activism workshop is going to be a wonderful learning experience - but mostly it will be tons of FUN. To find out more or to register via e-mail, contact

In this second part of our series, Zany Umbrella Circus Artistic Director Ben Sota, who will be leading the Circus + Activism workshop from July 21-August 8, will share details about the program and why young people should enroll in the class. 



What was your experience of art in high school?
I had a wonderful art teacher named Chris Fetter at the Winchester Thurston School who owns Fetter Studio.  Mr. Fetter encouraged us to go to the Manchester Craftsman Guild and I learned a great deal in his sculpture class.  He really helped me question how I thought about space, objects in space and how sculpture is communicative.

Why is this class / workshop / Factory 14s experience going to be so great?

We will start by studying circus, pantomime, mask performance and physical theater and after learning fundamentals we will begin to work as theater devisers.

I am interested in examining how non-violent activism and performance art intersects.  How circus and theater have been used by Bread and Puppet Theatre, the San Francisco Mime troupe and more recently in protests in Cairo in December 2013, during the Arab Spring protests and the Occupy Wall Street movement.

This class will be responsive to the zeitgeist of today and students will also have an opportunity to design costumes, create video and examine how sound design influences theater and circus.

What is a sneak peak into just a few of the fun things you have planned for Factory 14s?

I will bring a portable tight wire and students will have a chance to learn the skills of a funambulist [a tightrope walker].  I spent three years studying mask performance and design in Italy. I want to use that knowledge to give students the chance to sculpt and build very detailed masks that they could probably sell for a couple zillion dollars.

Why should young adults sign up for this awesome class!?

Balance, flexibility, and creativity are necessary skills for the 21st century and this class probably will not be offered again so seize the day!

Read Part I of the interview series with Zany Umbrella Circus Artistic Director Ben Sota here.