Monday, December 6, 2010

Member Appreciation Day 12/11/10

Who: Current members
What: Member Appreciation Day
Where: Mattress Factory Museum
When: Saturday, December 11, 2010, 12 - 4 pm
Why: Because we love our members!

It’s time we celebrate you! Our members are our biggest supporters and without their support we wouldn’t be able to continue our mission. Membership fees for a year help us support our artists in residency, our education programming, and all the tours, outreach, and events we host year-round. This holiday season, we wanted to say thank you to our members.

Join us on Saturday for museum tours, art-making activities, live music and more!

To celebrate, current members are invited to the Mattress Factory on December 11th from 12 pm to 4 pm for a host of fun things. We will have crafts for kids of all ages, tours of our exhibitions, refreshments, live music, and special discounts (an extra 10% off in addition to your membership discount for a total of 20% off) in our MF Shop with free gift wrapping provided! In addition, every visitor can enter a raffle, and we will have a special free make-your-own t-shirt for members (while supplies last and one per person, per household)! Our North Side neighbors and friends from Artists Image Resource (AIR) will be here to help you silkscreen your own t-shirt – we have lots of sizes available, including kids' sizes and onesies!

MF Members will be able to make their own silkscreened t-shirt for free!

Take a moment from the holiday rush and stop by the MF on December 11th to enjoy all the perks of being a member. You deserve it. And don’t worry if you aren’t a member– you can still visit the museum and be part of the fun. if you want to join, you can do it on the spot at the museum.

On Saturday only, MF Members can enjoy 20% off in the MF Shop + free gift wrapping!

Again, thank you Mattress Factory Members!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

STRANGE DEMOCRACY: An Evening with Spoken Word Brujo Guillermo Gómez Peña

Born in 1955 and raised in Mexico City, Guillermo Gómez-Peña came to the United States in 1978 and established himself as a performance artist, writer, activist, and educator. Much of his work—which includes performance art and photography, audio, video, installations, poetry, journalism, critical writings, and cultural theory—explores the culture and politics of the U.S.-Mexico border. In a larger sense, Gómez-Peña’s art and writings address the confrontations and misunderstandings that occur whenever two or more cultures, languages, or races meet.

Gómez-Peña’s performance and installation work has been presented at over seven-hundred venues across the world, and, in 2009, the Mattress Factory was honored to host Strange Democracy: An Evening with Guillermo Gómez-Peña. In this solo performance, Gómez-Peña tackled the end of the Bush era and the formidable challenges facing Obama. Using his body, language, and wit as his primary tools, Gómez-Peña reflected on identity, race, sexuality, pop culture, politics, and the impact of new technologies in the post-9-11 era.

For the past twenty years Gómez-Peña’s groundbreaking works (which critics have termed “Chicano cyber-punk performances” and “ethno-techno art”) have contributed to debates on cultural diversity, identity, and U.S.-Mexico relations. So we are excited to announce that Gómez-Peña will return to Pittsburgh this December, first for a lecture at CMU, then for a performance and audience discussion here at the MF on Thursday, 12/2 at 7:00PM entitled Strange Democracy: An Evening with Spoken Word Brujo Guillermo Gómez-Peña!

Strange Democracy: An Evening with Spoken Word Brujo Guillermo Gómez-Peña
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Mattress Factory, 500 Sampsonia Way, Pittsburgh, PA 15212
The cost is $10. As always, MF Members and Pitt and CMU students are free!

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Annual Fund 2010 at the Mattress Factory

Thank you for a great year!

2010 was an exciting year for the Mattress Factory. LIKENESS, an exhibition that presented portraiture in a new way was on view in March. Nothing is Impossible, David Beattie: Old Light, New Darkness, and our 14th installment of Gestures presented new work by artists from Ireland, England and Pittsburgh. We sold out our Urban Garden Party for the first time in the history of the Mattress Factory. In A Generous Act: A Collaboration with Music musicians from Europe and Pittsburgh joined forces. Queloides: Race and Racism in Cuban Contemporary Art is now on view.

Douglas Pérez, Ecosystema

This year alone, we hosted over 30 artists, including those from Pittsburgh, Ireland, France, England and Cuba. Your generous gift allows us to further support artists from around the world as they create groundbreaking installations and explore the creative process. Your generosity helps us continue our mission.

Your gift to the Annual Fund also supports our Education department. We host family and community events like ArtLab and Family Day, and connect working artists with teachers, schools and families. The Education department bases its programming and events on the permanent collection and special exhibitions, ensuring that students, teachers and families really get into the art we have on view. Groups can set up tours in advance, and we are pleased to announce tours in Spanish for our Queloides exhibition on view. The Education department’s latest project is The Space I’m In, a learning resource that can become a part of any classroom.

Education events are held for all ages.

And of course the Mattress Factory offers yearly membership, event rentals, and the unique Shop and BoxSpring Café.

Merchandise from the MF Shop

And we don’t plan on stopping here – our future plans include expansion into new gallery space on Sampsonia and a new permanent outdoor light sculpture by world-renowned artist Hans Peter Kuhn.

Acupuncture by Hans Peter Kuhn

We had a great year in 2010, but with your help next year is going to be even better.

If you have questions or concerns about giving to the MF Annual fund, please call us at 412-231-3169 or email abby[at] Remember, your gift is 100% tax-deductible and every little bit makes a difference.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Every year the Mattress Factory hosts a Family Day the Friday after Thanksgiving. It gives people the option of avoiding the malls and finding something fun to do with out-of-town visitors that doesn’t involve making a mess of your home. It is much nicer here than at a crowded mall, I swear. We have a delicious café, beautiful museum shop (you can STILL GO SHOPPING), a wonderful exhibition, and, of course our – never disappointing – permanent collection.

Viewing Guardarraya by María Magdalena Campos-Pons, October 2010

This year we’ll be offering hands-on activities in our lobby from 11am-4pm for the entire family. PLUS, we’ll have special guests from Hear Me—an initiative of the CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University that engages children in creative conversations about their lives and uses technology and media to broadcast their stories throughout our region. They’ll be collecting stories in honor of the National Day of Listening. We’re especially excited that they’re coming because Family Day will kick off what we hope to be a sustained collaboration with the folks at Hear Me.

Mother and son listening to a Hear Me project

Contact the MF’s Education Department for more information: education [at] mattress [dot] org

Friday, November 5, 2010


Want a $25 Membership? Just head on over to the Groupon site at and support the Mattress Factory by purchasing a Green membership at half price!

In anticipation of a crazy day, I’d like to answer questions that may come up today (and beyond):

What is Groupon?
Groupon is a deal-of-the-day website that is localized to major markets in the U.S., including Pittsburgh. They partner with local businesses to offer a discount on an item or service and they in turn send out a free email to all of their subscribers about the deal. (You can sign up for today’s deal on their site:

What benefits are provided by the Green Membership?
No paper mail. Ever.
- FREE museum admission for one year
- FREE admission to exhibition openings
- Complimentary one-time admission for two guests
- Electronic invitations to exhibition openings and special events
- Bi-monthly email newsletters
- 10% discount in the BoxSpring Café
- 10% discount in the MF Shop – includes online purchases
- Discounted tickets to the Annual Urban Garden Party

Can I give this as a gift?
Yes, you can totally buy this for a friend, just use click on the “Buy for a Friend” link directly below the big green “Buy!” button. You can buy yourself a Membership as well as a gift Membership for a total of two.

I’m already a Member, can I renew?
Of course! I’d also like to point out that we will extend your Membership for a full year from the date of your expiration. In other words, if your Membership isn’t set to expire until July 2011 and you buy a Groupon, your Membership will be extended until July 2012. Even if you just joined the MF Member community yesterday, feel free to grab a Groupon and extend your Green Membership until November 2012.

Why Groupon?
Here at the Mattress Factory we want to make sure we are reaching out to new audiences all the time. And we’re hoping that partnering with Groupon will do just that. Lots of people in Pittsburgh don’t know what the Mattress Factory is all about and we want new people to discover “that installation museum” nestled in the middle of the Mexican War Streets.

Are you scared?
Yes! We’re actually quite nervous about a huge turnout. Our Membership Department consists of a total staff of ONE. Yup. Just one person runs all of our membership programs and initiatives. The awesome Abby Vanim is our sole Membership Coordinator, so it may take a couple of days for all of the official Green Membership welcome emails to be sent. Please be patient.

Is this deal for the Green Membership level only?
Yes. For simplicity's sake (and to preserve Abby's sanity), we are only able to offer today's Groupon Deal for the paperless Green Membership level.

Questions? Concerns? Feel free to leave a comment below or contact me (lindsay [at] mattress [dot] org) or Abby (abby [at] mattress [dot] org) at any time.

P.S. I need to give a shout out to Will Cary, former Membership Manager over at the Brooklyn Museum, for giving sage advice many moons ago. Thanks, Will! (He posted a fantastic blog post about why they did a Groupon special for their museum over on their blog in October 2009. Check it out.)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Hi there, everyone! My name is Christy, and I am interning in the Mattress Factory’s Marketing Department. I will be guest posting here on the ol’ blog over the next few weeks, and I’m excited to get started!

For my first post, I’d like to focus on the amazing items available in the MF Shop; after all, the holidays are just around the corner! The MF Shop is full of unique gifts—from clothing and accessories, to limited-edition artist-made items, and everything in between. Plus, all museum purchases help the Mattress Factory offer unparalleled support to our artists-in-residence. So you can take home some really cool stuff while directly supporting the mission of the museum!

And as if all that isn’t enough, from now until November 30th, 2010, we are offering free shipping on orders over $50! So now’s the perfect time to get a head start on your holiday shopping (and maybe even pick up a little something for yourself). My personal favorites include the Maxine Dear Belt Buckles, which are made out of repurposed library books, the cheeky ”Art you can get into” Undies, and the wonderfully quirky Vintage Typewriter Tie.

You could even go green this holiday season by purchasing a loved one a 100% paperless Green Membership. Our Green members enjoy the many benefits of a year-long membership (free admission, discounts, etc.) but receive all MF correspondence electronically. It’s a win-win; a higher percentage of membership dollars goes directly toward supporting cutting-edge art, and the museum produces less paper materials. Visit for more information.

Finally, while you’re browsing the MF Shop, don’t forget to check out the Shop Blog, updated weekly by CMU grad student and MF Operations Intern Evelyn. Her blog posts include information on staff members, new items, and more, accompanied by videos and questions that readers can respond to on Facebook.

Happy shopping!

Monday, October 18, 2010


We are thrilled to announce additional performers and a very special host who will join Soandry on stage this Saturday at the New Hazlett Theater. Soandry will be joined by special guests and Pittsburgh and international favorites FREESTYLE, HANDSDOWN (ShaRon Don and Deejay Huggy), and BZE! We are honored to have PARADISE GRAY host this special event!

Freestyle a.k.a. FRZY

As an international recording artist, Freestyle has collaborated with other artists from Japan, Morocco, Bulgaria, and Germany and has reached great success. He has been featured on DJ Khaled's "Drive
Time Show" twice, has reached the top ten charts in Germany, and has already performed for crowds as large as 30,000 people. He has been featured on two of the largest Jay-Z fansites as the "Next Jay-Z" and all hail his upcoming project "Reincarnation" as one of the most remarkable projects ever released in hip-hop.

Handsdown (ChaRon Don and Deejay Huggy)

Handsdown (ChaRon Don and Deejay Huggy) is a Pittsburgh native duo hip-hop group who have performing, recording and distributing music internationally and are working on a new release which is due to drop next month.

BZE (a.k.a. the Cuban Cruise Missile)

BZE, also known as the Cuban Cruise Missile, grew up in Northern California and was born to Cuban immigrants. The majority of BZE's cuts are dark, funky beats with production assistance by Omar-Abdul.

Paradise Gray (left)

Paradise Gray, who will host this performance, has a long track record in hip-hop, beginning with his membership in the socially conscious group the X-Clan. On the business side, he was a photographer for hip-hop magazines and manager of entertainment for The Latin Quarters, the legendary New York club that helped launch such acts as Public Enemy and A Tribe Called Quest.

Paradise Gray and X-Clan's "Xodus"

Order tickets in advance here.
Tickets will also be available at the door:
$12 general admission
Mattress Factory members (+1) free at the door
Pitt & CMU students with I.D. are $9 at the door
Performance begins at 8pm

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Gee's Bend Quilters at the Mattress Factory

Gee’s Bend is a small community located in a pocket of land surrounded on three sides by the Alabama River. The community, now called Boykin, is home to a remarkable group of quilters. In the 1960s, Gee’s Bend became an important part of the Freedom Quilting Bee (a branch of the Civil Rights movement), which aimed to increase community development by the sales of their unique and beautiful quilts.

The artists of the Gee’s Bend quilting community have shown their quilts at many museums, from the Whitney Museum to the Smithsonian. For the first time in their lives, many of the quilters have a real income and have been able to inject new life into a vanishing community.

Please join the remarkable women of Gee’s Bend Quilting at the Mattress Factory on Tuesday, October 12th, 2010, from 6-8pm. There will be a quilt-making demonstration and discussion with the ladies of Gee’s Bend. View handmade quilts in the Mattress Factory lobby, see their history, and listen as they convey their stories through words, song, and craft.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

East End Factory 500 Tour!

This past weekend, Factory 500 members and their guests got an exclusive East End tour, going to three very cool and different locations. Thanks to Tom Stepleton, we have some great images from the evening!

The first stop was the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, where members were able to learn about an exhibition of Maxo Vanka's work called Paintings and Works on Paper. William Lafe gave the guests a tour and information during the hour spent at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. The Factory 500 tour previously visited Maxo Vanka's Millvale Murals, and since these new images in this exhibition have not been previously shown, it was an excellent chance to revisit his work. The exhibition will be on view through November 7th, 2010.

(Members of the Factory 500 listen to a talk about Maxo Vanka's Paintings and Works on Paper)

The second stop was Tee Rex Syndicate / The Cotton Factory in Friendship. They specialize in screen printing tee shirts and other goodies. We received a wonderful tour of the facilities, including a display of finished products and a look at the shop, where the magic happens. Christian Shaknaitis led a demonstration of the screen printing process for the group, and the guests were even given a customized tote bag from the evening!

(Christian Shaknaitis shows the crowd how they screen print onto tees, tote bags, and other materials.)

The final stop on the tour was the Mansions on Fifth. This was a great chance to see a beautiful old building that is in the process of being restored. Bob Sendall, of All In Good Taste Productions, provided the guests with delicious treats, and the owners gave a history of the building and described the restoration process. Many thanks to both Bob Sendall, as well as Richard Pearson and Jennifer Pendleton for making us feel right at home.

(The crowd gathers in the Mansions on Fifth, currently undergoing extensive renovations.)

Many thanks to those who made the evening so wonderful! And as always, thank you to our Factory 500 members and their guests for coming to spent a fabulous evening with us. If you want to see more of the photos from the evening taken by Tom, you can check out our Flickr set.

Hope to see you all for the next Factory 500 tour!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Soandry’s debut performance in the U.S. on October 23, 2010!

We are very excited to announce that Cuban hip-hop artist Soandry, formerly of the duo “Hermanos de Causa”, will be performing for the first time in the United States at the New Hazlett Theater on Saturday, October 23, 2010. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to learn the stories of the struggles and the triumphs of a Cuban rapper.

Soandry “Luchando con rimas” (“Struggling with rhymes”) by Oscar B. Castillo

Known for being a passionate free-thinker who shares the realities of life in Cuba, Soandry, is a leader of the hip-hop scene in Havana. He shares a distinct socially conscious rap ethic that is uncommon in Cuba. His unabashed criticism of the Cuban government is audacious.

Soandry’s “Negro Cubano”

Soandry was recently featured in the documentary about Cuban hip-hop entitled “East of Havana”. The film, which focuses on Soandry and two other underground Cuban hip-hop artists, has been deemed “A vital look at Cuba's tenaciously grassroots hip-hop scene” and that “For the youth in the film, music doesn’t just have a purpose, it is a purpose, and the artists find in hip-hop a 'mental freedom.'” The film will be screened on October 21, 2010, at the Mattress Factory with an introduction by the director. The event is free.

“East of Havana” trailer featuring Soandry

Friday, September 10, 2010

9/24/10 Factory 500 Tour: East End

One of my favorite things about working at the Mattress Factory is getting to see other artists’ work spaces and shops from behind the scenes. It’s a chance to get up close and personal with the artistic community in Pittsburgh. The Factory 500 member-only events really cater to the desire to see how other artists in the area live, work and create.

This month, the Factory 500 Members are doing an East End tour that involves three stops. The night begins at 7 pm at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, and focuses on Maxo Vanka’s exhibition Paintings and Works on Paper. The group will spend about 45 minutes to an hour at each location, time-permitting. During the time, there will be a tour of the exhibition and talk about his work. Factory 500 members got a taste of his work earlier this year with a tour of Milvale's St. Nicholas Church covered in his own murals.

The second stop will be at The Cotton Factory on Penn Avenue. The Cotton Factory is a t-shirt and screen-printing business that ships orders nationally. They have t-shirt designs that range from Pittsburgh-themed to sarcastic and humorous to abstract. The group will spend time touring the shop and learning a bit about the processes at The Cotton Factory.

The third and last stop for the night will be at the Mansions on Fifth. Currently undergoing a full restoration, the old building located on Fifth Avenue in Shadyside is getting a new life. The group will join Chef Bob Sendall, of All In Good Taste Productions, for delicious treats in the kitchen at the Mansions. As far as I’m concerned, it sounds like a great way to end the evening.

These tours are always a lot of fun to plan and execute because of the wide variety of things to see and do. Our Factory 500 members really enjoy going to these behind the scenes tours, and I enjoy it, too. It doesn’t seem fair to just look at our own installation art here at the Mattress Factory; it’s necessary to step out into the Pittsburgh community and take a look at the other amazing things that are being created, whether visual arts, tee shirts, or delicious food.

If you’re interested in coming along on this unique tour become a member at the Factory 500 level! If you have any questions, feel free to contact me via email at abby[at]mattress[dot]org or call the museum at 412.231.3169 (and, yes, we can break down membership dues into monthly payments).

Friday, July 23, 2010

Factory 500 Member Event Recap: 7/15/10

Q: What do Airstreams, sound art, handmade bags, and live experimental music have in common?
A: A Factory 500 Membership tour, of course.

Three or four times each year, the Mattress Factory staff plans a unique evening of places you just don’t get to see every day for our Factory 500 members. In the past we have toured a wig-maker’s studio, a brewery, a metalsmith’s studio, and a mayor’s home
constructed with two shipping containers.

On July 15th, Factory 500 Members toured the West End and North Side neighborhoods. The evening began at Wendy Downs’ and Jeremy Boyle’s studios in the West End of Pittsburgh. The first floor of their building is home to their quietly brilliant Moop shop where they design and hand make every bag from start to finish---and demonstrated their amazing craftsmanship before our very eyes. Wendy and Jeremy explained what brought them to West End in Pittsburgh after living in Western Massachusetts. Upstairs in Jeremy’s studio, he showed the crowd how he has created sound pieces with pneumatically controlled drums.

A 1979 Airstream motor coach awaited the Factory 500 members in the Mattress Factory’s parking lot. Mitchell Schwartz and Elaine Stone entertained dozens of guests in their Airstream with martinis, sangria and snacks. Curator-in-residence, Mark Garry, screened John Cage’s “Water Walk” film al fresco.

To wrap up the evening, the artists of “A Generous Act: A collaboration with music” did a sneak peek performance for the group in their recording studio located on the 4th floor of the Mattress Factory. Performing beautifully composed and performed pieces that had been created during their 16-day residency, the artists amazed the Factory 500 members with the huge amount of innovative work and camaraderie that can be accomplished in a short two-week span.

Thanks to everyone for a fantastic art-filled summer evening!

Feel like you're missing out? If you’re interested in becoming a member at the Factory 500 level (or any level), feel free to contact us via email at info[at]mattress[dot]org or calling the museum at 412.231.3169 (and, yes, we can break down membership dues into monthly payments).

Psst! We are in the midst of planning for our next Factory 500 event for the end of September. (Hint: It will be a very tasty and delectable evening.)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Internships at the MF

Part of my role as Director of Education here at the Mattress Factory involves coordinating internships. This is great because I have the unique opportunity to meet and get to know many young students as they assemble a professional pathway or imagine their post-graduation role within the world. For some, an internship can give insight into what it is they are passionate about and how to translate what they love into what they do. For others, an internship can be a stepping-stone or a bullet point on their resume. An internship can show an individual as much about what it is they do NOT want to do, as it can about what they do want to do. No matter the outcome, an internship can be a life-altering experience that forces a change of major, change of perception, or perhaps just a change of scenery.

Anymore, I find that college students want bigger, longer, and more intensive internships—they want to stay for two (or three) semesters instead of one, want to spend 20 (or 40) hours at the MF, instead of 12. This new trend is so mutually beneficial. The individual gets the inside scoop and is folded into the full-time staff as an integral member. The organization gets a whole lot more work done!

Ok, it’s more than that: student interns come loaded with freshly honed, cutting edge skills. For those of us who have been sitting behind desks for a few years, it’s an opportunity to learn from the student and see contemporary points of view. We can ask questions like, “How would you organize this information?” “What tools would you use to convey this message?” “How would you prioritize this to-do list?” “Can you help me decide if we’ve been successful?”

At the Mattress Factory, we are lucky to have interns from all over the world -- from local universities, and from universities far and wide. We have enjoyed working with interns with a range of ages and interests. Some have master’s degrees, some don’t yet have high school diplomas. An individual’s unique perspective and experiences are what draws us to them (and probably vice versa).

Having an intern means developing projects, asking and answering a million questions, giving advice, and in the end it means saying goodbye to somebody who you probably grew to depend on. In many cases, it can even mean saying goodbye to a friend. But, in the BEST cases, it means watching somebody take off into a wild world of choices and opportunities, hopefully made a little easier by having had a fruitful experience working at the Mattress Factory.

Read All Posts by Liz

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Generous Act: FREE Performance for MF Members!

If you've been by the museum during the past week or so, you might have noticed that the 4th floor is currently closed to visitors. That's because we've converted the entire gallery on that floor into a high-end recording studio.

A Generous Act    A Generous Act

Inside the studio/gallery are a group of musicians, assembled by guest curator Mark Garry, writing and recording music. The project, entitled A Generous Act, is part exhibition and part performance, and will debut on Saturday, July 17th, at 8:00PM. A cool e-flyer designed by MF Shannon is embedded below. Feel free to share.

MF Shannon's Poster Design for A Generous Act

Tickets for the opening debut performance are $15.00, but as a special perk for current Mattress Factory members, we're offering FREE admission to those who have current memberships (limit: 2 per member). Now that's a generous act! You can reserve your spot by completing the form below or by clicking HERE. Hurry, seating is extremely limited!

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The 2010 Urban Garden Party: Pics or It Didn't Happen.

And like that, it's over. The 2010 Urban Garden Party was a smashing success. Our sincerest thanks go out to everyone who attended and to everyone who helped get the word out. For the first time ever, the event sold out! Everyone here is absolutely blown away by the support. Through ticket sales, silent auction purchases, individual donations and event sponsorships, we raised just about $200,000 for the museum. This is money that will be used to support upcoming exhibitions, educational & community programming, and museum operations. We can't say it enough. Thank you.

There has been a lot of media coverage and web activity surrounding the event (most of which is aggregated below), but perhaps my favorite quote comes from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Marylynn Uricchio:

What's most interesting about this popular event is the way it cuts across the borders of age and economics to attract a lively, diverse and always colorful crowd. The installation art museum has done a wonderful job of appealing to a mass audience while it continues to stay on the edge, thanks to co-directors Barbara Luderowski and Michael Olijnyk.

Right on. The photos in the slide show embedded below were taken by John Altdorfer. We've posted the high-resolution images on Flickr and they are available for FREE download. Non-commercial use only please.

The MF Twitter Posse and local press were out in full force Friday night as well. Here are some links to photos, articles and blogs that have been popping up around the interwebs. If I've missed any, all apologies. Post a link in the comments or shoot a message to us via email or Twitter and we'll update our list.

Marylynn Uricchio's piece for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
An awesome photoset from Jo Ellen Smith
MF Twitter Posse member Rob de la Cretaz's photos. [ Follow Rob on Twitter ]
Unbelievable shots from Twitter Posse Member Rima Campbell. [ Follow Rima on Twitter ]
MF Green & Twitter Posse Member Andrea Shockling's blog recap of the event. [ Follow Andrea on Twitter ]
Kate Guerriero's FANFARE column for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
WPXI-TV was here covering the event for SEE & BE SEEN.
A cool photo set from Flickr user jtkennedy.
Whirl Magazine's coverage of the 2010 Urban Garden Party.
A nice blog recap from Twitter Posse Member Andrea Disaster. [ Follow Andrea on Twitter ]
The Northside Chronicle posted some photos from the event.
A bunch of great shots over at Yinzer Party. Login required (:-/)

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ten Days and Counting

Each year, on one special night in mid-June, we throw a fundraising event called the Urban Garden Party. And each year, we are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for the museum expressed by the 1,000+ event attendees. It truly is an amazing evening filled with artistic energy, tasty food & beverages from more than 50 of Pittsburgh's top restaurants & bars, top-notch performances, and secret surprises.

This year's event is shaping up to be the best Garden Party to date. For a good sense of the vibe this year, check out this event trailer our awesome video production volunteer (!!) Abby Vanim created with a little soundtrack help from headliners Eclectic Method:

Without giving away too many details, the decor for the evening is taking shape as well. We have amassed a collection of more than 100 hubcaps and rumor has it there will be skateboard ramps and a fire hydrant involved. Check out these shots of MF Danny and MF Karla making tons of large scale origami that will accent the ceiling for the VIP Pre-Party:

Urban Garden Party Decorations Underway!

Urban Garden Party Decorations Underway!

Urban Garden Party Decorations Underway!

Urban Garden Party Decorations Underway!

If you'd like to attend the party, we'd love to see you there. We're running contests over on Twitter and Facebook from now through the event, so make sure you're keeping an eye on those streams. Of course, you can find out more information and purchase tickets HERE or by calling the museum at 412-231-3169. More updates to come!

Read All Posts by Jeffrey

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Be Bold. Take Risks.

I think Barbara Luderowski and Michael Olijnyk should write a business book. I know they would laugh at the thought, but I’m being sincere.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been immersed in watching and transcribing individual oral history videos of Barbara and Michael in which they discuss their early childhoods, their first experiences with art, and eventually the origins and the early years of the Mattress Factory.

They each speak eloquently about wanting to create a place that was intellectually stimulating and supportive of artists, a place that would incorporate all artistic disciplines by focusing on installation. There was never a master plan. The place grew “organically” (as Michael described) – both physically and organizationally. They slowly purchased and renovated nearby buildings for gallery and artist apartment space. They developed education programs, added a café, and began developing digital media initiatives.

They grew by capitalizing on opportunity. They tried to make intelligent decisions. They learned to avoid easy money when it did not align with their core mission. They took chances. During one interview, Barbara recounts how the museum’s relationship with James Turrell began. He was already a well-established artist by the early 1980s, but Barbara and Michael approached him anyway, drove to New York City and boldly invited him to the museum while sharing a cab ride.

The museum grew by experimenting. This is what artists do. But normally they do it in the privacy of their studios. Here, the Mattress Factory does it publicly as an organization in a very transparent way. They’re willing to try to new things. Good ideas are acted upon more quickly in part because there are fewer barriers. “Go for it!” Barbara would say.

It’s no wonder then that the museum was the first in the U.S. to utilize QR code technology as a visitor engagement tool in its galleries. Jeffrey then shared the easy-to-use and free technology in a September, 2009 blog. Or that the Mattress Factory was the first museum in the country to offer an entirely paperless “green” membership. These are just two examples of staff-generated ideas that were acted upon and which now serve to distinguish the museum.

This is not the world I had come from. Originally, I thought I would write this final blog about how the Mattress Factory ruined me. How my first few weeks here felt like a recovery program from the years I had spent at an old, large, cultural not-for-profit with a traditional top-down management style. In January when I first spoke with Jeffrey and talked myself into working for him (I am sure that’s what happened), I remember telling him that I was “ready for lean and mean.” And that’s exactly what I got.

The Mattress Factory operates with just 12 full-time employees – a talented, creative, multi-tasking, collaborative group of people. Many are artists themselves. The organizational structure is extremely horizontal. Of course everyone knows that the buck stops with Barbara and Michael, but otherwise there is no hierarchy. Bureaucracy is almost nonexistent.

The fundamental characteristics of the museum struck me right away. Frankly, it took some getting used to. And now I’m ruined. At least that’s what I was going to write about. But then I learned that the museum has always been this way. It’s how the place started, and in that respect, not much has changed.

From a business perspective, I think these are all reasons why the museum has been so successful. People want to be a part of something exciting. The uniqueness of the work and the process of discovery – for the artist, the museum go-er, and for the organization itself – are the museum’s most compelling features. You never know what you’re going to get, but you know it’s going to be something you’ve never experienced before.

One last quick story. As the last vestiges of the February snowpocalypse began to recede, Michael popped in on his usual rounds and asked, “Has anyone noticed that big mound of grey snow on the corner?” Snow was all anyone had been looking at for months, but no one in the office seemed to know what he was talking about. Something was brewing. “I think we should do something with it,” he said.

Over the course of the next two hours Michael made art out of the last remaining, stubborn, grit-covered pile of snow in the neighborhood, conveniently located at the well-traveled intersection near the Annex Gallery. An eternal optimist with a little streak of devilishness, Michael wanted to send a message of hope to the community that Spring was on its way.

As my time at the museum comes to an end, these are the memories I will take with me. And I leave reassured that a vibrant arts organization can thrive – not by mimicking the for-profit business world and organizational structures but by capitalizing on the creativity and flexibility that come naturally to artists. Be bold. Take risks.

Thank you Mattress Factory!

Lesley Williamson is a guest blogger. While completing a Master of Arts Management degree at Carnegie Mellon University, she is interning in the Mattress Factory's marketing department and will be posting here regularly through May. Lesley and her husband David Coester, a classical guitarist, make their home in Dunkirk, NY where they occasionally share custody of two small brown geriatric border terrier dogs. (It's a long story.)

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