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Art Exhibit Highlights Historic Carrie Blast Furnaces

Photo by Anthony Bookhammer
Courtesy of Rivers of Steel Arts
The previous Alloy Pittsburgh at the Carrie Furnaces was in 2015.

Neglected for decades, in the past several years the Carrie Blast Furnaces, in Rankin, have been reborn.

The furnaces were built in 1907, and for seven decades they were where workers made iron for the Homestead Works. About 30 years after their closure – with most of that time as a fenced-off relicfrequented only by white-tailed deer and guerilla artists – the furnaces were designated a National Historic Landmark.

That was in 2006. These days, the site – with its two towering, rusting blast furnaces– is an historic attraction run by the nonprofit Rivers of Steel, and often a venue for art events and exhibitions. Signature initiatives include Alloy Pittsburgh, a series of exhibits presenting art both made for and about the site, organized by Rivers of Steel Arts.

Nine local artists will contribute to Alloy Pittsburgh 2018, the third Alloy event. Rivers of Steel taught the artists about the site’s history, then asked them to make work inspired by its past, present and possible futures.

The artists responded with works in media including ceramics, textiles, video, dance and (naturally) metal.

“The program was intended to bring artists in and give them as much detail and as great an understanding about the history and importance of this location and then allow them with that knowledge to go and create something that is very much in conversation with the site,” said Chris McGinnis, director of Rivers of Steel Arts and chief curator of Alloy Pittsburgh 2018.

Don’t expect a white-cube (or even raw-brick) gallery setting. “It’s a raw industrial site,” said McGinnis.

Installation artist Liz Fortunato is creating a series of glass and paper castings that recalls the garment worn by workers at the site. Metalsmith Matt Hall was inspired by the old industrial chain at the site. “A lot of the chains have degraded and come undone from one another,” said McGinnis. “So he’s kind of reconnecting these chains in various ways. ... This is an interesting way that he’s interpreting space and responding to what is missing in this space.”

Other contributors include sculptor Angela Biederman; contemporary choreographer and dancer Sara Caplan; sculptor Katie Rearick; photographer and videographer Curtis Reaves; sculptor, installation artist and performer Gwen Sadler; installation artist, sculptor and videographer Sophia Sobers; and sculpture and installation artist Sheila Ann Swartz.

The works are all temporary. They will remain in place through Sept. 29, with artist- and curator-led tours every Saturday.

The Aug. 25 opening reception is 1-4 p.m. Tickets are $10-15, and free for kids under 18.

Bill is a long-time Pittsburgh-based journalist specializing in the arts and the environment. Previous to working at WESA, he spent 21 years at the weekly Pittsburgh City Paper, the last 14 as Arts & Entertainment editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and in 30-plus years as a journalist has freelanced for publications including In Pittsburgh, The Nation, E: The Environmental Magazine, American Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill has earned numerous Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. He lives in the neighborhood of Manchester, and he once milked a goat. Email: