The ink-stained walls of the former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette printing pressroom could soon house a center celebrating free speech by a newly formed nonprofit called the International Free Expression Project.
Beginning this week in coordination with the First Amendment Conference, video projects on screens along with artwork will be hung from the ceiling of the 50-foot-tall venue. Organizer Greg Victor, a Post-Gazette oped/forum editor, said he imagines the building can be updated to accommodate food vendors, musician performances and artists’ exhibits.
“It’s a unique space,” Victor said. “As far as I know, there is nothing like this.”
The projection has received support from local, national and international partners, Victor said, and is launching a fundraising campaign. Ideally, the space could be transformed into a marketplace, conference room or wedding venue. Educational exhibits about the history of the First Amendment and freedom of expression would be scattered throughout, aimed at engaging young visitors.
“It’s kind of hard to think of a more significant time to really put this issue on the front burner around the world,” Victor said.
From the jailing of journalists to suppression of newspapers, he said he believes efforts to undermine the press are increasing across the globe. The timing of the launch, however, is coincidentally close to the recent firing of longtime Post-Gazette cartoonist Rob Rogers and subsequent newsroom backlash. But Victor said the incidents are unrelated, as the planning for the center predates Rogers’ dismissal.
The project will also include a sculpture made from parts of the printing press, including its rollers, knobs and silver plates. Victor said the group will hold an international design contest to find an artist.
*This post has been updated to clarify that the space is not confirmed as the future home for IFEP.