A storefront on Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh’s Garfield neighborhood is home to BOOM Concepts, a workspace and art gallery founded by online magazine publisher Thomas Agnew and his co-founder Darrell Kinsel.
Agnew tells 90.5 WESA’s Elaine Effort, the venture serves as a showcase for up-and-coming artists.
They spoke as part of our series 90.5 WESA Celebrates: 90 Neighborhoods, 90 Good Stories.
Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Agnew explains BOOM Concepts' dual purpose of hosting creatives, while offering aspiring artists tools to help get the word out about their work:
We work with a lot of young and older individuals to present a different series of exhibitions every month, and we also provide professional development help, you know, artist development help.
Outside of what we normally do, you know, we post events on our social media, send an email blast out. We try to talk to them about different ways they can promote and connect with different individuals, try to give them access to some of the people that we have.
We could say, "We're renting this space, pay us the money, and that's it." But we try to at least be on them, like, "Hey, do you have a flyer? Are you sending out a press release? Where are you posting these things at? Are you going out to the community and talking to other individuals, other artists, and trying to bring them in? Are you really utilizing your network?" So, we try to do a lot of small professional development pieces to help the artist out.
How Agnew’s organization helps young artists in particular:
We just want to see everyone be successful, so I think just being able to utilize our network, utilize our skillset, try to pass that down because just holding onto those things doesn't matter at the end of the day. You've got to pass that on to try and help the youth.
I think I've seen a spike in the youth just sort of changing their ways—be more business-minded in the ways that they want to do [things]. Start going after grants. That's the same thing like me—I didn't know about grants, but now I'm passing that information down to other people, like, "Hey, go grab these grants that are available."
We're trying to make sure that there's an opportunity for all to go out in the world and make money off their skillset, their creativity. So, when there's a call for artists for a certain thing, we make sure that we tell our network, "You need to go check out this call for artists. You need to let them know you're out here. You need to let them know you're creative and you deserve to be picked also."