Pittsburgh’s #OpenOnPenn finds way to Stifel Mansion

Exhibit features street art, cultural activism and Pittsburgh pierogies

WHEELING — Those driving on National Road near the Stifel Fine Arts Center on Thursday, Sept. 7, likely will notice eye-catching, mobile art created on unconventional canvases — automobiles.

Three “art cars,” created by Jason Sauer of Pittsburgh’s Most Wanted Fine Art, will be on display outside the historic Stifel Mansion in Wheeling during the free, public opening reception for the #OpenOnPenn contemporary art exhibition.

An art car is a road-worthy vehicle that has been transformed as an act of personal and artistic expression. They range from imaginatively painted vehicles to extravagant sculptured shells. Pittsburgh son and legendary pop artist Andy Warhol painted what is considered to be the most valuable art car in the world, a BMW MI, in the late 1970s.

Creating art cars is just one of Sauer’s many artistic passions. He creates art from objects locally sourced from his environment and uses the art to create dialogue within his community. From PPG Paint & Alcoa Metal for paintings, to recycled materials for sculptures or smashing up cars in the demolition derby as performance art, Sauer shows the power of rebirth. He and his wife Nina are owners of Most Wanted Fine Art on Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh and are committed to bringing diverse people and voices to the arts district.

Sauer is one of five artists featured in the #OpenOnPenn exhibit at Oglebay Institute’s Stifel Fine Arts Center in Wheeling.

The exhibit features work from artists of Pittsburgh’s vibrant Penn Avenue Arts District, which sprang from the Penn Avenue Arts Initiative. The initiative revitalized the Penn Avenue Corridor into a creative, eclectic and happening business district rooted in the arts and one of the city’s hottest cultural areas.

Oglebay Institute curator of exhibitions Michael McKowen said the exhibit has a “contemporary, urban, street-art feel” and includes diversity of style, media, subject matter, influences and voice.

“One of my goals as curator is to bring exhibits to Wheeling that feature non-traditional mediums, expand our definition of what art is and cause us to rethink the boundaries between visual arts and popular culture.”

This exhibit does exactly that. McKowen said some of the artists are formally trained with degrees in art, while others are self-taught and others have developed their style from the graffiti that adorns public structures.

“Much of the art has a very strong graphic appeal that reflects urban cultural trends and style,” he said.

Many artists featured in #OpenOnPenn speak to social justice issues.

“Their work often is in response to social, political, gender and race issues facing their community and the country at large,” McKowen explained.

In addition to the artwork, newspapers, video and photographs will be on display that chronicle how the art initiative revitalized Penn Avenue into the cultural exchange it is today.

“The exhibit celebrates the power of the arts to revitalize neighborhoods and to be a catalyst for positive change. It also illustrates the cultural, political, economic and personal dimensions of art,” he added.

Public art centers like the Stifel Fine Arts Center, McKowen said, have a special mission to foster artistic growth.

“Part of the growth process is to have new stimulus. We strive to bring in things we normally don’t get to see in Wheeling and make them accessible for local artists and art lovers to view and engage in conversation.”

The Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation and Most Wanted Fine Art have jointly organized #OpenOnPenn. In addition to Sauer, other featured artists include Danielle Robinson, D.S Kinsel, J.R Holtz, and Sam Thorp. Also, more than a dozen Penn Avenue galleries will be represented with works in the show.

Opening Reception

#OpenOnPenn opens at Oglebay Institute’s Stifel Fine Arts Center, 1330 National Road, Wheeling, with a free, public reception takes place from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday. McKowen said the Stifel Center will take on a “Penn Ave vibe” complete with Pittsburgh pierogies, beer from Pittsburgh’s Rock Bottom Brewery and music from Penn Ave artists. An artist market, similar to the popular Penn Ave street market, will be set up in the gallery with a variety of artwork available to purchase.

Several Penn Avenue artists will be in attendance and available to discuss their artwork as well as the Penn Ave revitalization through the arts.

“Everyone is invited to join us and soak up Penn Avenue’s creative energy. Families, singles, students, seniors, regular Stifel patrons and first-time visitors will find this exhibit engaging,” McKowen said.

Those who can’t make it to the opening reception Thursday you will have other chances to view #OpenOnPenn. It will be on display through Oct. 27. The Stifel Center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Evening hours are dependent on classes and special events. Admission to the gallery is free.

#OpenOnPenn is part of Oglebay Institute’s 2017-18 season of art exhibitions, which is sponsored by United Bank.

Part of the Helen B. Gaither Exhibition Season, this exhibit was also made possible through the generous support of the members of the Institute as well as with financial assistance from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.