It’s hard to imagine a better fit than the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse and the upcoming Re:NEW Festival, making its debut September 9 and running through October 9, 2016, throughout Pittsburgh.
Re:NEW seeks to highlight the possibilities involved when artists and makers combine creativity and sustainability, recognizing Pittsburgh’s emerging community of artists and makers dedicated to creating with sustainability and re-use in mind.
The Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse has been promoting those same objectives since it was founded in 2007, said executive director Erika Johnson. The Center makes available used and discarded materials that cover an enormous range of artistic possibilities. The store, located at 214 North Lexington in Point Breeze (around the corner from Construction Junction), sells materials ranging from more traditional artistic fare—paper, fabrics, magazines and photographs for collage artists—to the utterly unexpected: VHS tapes, trophies, and puzzle pieces, among dozens and dozens of items.
“It’s an inspiring place to come and think about reuse and creativity,” Johnson said of the store. “When you see 100 of something together, it makes you think of it in a new way.”
Beyond offering craft materials and inspiration, the Center’s work taking in, sorting, and selling materials for reuse diverts thousands of pounds of waste from landfills each year. In 2015, 41 tons of waste were diverted, and in 2016, Johnson said, she expects to keep more than 50 tons of waste from hitting landfills.
That makes it a perfect participant in the Re:NEW Festival, which brings to Pittsburgh an array of exhibits, music showcases, eco-tours, hands-on workshops, educational sessions, films, performances, environmental exhibits, and markets selling upcycled goods.
“We absolutely wanted to be a part of the Re:NEW Festival in order to help highlight all the great stuff happening in Pittsburgh around creative re-use,” said Johnson.
Festival-goers will have a number of chances to experience all the Center offers:
- The Center will unofficially kick off the Festival with its 4th Bantam Night, a “pre-party” fundraiser at Wigle Whiskey (1055 Spring Garden Avenue) on Thursday, September 8, from 6 to 9 p.m. Attendees can make a fancy hat, screenprint the PCCR logo onto a shirt, and dance to the sounds of vocalist Anqwenique Wingfield. Tickets are available, right here.
- The Creative Conundrum Lab will invite the community into the Center’s Point Breeze shop to create art out of this month’s “creative conundrum”: a surprise material that is full of creative potential. Creative Conundrum, a monthly event, will be held Friday, September 9, from 2 to 5 p.m.
- The Center’s biannual Reclaim! event returns on Saturday, September 17, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., offering artists, makers, and educators a shopping bonanza: come into the Center’s warehouse and for just $5 (minimum suggested donation per person), take as much Center material as they would like. With the help of its volunteers, the Center has diverted over 6,000 pounds of materials destined for the landfill through its past two Reclaim! events. Their goal for this special Re:NEW edition of Reclaim! is to exceed 10,000 pounds!
- Reclaim! is also a perfect opportunity for the public to check out the Center’s shop, open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- The Center will celebrate the fourth show in its in-store gallery space with an opening reception on Thursday, September 22, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Center’s Point Breeze shop. Join artists, volunteers, interns, and staff for a fun night of art and music - information, right here.
- Artists of all ages are invited to a hands-on art-making activity on Saturday, October 1 from noon to 4 p.m. Center for Creative Reuse teaching artists will provide a curated array of materials and tools, as well as guidance to help young artists with their projects. Children and families are especially welcome. This art-making activity takes place at the PPG Wintergarden downtown, where the Re:NEW Festival will present the North American premier of Barcelona-based Drap-Art, an exhibition of international artists working extensively with reused materials. Participants are encouraged to explore the Drap-Art exhibit as they create their own works of art.
- For grown-ups, the Center will offer Bar Crafts at the Allegheny Wine Mixer (www.alleghenywinemixer.com, 5236 Butler St., Lawrenceville) on Sunday, October 2, from 6 to 9 p.m. For a minimum $5 donation per person, thirsty artists can work on projects ranging from upholstery-fabric purses to dioramas made from cigar boxes, and more. Zero arts and crafts expertise required.
With all these events, Johnson laughed, the Center is going to have to transport many vanloads of materials.
“One of the things that makes our programming unique is rather than bringing a kit to make a project,” she said, “we bring an array of material that’s very open-ended and provides what we call ‘the inspiration of abundance.’”
Adam Reger is a writer, editor, and teacher.
Photos: courtesy Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse. Top: PCCR Open House; Bottom: People Making Birdhouses