I got a job at Marty’s Market on Tuesday, as a cashier/server in the cafe part of the business. The market is located in the Strip District, a curious neighborhood between Lawrenceville and downtown that was once the economic center of Pittsburgh – a hub of manufacturers and wholesalers. The Heinz Co. (famous for their ketchup) moved there in 1890. Most of the businesses that were located there in the 1920s, during the area’s peak production years, have since moved elsewhere and the warehouses and mills stood empty. However, eventually small merchants and entrepreneurs started renovating the spaces and now the Strip District is looking increasingly vibrant again. There are still a few wholesale produce suppliers, and lots of little ethnic food shops have moved in. Antique dealers, nifty boutiques, and specialty shops abound, and the place is littered with restaurants and bars. On the weekends the Strip really comes to life as merchants and venders take their wares outside and throw a street market.
I’m pleased to be joining this historic community via the not quite two years old Marty’s Market (it’s specialty is local and organic and fair-trade foods) and I can’t wait to explore all the nooks and crannies of the place.
I began that very day by checking out the Society for Contemporary Craft,which is a non-profit institution that focuses on multicultural and non-mainstream art and crafts, and education. The gallery is located at the end of a large still-active series of loading docks for a fresh produce terminal. They are currently hosting the ENOUGH Violence: Artists Speak Out exhibition, which features work by 14 artists from around the world.
I don’t often connect emotionally to works of art – I find them interesting, or perplexing, or visually pleasing, or sometimes annoying, but these feelings don’t often penetrate very deep. Unlike music, which I have very strong emotional reactions to all the time, visual art often leaves me feeling like I just don’t get it. ENOUGH Violence was different though. I did get it – in fact the very first piece I saw got me right in the gut.
Named Pero Pendiente, the work is by Claudia Alvarez. The rest of the exhibition proved to be just as intense.
I was particularly drawn to Beth Barron‘s pieces, made from hundreds of discarded band-aides that she began collecting in 1999. Named Implosion 3 (top 2 pictures) and Implosion 1 (bottom two), they are bizarre and beautiful quilts (?) that speak eloquently about the nature of wounds and healing.
Then there were the dresses…Julie Sirek‘s 30 handmade gampi dresses, which represent as many Minnesotan women who died in 2009 as a result of domestic violence – named A Family Matter. Another gut-wrencher.
Gampi is a type of Japanese shrub that has been used since the 8th century to make high quality Washi paper. The fact that each of these unique dresses are made out of delicate paper – so easy to crush or burn – is particularly compelling to me.
Keith W. Smith‘s piece Incarceration speaks to me about several different problems in today’s society – imprisonment of the mind, and the overwhelming amount of multiracial men and boys physically imprisoned in America today.
In the end, my visit to the SCC was troubling, but invigorating too. The 2.4 mile walk back home did little to settle my mind, but spending a few hours with a close friend in the little patch of woods found in Riverview Park in North Side helped.
Established in 1894, the park sits on the top of a steep hill. The Allegheny Observatory is located there, which I’ll have to return to tour someday. Even though you’re still in the middle of the city, the woods in the park are quiet and full of birds and deer.
Although this guy is pretty cute, there are really too many deer in the park – between their grazing and an invasive plant species problem, little of the native understory is left. Volunteers are working to restore the area and keep the Mairdale watershed healthy.
Since that little venture I’ve been working, thus switching from exploring new places to meeting new people. My job is fun and easy, and I look forward to getting more involved in the market’s community outreach and education.
One exciting thing that happened since I started the job, which some of my bookish readers will get a kick out of, is that Shailene Woodley came into Marty’s Market on Wednesday to buy some breakfast. She’s the actress who is playing Hazel Grace Lancaster in the movie version of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars – which they’ve been filming bits of in Pittsburgh! That was cool. She was extremely sweet and a little shy. I think she’ll make a good Hazel. The day I saw her was nearly their last day of shooting here – they’re off to Amsterdam now! I’m looking forward to this movie, even though I know it will break my heart… *sigh*
Pittsburgh seems to be going out of it’s way to make sure that I like it this week – the other night while we were at Nied’s Hotel watching the Pirates lose the last playoff game, after their first winning season in…some horribly lengthy amount of time (which was sad, of course)…a friendly stranger bought Jonah and I beers, and I got a piece of the owner’s birthday cake (he’s repeatedly gone out of his way to make us feel welcome). It’s been such a pleasure to be here for the last two weeks (for only two weeks, crazy!) and I feel confident that things will continue to turn out right.
And so, in movie speak, that’s a wrap on week two in Pittsburgh!