It’s (still) the economy, stupid*

Oh man.

Recently, the Pittsburgh art scene lost yet another gallery. LaVie was in operation for about two years. Their emphasis was on young and emerging artists. LaVie built a lot of credibility on its exhibits but it was also a lifestyle shop that offered arty products and graphic as well as event design services. Even with the wide range of endeavors that they were covering they still weren’t able to keep the boat floating.  It hasn’t been that long, less than nine months, since Digging Pitt closed its doors; another monumental effort that fell by the wayside. But there are always others to take up the gauntlet, as was pointed out by Kurt Shaw in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review –

Still, there seems to be no end to new galleries opening up in Lawrenceville, with the latest, Luke & Eloy Gallery, planning to open Sept. 27 at 5169 Butler St. (Details: www.lukeandeloy.ning.com) …

For whatever reason, opening an art gallery seems to be an attractive idea for many, regardless of the outcome; even in a place that clearly doesn’t have a public that will support it. Such is life, or should I say c’est la vie? Read the article

In addition to the opening of Luke and Eloy Gallery, Zombo Gallery opened fairly recently in Larryville. So, for every closure, another gallery crops up to take its place. There is also the revolving venues along Penn Avenue, but with only one night each month to view the exhibits, it is difficult to build a meaningful presence. It’s no wonder that so many of the visual arts venues in Pittsburgh resort to non-profit status, even though that isn’t a guarantee of keeping the doors open.

Oh man, it just gets worse. It was announced today that the Carnegie Museum is taking over the day to day operations of the Three Rivers Arts Festival. The festival budget, even with its shrinking and scattered footprint, is over $1million for the seventeen-day festival. CMoA has already released the festival’s executive and associate directors. I am sure that there are other things in the works as they prioritize the budget. From the Pittsburgh Post Gazette –

“By taking this step now, we have an opportunity to not only better assess the organization’s finances, but also re-evaluate its operations and its mission. An important first step — and the responsible thing to do — was to put a halt on most expenses until we complete that assessment,” David Hillenbrand, president of Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, said in a prepared statement yesterday. Read the article

So, what will happen to the 2009 festival is anyone’s guess. There is some question about whether or not the festival will ever regain its home in Point Park or if it will be relegated to scrambling for exhibit space as it has done for the last few years.

Finally, the trend that has been making itself felt in the rest of the country is making itself felt here. I’m not talking about short pants for men, I’m talking about falling home prices. Do you realize how bad things have to be to impact an already depressed market? Western Pennsylvania home prices have been well below the national median for a long time. Currently prices here aren’t falling at the same rate as they are in the rest of the world, but really, if they were any lower you could put them on your credit card.

Of course, if you are coming in from outside of the region, Pittsburgh is a property buyer’s wet dream. But the low purchase prices are still out of reach for a lot of the residents. The region is also below the national and state average median income. The following figures are from 2005. What’s really scary is the 23% living below the poverty level.

Estimated median household income in 2005: $30,278 (it was $28,588 in 2000)
Pittsburgh $30,278
Pennsylvania: $44,537

Estimated median house/condo value in 2005: $74,000 (it was $59,700 in 2000)
Pittsburgh $74,000
Pennsylvania: $131,900

Median gross rent in 2005: $648.
Percentage of residents living in poverty in 2005: 23.2%
(16.3% for White Non-Hispanic residents, 38.6% for Black residents)

Ah, that explains so much. Purchasing art is something that you do when you have a generous amount of disposable income. In this region, the collectors suffer right alongside the artists.

*Attributed to Bill Clinton


You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Comments are closed.