My Complaint for the Choir: You Need to Give a Shit about Art, Pittsburgh!

Christiane D and Edith Abeyta, two artists creating work for the Three Rivers Arts Festival

This is an ongoing report following two artists creating public artwork for the Three Rivers Arts Festival (June 6th–15th 2014 / Downtown, Pgh). Read, click links, learn, participate, love art.

The best part about my time at the GPAC happy hour last night will unfortunately not be documented here. Having the opportunity to sit, meet, and visit with both Christane D and Edith Abeyta was a distinct pleasure for which I have no words. We munched on chips, joked around, and had a lovely time—all while discussing the work they were each undertaking for this year's Three River's Arts Festival. What I have penned for you below, dear reader, is information that you can use to participate in both artist's distinct and unique works. The Duck was great, (I loved the Duck) but this also deserves your equal attention and enthusiasm.

Edith's Abeyta's sketch for 'O' in o:ne:ka'

Edith Abeyta's sculpture, People’s Clothing Archive and Library Initiative No 1: o:ne:ka' is fabricated from 3,000 donated t-shirts hung on large wooden frames like scales, (If you happen to have a tee or two you'd like to give click here, you have several opportunities to donate). o:ne:ka' is the Seneca word for water and the piece is a nexus point of conversation about the history of the land, current attitudes about American's consumption of goods, and the impact of textile production on the environment. The large sculpture will be visible from a ten foot bridge overlooking the grassy hill where it's to be constructed. The shirts will be donated once the piece is complete as they won't be negatively impacted by their use. Fabrication of the sculpture has already begun and now it just needs shirts! 

Former guest and friend of The AP Collection, Christiane D, heads the Complaints N’at Choir (@ComplaintsPGH on Twitter) which is exactly as rad as it sounds. The all volunteer choir is made up of local artists and area residents voicing complaints about the city in which that they live. This might seem harsh to some, but Christiane is quick to point out that the origins of complaining are rooted in protest—not whining. She has been an active member of her community since she was a young child, contacting the city about a need for a stop sign at an intersection near her home. Her family fostered this engagement and lodging complaints was a part of that.

When it comes to the recent growth and change that our fair city has experienced in the past decade, it's fair to call out "the parsley caught in the teeth" that's present on a wide scale. From pot holes to gentrification—complaints are being registered straight from the citizens of Pittsburgh and melded with music crafted by Christiane and her collaborators. This isn't the first time a choir of this kind has been created. First established in Birmingham, England in 2005, the model has been organized in a number of cities around the world since then. If you wish to get involved in Pittsburgh's Complaints N’at Choir, go to complaintspgh.com. There's still time to attend a rehearsal and join in during the 10 days of the Three River's Arts Festival at one of the ten performance locations. Each performance starts at 6PM.

Christiane D's got some complaints to register...

My normal inclination is to sit back and observe, but since our conversation I've given some thought to what I would add to the Complaints N'at Choir. There are many issues that need attention on the table, but I'd go with "real support for local art here in Pittsburgh". This might come as a surprise, because we do have a healthy cultural scene in this town, but I would say that it's in spite of many obstacles. Since starting this project I've met many people who create a lot of great work and don't see the sales they deserve, don't feel comfortable charging what they should, and I see a lot of people throwing events for little to no charge. I also hear from others saying they shouldn't have to pay a cover or "why does this cost so much?!" Despite this and much more creatives in Pittsburgh will continue to create. Why? Because we can't help it. We'll hold down our day jobs and continue pour all our excess time into connecting with the passion we have for our craft in a way that many out there will never fully understand or appreciate. 

So, as you're enjoying The Three Rivers Arts Festival, checking out Christiane and Edith's excellent work, and coming back to this post to get continued coverage—think twice before you pass up a donate or tip jar and take advantage of any opportunity to buy some great art.

Stay tuned for more...