a brief interview with Pittsburgh Cultural Trust curator, Murray Horne

Mr. Horne is the curator for two of Pittsburgh’s non-profit Cultural Trust run galleries that are in the heart of the Cultural District: SPACE on Liberty Avenue and Wood Street. You’ve seen some posts about them recently as they are in my proverbial backyard. I love that each has its own unique style. The Trust brings more unknown artists to SPACE while focusing more on cutting edge modern works for Wood Street.

I’ve been lucky enough to see some amazing events at each gallery recently – the Electrified exhibit at Wood Street and the Psychic Panic/Music SPACE event with local band Silencio at SPACE Gallery – and I wanted to get more behind the scenes.

View from Wood street offices Pittsburgh This is the view from the Wood Street station offices

Tell me about your history with the Trust and the galleries. I came to the trust in 1996 when then president, Carol Brown asked me to become the curator of Wood Street Galleries and to give it an identity. I was very interested in new media artwork at the time, so I spent the next three or four years transforming the gallery from a traditional media venue to new media works.

We stuck with that course but it was difficult to find new media works in the beginning. Not much existed. Now the opposite is true as there is an abundance of new media and the dynamic has completely changed. It’s possible for us to go to a student of Carnegie Mellon and find someone competent in software capable of programming their own artwork all while being aesthetically proficient in various disciplines. The dynamic of the computer in artwork has changed rapidly over the last 15 years. So much so that those creating this new media work don’t think anything of it. That means that, as a culture, we are at a crossroads between so-called fine arts and new media. The two parallel tracks have crossed over the last few years.

How far have you gone to find artwork? We’ve had work from Japan, South Korea, will be showing work from India next year and regularly show work from Europe. It’s pretty much global and that is the way I like it.

At SPACE, the gallery philosophy is slightly different. It was created for local artists to show predominantly local work. We do sometimes do group shows that may include artists from outside the city as well. The next show, Cataloguing Pattern, has artists from both Pittsburgh and outside the city. It’s important to show artists from the city in the context of work from outside the city so they can get an idea of their work and ideas from within their own peer group. When we show a group of artists and include some from other cities, you get to know your position and where you stand within your peer group in relation to that. It’s an important thing for up and coming artists.

If you can get one person in to the gallery that hasn’t seen work like this before, that person normally tells at least two other people to go see the work.

What would you tell someone that recently moved here and thinks nothing good happens in the city? They are incorrect. Pittsburgh has one of the liveliest art scenes in the whole country. There are cities larger than us that are more prominent, but in terms of the quality of the artwork and the ability to involve local artists I think we’re doing exceptionally well given our size. There is a new emphasis on local artists, which I think is a good thing. The non-profit art galleries – the Warhol, Carnegie, Mattress Factory, etc etc –  in the city dominate the art scene here and I think that is a very good thing. There is no emphasis on the commodification or saleability of the artwork which inevitably comes from a for-profit art gallery. We will continue to develop something unique in the city as a result of artists that don’t have to compromise ideas for the saleability of the work.

You have the ability to make a huge splash with your work in a town like Pittsburgh. Absolutely. I think it’s important for artists to know they can always have a show regardless of what they’re producing. Quality isn’t determined by the saleability of the artwork. We’ll basically show anything as long as we can determine that the quality is sufficient to do so.

How did you locate artists for the upcoming exhibit at Wood Street? Bill Vorn and Louis-Phillippe Demers? I’ve known Bill Vorn for a number of years and this is actually his second showing here. He was here about four and half years ago with a show called Hysterical Machines. It was hysterical and people loved it – the robots. I recently saw an older piece from Bill Vorn and his collaborator – Louis-Phillip Demers – in Montreal. I really wanted to show it because I think it’s a really important piece so I invited them back.

What’s your ultimate goal for the Gallery Crawl? I think that we need to continue what we’re doing but we need to develop a few more exceptions to the rule. Shows that may not be typically found at the Warhol might be exceptional at a Gallery Crawl and have an intriguing “wow factor” to them. I can’t tell you what we’re going to be doing but – not this crawl – but the one after will have several changes.

On a different note – I heard that the Trust may be trying to buy the August Wilson Center. No, not at all. I think that was a wild rumor and don’t believe a word of it.

We’re excited for the Cosmopolitan party that will be part of the crawl. It brings a lot of youth into downtown and we love that.

How cool is it to have your office in the Wood Street station? The building was built in 1927 as the Commercial Bank of Pittsburgh. The bank went under when the stock exchange crashed in 1929. The building used to be the Azen Building where people used to buy furs.

Thank you to everyone involved with this interview. I appreciate the opportunity to do interviews like this and look to do many more.

Make sure to attend the Gallery Crawl this week on Friday. Some amazing work will be debuting in town.

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One thought on “a brief interview with Pittsburgh Cultural Trust curator, Murray Horne

  1. Message for Murray Horne – my sister in law is Brenda Ann Horne from NZ – we were chatting today and she spoke of her brother Murray, the artist who lives in America. So I Googled and here I am! Brenda has a daughter and a nine month old grandson. Would love you to email me should you be her brother. Pittsburgh sounded so familiar to her when I read to her from the interview posted above. My name is Margaret as per email provided. I live in Brisbane Queensland Australia and Brenda is a 40min drive from my place.

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