Living downtown, Jess and I have gotten to know Kurt Shaw – owner of Liberty Avenue’s Shaw Galleries. His shop is one of my favorite places in downtown for Pittsburgh history and local cool art. I’ve recently purchased an old Pittsburgh deed from 1869 and a panoramic painting that Mr. Shaw found in 84, PA.
You can occasionally see him on KDKA’s Pittsburgh’s Hidden Treasures as an antique appraiser.
He was kind enough to do a brief email interview with me.
In a recent article, you state your gallery is “another way to create.” What are your thoughts on the current “creator’s culture” in the city?
Pittsburgh has changed tremendously for creatives since I started my career here in 1989. There is a lot more opportunity and exhibition space available to visual artists. And the public is much more receptive to seeing and experiencing art. And there are still pockets in communities and places where you can develop and grow an idea or project economically, whether it is related to the arts, business or both.What did you think when your photos of the city became so popular? Did it seem you tapped into the Pittsburgh pride that is so evident now?
I honestly didn’t expect them to become as popular as they did. It was just something I did for fun, reaching out to a larger audience through social networking. Of course, it helped that I had 5,000 Facebook friends. When the number of “likes” started to grow into the hundreds, I realized I was on to something.What kind of feedback do you hear from non-Pittsburghers that visit your gallery?
Most are happy to find a store unlike anything else in Downtown Pittsburgh. Especially Europeans and the well-traveled, because our shop is a lot like the antique print and map shops that can be found throughout England and Scotland.
What’s the most unique piece you’ve found locally?
Probably Middleton’s map of Braddock’s Road from 1847, which details General Edward Braddock’s (1695-1755) military route from Cumberland, MD, to Braddock, PA, where he died and was first buried. We sold it within three weeks of procuring it.
What would be your first piece of advice to a young Pittsburgh artist?
Work as many angles of your talents and abilities as you possibly can. When I started, Pittsburgh was a much more difficult place to make a living as an artist. So, I drew cartoons for ad agencies and design firms, did illustrations for newspapers and magazines, and even drew caricature portraits at kid’s Birthday parties. Being diversified was the key to making sure I could make a living as an artist.What is the biggest change in the city you’ve witnessed over the last 25 years?
It’s been amazing to see how much attention Pittsburgh has garnered recently on not only a national, but international scale. This can only bode well for the future. Having been in business since 2007, I for one have seen an uptick in people from other countries traveling here for various reasons. We have to pay attention to this trend, as those numbers will likely grow. And we want to make sure Pittsburgh is an interesting and fun place to visit for those people. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy having my unique business located Downtown. I feel in my own way I am adding texture to the experience of our Downtown. I think every Pittsburgher should have an interest in making our city a compelling, fun and interesting place.
is the gallery’s website.
is the Facebook page.