Photo by Douglas McGlynn
Bill and Kim Gandy have come a long way since their pop funk past, and are planning on opening a historical gallery on East Ohio Street in Historic Deutschtown.
By Douglas McGlynn
Pittsburgh’s Northside is an incredible old neighborhood with an important history. However, much of that history is overlooked because there is nowhere to present it.
If Northsiders Bill and Kim Gandy have anything to do with it, that’s about to change with the opening of the Allegheny City Historical Gallery on East Ohio Street in Historic Deutschtown.
The Gandys, lifelong Northsiders, have taken it upon themselves to preserve this history while also giving back to the community with a crowd-funding initiative.
“I was looking online for old images of Northside just because I was interested,” Bill said, explaining how it all started. “And then I posted them in a Facebook group where they’ve been getting hundreds of likes.”
The community response to the photographs has been incredible and people have been donating their own photos to the cause, according to Bill.
“People have been sending me personal photos from as far back as the 1800s of Northside scenes and Northside families, and we’re still getting some,” Bill said.
The photos were so popular that Councilwoman Darlene Harris, who also expressed interest in the collection, contacted Gandy.
“I said to Councilwoman Harris we should open a gallery with this,” Bill said.
That’s when they met with Councilwoman Harris, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Northside Leadership Conference to discuss the future of the project.
“The URA put $7,000 toward the project and Councilwoman Harris put another $5,000 toward it,” Bill said.
The Gandys have also started an Indiegogo page and are seeking donations from the community to make the gallery an even better place. The goal for the crowd funding initiative is set at $5,000.
“We’re hoping to open soon,” Bill said. “The gallery is going to be something spectacular. Not only will we have photos, we’ll have toys and other historical objects that people are donating.”
The plan is to make the new gallery more than just an exhibit with plans of a gift shop as well as a sitting area where visitors can relax. The gift shop is set to include all sorts of memorabilia of the Northside. It will also carry books of local writers and photographers.
“We plan to make it a comfortable environment to come and enjoy some local history,” Kim said.
The plan is to open the gallery soon. The crowd funding initiative ends on Dec. 9.
Those interested can find out more about the gallery and can contribute to the cause by visiting the Allegheny City Historical Gallery page on the Indiegogo website. The Gallery will be located above Bistro To Go cafe on East Ohio Street.
Apart from being historians, Bill and Kim are also lifelong musicians.They met at Perry high school in the mid-80s and went on to become founding members of a local pop funk group called “The Assignment.”
“We recorded some music and then took it to a distributor in the Strip District,” Bill said. “We got some popularity, but after a while the distributor disappeared and that was pretty much the end of it.”
The group certainly did achieve popularity and appeared in Right On! And Billboard magazines.
They recently discovered their music has quite a following throughout the world, though
Their son, Willy James, found people selling their music online after a quick Google search. Some sites were selling their single, “Jammin’ to the Beat,” for up to $40.
Thhe Gandys continued their music career after The Assignment split up and are currently performing in another group.
“We have a group now called Suicidal Squirrels and we do hip-hop,” Kim said. “We did three to four shows a week depending on holidays.”
Suicidal Squirrels have performed over 500 shows with many of them taking place in the Midwest.
“We’re still music promoters,” Kim said. “We like to bring in local talents of oldies and comedy and all that, but we’re still mainly hip-hop.”
Items and photographs of The Assignment will be included in the new gallery.
The Gandys left Pittsburgh in the mid-90s, but moved back just five years ago, and it is clear when talking to them that their love of Pittsburgh’s Northside runs very deep.
Other exhibits on display will include items from Three Rivers Stadium and photographs of each neighborhood in the Northside throughout the years.
Photo courtesy of Willy James.
1980s promo photo of The Assignment.