New members will “bring new energy and expertise” to the mission of the museum.

By Briana Canady

Photo: Nathan Hall’s installation piece titled “You’re Not the Boss of Me” includes a harpsichord suspended by bondage rope, representing the artist’s overlapping identities as a classically-trained composer and a contemporary queer artist. By Tom Little

On Jan. 28, 2021, the Mattress Factory elected six new members to join the museum’s Board of Directors.

“We welcome six members who bring new energy and expertise to the Mattress Factory’s mission,” Mattress Factory Governance Committee Chair Sherry DuCarme said in a press release.

The newly elected members are Albert Fonticiella, Andi Irwin, Zach Malone, Shikeith, Sharon Werner and Brian Wongchaowart. 

Fonticiella is the vice president of corporate services for Edwards Marc Brands and The Milk Shake Factory. Irwin is a Pittsburgh-based abstract painter and community artist. Malone is a partner at Magarac Ventures, a venture capital firm based in Pittsburgh. Werner is the chief operating officer for the Corporate Responsibility Group at PNC Bank. Wongchaowart works for Google as a senior software engineer.

“We are thrilled to welcome [the new members] at a time when, perhaps more than ever, artists need people to say yes to their ideas and to support and elevate their work,” said Hayley Haldeman, interim executive director at the Mattress Factory 

These past two years have been a challenging and controversial time for the Mattress Factory. In 2018, there were allegations of sexual misconduct from employees at the museum.

Traci Weatherford-Brown, chief advancement and strategic initiatives officer of the Mattress Factory, commented on the shift within these past years and how Haldeman helped push the museum forward.

“Hayley Haldeman’s focus has truly been on infrastructure of the museum, getting all the policies in place, and engagement with board and governance that is needed, which is a product to make sure we do what we need to do in such circumstances,” Weatherford-Brown said.

The COVID-19 pandemic was another challenge for the Mattress Factory. It set in motion the museum closing for nearly six months in 2020.

“We wanted to be sure that our neighbors were safe, so we opened a lot later than other museums,” Weatherford-Brown said. 

During some of this long closure, the museum gave its members access to artists through studio visits via Zoom, where the artists would present to members. The format allowed for more conversation on the artwork. 

After a separate two-month closure prompted by an increase in COVID-19 cases during the 2020 winter holidays, the Mattress Factory reopened on Wednesday, Feb. 10. 

The museum’s current exhibition, according to the museum website, includes an art showcase from Shikeith, one of the newly elected board members. In this exhibition, Shikeith collaborated with producer and rapper Trapcry; saxophonist and producer Corey Staggers; and artist Justen LeRoy on its music and sound elements. The title of his exhibition is inspired by Aretha Franklin’s song “Spirit in the Dark” from her 1970 album of the same name. According to a press release, Shikeith, originally from Philadelphia, lives and works in Pittsburgh. He received his MFA in sculpture from The Yale School of Art, after earning his Bachelor of Arts in integrative arts from The Pennsylvania State University.

Other artists who currently have their artwork installed at the Mattress Factory include Jennifer Angus, a professor in the design studies department at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Angus’s showcase, “The Museum of All Things,” focuses on insects and how without them, humankind could not survive past six weeks on Earth.

In March 2021, the Mattress Factory plans to feature Andréa Stanislav, an American artist based in New York City, St. Petersburg, Russia, and Bloomington, Indiana. Stanislav will showcase her artwork titled “Convergence Infinité,” where she will present a body of sculpture, a drone video, and sound work that explores the natural and social histories of the Cahokia Mounds and the city of St. Louis.

For the fall 2021 exhibition, the Mattress Factory will work with co-curators Sylvia Rhor Samaniego and Sean Beauford, and for spring 2022, the museum will work with curator Dr. Tavia La Follette on a scheduled exhibition in her “Sites of Passage” series that will feature women and non-binary artists from Russia and the U.S.

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