Above: Mattress Factory employees install final touches on Chiharu Shiota’s exhibit, which will be the first at 516 Sampsonia Way. (photo by Kelsey Shea)
by Kelsey Shea
When the Mattress Factory decided to expand, it could have easily spilled over into its parking lot, stayed on the same Sampsonia Street lot and grown into a large, lumped, Carnegie Museum-style museum explained museum president and co-director Barbara Luderowski.
But it didn’t.
Instead, the museum expanded into satellite properties in old Central Northside homes that not only provide unique spaces artists, but also require visitors to get out and walk through and explore the Northside neighborhood.
On September 12, the Mattress Factory’s second satellite gallery will open with an exhibition by Chiharu Shiota at 516 Sampsonia Way, a block from the museum’s main building.
“We’ve integrated ourselves into the neighborhood, which means you have to have foot traffic,” said Luderowski, who explained that impact studies have proved that this approach has positively contributed to the development and revitalization of the Central Northside.
The new gallery is in a 123-year-old Victorian building that the Mattress Factory bought in 2001 with a preservation loan from Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation.
The museum began renovating the building in late 2011 with a community infrastructure and tourism fund grant from the Heinz Endowments. A recent $500,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation has allowed the museum to complete work on the gallery has covered the installation of an HVAC system, new plumbing and electrical wiring as well as accessibility features.
Rather than overhauling the property and transforming it into a traditional, white-walled art gallery, the Mattress Factory preserved many of the original interior and exterior features of the building.
The gallery remains broken up into rooms and features exposed brick, broken plaster and other raw aspects that kept project costs low and the ambiance of the gallery unique.
“Each provides an entirely different space for artists to choose from,” said Luderowski.
516 Sampsonia added 2,500 square feet of exhibit space to the museum and will house permanent fixtures and traveling exhibits. There is also a garden in the back that will be used for events and education programs on urban gardening.
Shiota’s installation features everyday items displayed throughout the house that are shrouded in black webs of string.
“As we prepared to open our third venue, it was important to us to find an artist whose installation would take advantage of the space,” said Luderowski. “The spirit of Chiharu Shiota’s art and that of 516 Sampsonia Way are a perfect match. Chiharu’s work is not only approachable for visitors, but its nod to the past pairs well with the building, which has a fascinating history of over 100 years in this neighborhood.”