Saturday, January 15, 2022
How Creativity Triumphs

Call it inspiration. Call it motivation. Call it expression or communication. No matter how you frame it, the process between creative conception and a presented product is infused with a bit of alchemy, regardless of the medium in which it is rendered. And today we have four varied examples to share—all inspired by an industrial or post-industrial muse.

Chronologically, our first offering dates to the 1860s but is also something quite fresh. A Literary Look is this newsletter's newest feature; Rivers of Steel staff present a review of recommended reads. The inagural piece is from Dr. Kirsten L. Paine who examines the enduring legacy of the industrial muse from a nineteenth-century novella through the lens of contemporary art.

Flash forward to the 1980s, graffiti has emerged as a radical urban art form, which in turn has inspiried a very small subset of artists to transform the medium, elevating the expression from a two-dimensional construct to a three-dimensional one that is cast in iron. Rivers of Steel is partnering with two artists who pioneed this scuptural graffiti movement to create a new artist resisidency in the Mon Valley that expands art form's reach and examines it from a post-industrial perspective.

Speaking of graffiti, it just so happens that graffiti style-writing for community revitalization is the theme of our feature story this week. In 2020 and 2021, Rivers of Steel partnered with community leaders in New Kensington, PA to harness the power of large-scale, text-based murals to enhance the visibility of the city, create a sense of place—and bring color, vibrancy, and new character to the urban environment. Read about how this project celebrating community connections will have a statewide impact.

And if you're looking for proof that we are living in the future, take as evidence this recent collaboration with students from CMU's Entertainment Technology Center, who have virtually recreated our industrial past using augmented reality to elevate our tours.

In Rivers of Steel's mission statement, we say that our work "strengthens the economic and cultural fabric of western Pennsylvania by fostering dynamic initiatives and transformative experiences." Sometimes folks ask, "But what does that really mean?" In response, I offer today's stories as a snapshot of what this mission looks like in practice.
This CommUNITY mural by Shane Pilster inspired the Murals on a Mission partnership.
Murals on a Mission: New Kensington
Community revitalization works best when it is a ground-up effort that begins with the community's own advocates and offers an inclusive experience for members at large. Murals on a Mission: New Kensington applied these principles to create an arts destination in the newly reawakened city.
Carrie Furnace Scenic View appears courtesy of the William J. Gaughan Collection, University of Pittsburgh, July 1946.
Life in the Iron Mills and the Industrial Muse
A Literary Look is a new series that features recommended reads from the Rivers of Steel staff. For the inaugural post, Dr. Kristen L. Paine, our site management coordinator and interpretive specialist, offers up an examination of one of her favorite books, Life in the Iron Mills, a novella by Rebecca Harding Davis that was first published in The Atlantic Monthly in April, 1861. In this piece, Kirsten examines the enduring legacy of the industrial muse and how the human spirit can triumph over the laborer’s toil. 
Artist Carlos Mare, one of the two lead artists for the Industrial Grit and Graffiti residency, stands with cast iron sculptures created at the Carrie Furnaces in 2017. Image courtesy of the artist.
A Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts Will Fund an Industrial Grit and Graffiti Program
Rivers of Steel has been approved for a $30,000 Grants for Arts Projects award from the National Endowment for the Arts to support a new Industrial Grit and Graffiti artist residency program at the Carrie Blast Furnaces. The residency will pair two lead artists—New York-based artist Carlos Mare and Pittsburgh native Michael Walsh—with community-based artists to explore the unique convergence of graffiti and metal arts. 
New CMU-Developed App Uses Augmented Reality to Enhance Industrial Tours at the Carrie Blast Furnaces
Students from Carnegie Mellon University's Entertainment Technology Center created an augmented reality app to bring the iron-making process to life. To document the project, they created a video and shared the story behind it. Check out this recently published story by Ann Lyon Ritchie & Heidi Opdyke.
Correction: Our January 1, 2021 newsletter incorrectly stated that John Mahn, Jr. had been appointed to the Fish and Boat Commission's Board of Directors, when, in fact, he has been appointed to its Board of Commissioners. Click here to read about his appointment.
Help preserve our region’s industrial and cultural heritage! Your tax-deductible contribution will help ensure that Rivers of Steel can continue to offer vital, engaging, community-based arts, education, and heritage programs for the residents of southwestern Pennsylvania and beyond.