After more than 30 years in the South Side, Silver Eye Center for Photography will open its doors to the public Saturday at its new home at 4808 Penn Ave. in Bloomfield.
“We’re going to miss our old neighbors at City Theatre, WYEP,” says Silver Eye Executive Director, David Oresick, “but it just didn’t seem like the right neighborhood for a small visual arts organization.”
Oresick, a Pittsburgh native who spent time with arts organizations in Chicago and Syracuse in recent years, says that when he took over as executive director three years ago, one of his first priorities was to consider the future of the organization: Should they reinvest in their old, cramped gallery space or search for a new, more fitting home to match their ambitious agenda?
“To grow our audience we needed to be part of a community,” he says. “We felt that Penn Avenue best fit with our spirit and small, independent co-op roots. There are a lot of artists here who are speaking our language.”
The nonprofit organization is the product of a 1985 merger between Silver Eye Photographic Workshop and Blatant Image Gallery, a cooperative gallery that showcased Pittsburgh photographers.
The new space, at just over 2,000 square feet, is more than 40 percent larger than the South Side location. It’s situated next to arts organizations Assemble and Level Up Studios, and allows them to take part in the monthly Unblurred: First Fridays gallery crawl on Penn Ave. Silver Eye leases the space from the Bloomfield Garfield Corporation; Action Housing developed the building.
“Having a landlord invested in bringing the arts to the community made it the perfect situation for us,” says Oresick.
The interior space was designed by architect Jeffrey King of The Design Alliance. It boasts higher ceilings for more exhibition space, custom light fixtures from new neighbors Pittsburgh Glass Center, and a nook where Troy Hill’s Spaces Corners can display and sell small-run photography books from independent publishers and photographers.
There’s also an adjacent lab space where Silver Eye will offer classes, printmaking and framing services. It’s another way in which Oresick and crew are recommitting to showcasing and supporting Pittsburgh area photographers.
Silver Eye is bringing amazing artists from all over the world to Pittsburgh, says Oresick, and connecting the great artists in Pittsburgh with artists, curators and galleries in other cities.
Their first exhibition at the new space, Past Present Future: Western Pennsylvania’s People and Places opens to the public Tuesday, June 27. It features some 120 prints from 60 photographers taken in and around Western Pennsylvania over the past 100 years, including photos from the likes of W. Eugene Smith and Duane Michals juxtaposed against works from contemporary photographers in an attempt to find common themes and connections.
Oresick speaks specifically about a video installation by the artist Matthew Conboy which fades back and forth between photos of the city taken by Gene Smith and ones that Conboy rephotographed from the same location some 60 years later.
“It’s about the ways cities change, which is kind of the story of Silver Eye, too,” says Oresick.
“One neighborhood to another, you try to find your home.”
Silver Eye reopens Saturday, June 24 with a ticketed reception. There will be another, free opening reception as part of Unblurred on Friday, July 7, from 6-10 p.m..