A collaboration between Mt. Lebanon business owners will bring a new 10,000 square-foot art and cultural space to the old Rollier’s Hardware barn at the end of McFarland Road. The project will dramatically expand artist representation in Pittsburgh and the South Hills.
Eight years ago Kate McGrady created Koolkat Designs, an Uptown Mt. Lebanon boutique that originally featured work from 22 local artists, but has since grown to represent more than 200. With increasing demand to take on more artists and show more work–at the moment about 60 percent of the boutique is given over to jewelry–McGrady needed a new space.
The former home of Rollier’s Hardware, a big red barn which has since been a Boston Market, hobby shop and daycare, caught her eye.
“That’s an interesting venue for what I do,” McGrady remembers thinking.
She stopped inside to talk with owners, Bob, Chuck and Doug Satterfield, to inquire about their plans for the building. When asked what she would do with the barn, McGrady laid out the bones of an idea that will come to fruition in spring 2015.
The barn will become the home of The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh, a partnership between the Satterfield Brothers, McGrady and her creative director, Kate Wagle Hitmar (all native Pittsburghers). The renovated space will feature a showroom that will afford room for regional artists including photographers, illustrators, fiber, glass and iron artists and jewelry makers, many of whom approached McGrady at her Three Rivers Arts Festival booth over the years. A demand from artists seeking representation and customers clamoring for more artists served to catapult this idea into reality, she says.
“This is taking not a small step but a very large step,” McGrady says. “We want to provide a space to connect different ideas and bring people together to share them.”
Artsmiths will also offer a cafe for live events, from musical performances and lectures to live drawing classes. Enrico Biscotti Company will provide the lion’s share of the cafe’s treats; Enrico’s proprietor Larry Lagatutta is from Mt. Lebanon. Downstairs will provide a dedicated space for classes, a rotating exhibition and more showroom space. McGrady and her partners intend to use the outdoor space for food truck roundups and other events.
Artsmiths will create a platform for individual businesses to further their reach says McGrady.
“There are so many people who will be a part of this. It’s a collaboration between local Pittsburgh businesses and we will connect them to the community,” she says. “That’s very difficult to do as a single small business.”
Acting as a platform to the region’s artists, Artsmiths’ partners see the project as a celebration of Pittsburgh values.
“Pittsburghers love Pittsburgh,” McGrady says. “We live here, we feel it. It’s a beautiful place that values hard work and making things by hand. We feel that we’re embracing that in a way that hasn’t really been done here before.”
Over the next few months TedCo, the project’s contractor, will complete internal renovations before beginning on the barn’s exterior. In the spring the site will have its parking lot regraded to offer fresh, free parking to the estimated 30,000 drivers that pass by daily. Berryman Associates Architects of Shadyside are the project’s designers.