Street Art At the Stifel

#OpenOnPenn Brings Urban Vibe to Wheeling

“Rose Goddess” by Danielle Robinson

WHEELING – If anyone driving on National Road past the Stifel Fine Arts Center on Thursday glances over, he will see eye-catching, mobile art created on unconventional canvases — automobiles.

Three “art cars,” created by Jason Sauer of Pittsburgh’s Most Wanted Fine Art, will be on display outside the historic Stifel mansion during the free, public opening reception for the #OpenOnPenn contemporary art exhibition.

So, what exactly is an “art car”? An art car is a road-worthy vehicle that has been transformed as an act of personal and artistic expression. They range from imaginatively painted vehicles to extravagant sculptured shells. Pittsburgh son and legendary pop artist Andy Warhol painted what is considered to be the most valuable art car in the world, a BMW MI, in the late 1970s.

Creating art cars is just one of Sauer’s many artistic passions. He creates art from objects locally sourced from his environment and uses the art to create dialogue within his community. From PPG Paint & Alcoa Metal for paintings, to recycled materials for sculptures or smashing up cars in the demolition derby as performance art, Sauer shows the power of rebirth. He and his wife, Nina, are owners of Most Wanted Fine Art on Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh and are committed to bringing diverse people and voices to the arts district.

Sauer is one of five artists featured in the #OpenOnPenn exhibit at Oglebay Institute’s Stifel Fine Arts Center in Wheeling.

Above, “ROWDY CRAZY MOUTH” by jason sauer

The exhibit features work from artists of Pittsburgh’s vibrant Penn Avenue Arts District, which sprang from the Penn Avenue Arts Initiative. The initiative revitalized the Penn Avenue Corridor into a creative, eclectic and happening business district rooted in the arts and one of the city’s hottest cultural areas.

Oglebay Institute curator of exhibitions Michael McKowen said the exhibit has a “contemporary, urban, street-art feel” and includes diversity of style, media, subject matter, influences and voice.

“One of my goals as curator is to bring exhibits to Wheeling that feature non-traditional mediums, expand our definition of what art is and cause us to rethink the boundaries between visual arts and popular culture.”

McKowen said some of the artists in this exhibition are formally trained with degrees in art, while others are self-taught and still others have developed their style from the graffiti that adorns public structures.

“Much of the art has a very strong graphic appeal that reflects urban cultural trends and style.”

Photos Provided Three art cars, such as this one created by Jason Sauer of Pittsburgh’s Most Wanted Fine Art, will be on display for the opening reception of the contemporary art exhibit #OpenOnPenn Thursday at Oglebay Institute’s Stifel Fine Arts Center.

Many artists featured in #OpenOnPenn speak to social justice issues.

“Their work often is in response to social, political, gender and race issues facing their community and the country at large,” McKowen explained.

In addition to the artwork, newspapers, video and photographs will be on display that chronicle how the art initiative revitalized Penn Avenue into the cultural exchange it is today.

“The exhibit celebrates the power of the arts to revitalize neighborhoods and to be a catalyst for positive change. It also illustrates the cultural, political, economic and personal dimensions of art.”

Public art centers such as the Stifel Fine Arts Center, McKowen said, have a special mission to foster artistic growth.

Right, “tutu” by Sam Thorp

“Part of the growth process is to have new stimulus. We strive to bring in things we normally don’t get to see in Wheeling and make them accessible for local artists and art lovers to view and engage in conversation.”

The Bloomfield-Garfield Corp. and Most Wanted Fine Art have jointly organized #OpenOnPenn. In addition to Sauer, other featured artists include Danielle Robinson, D.S. Kinsel, J.R. Holtz, and Sam Thorp. More than a dozen Penn Avenue galleries will be represented with works in the show.

About the Artists

J.R. Holtz — With a self-described “novelty” style, Holtz paints directly on glass, which gives his work a glossy, finished look — almost like framed animation cels. His diverse subject matter ranges from cartoon characters, superheroes and pop culture icons to nature images, science fiction and Pittsburgh sports.

D.S. Kinsel — Kinsel is a self-described “black creative entrepreneur and cultural agitator,” whose mediums for creative expression include painting, window display, installation, curating, action-painting, non-traditional performance and social media. His work is a reflection of his race, culture and generation. He strives to encourage audiences to re-evaluate their ideas of fine art.

J.R. Holtz

Danielle Robinson — Robinson’s work is inspired by black women, fantasy/sci-fi, graffiti, color, nature, art deco, African art and the occult. When asked about black women as a recurring theme in her work, Robison says, “Black women have always been under-represented in art. I paint what I know and love. Amazing black women have always been the center of my life.”

Sam Thorp — Thorp is classically trained in anatomy and fine art but experiments in modern technology to supplement traditional image making. Thorp’s subject matter is rooted in Western tradition of figure studies with a deep interest in psychology and the personality of the models. The result is not a mere design or hunks of flesh but an expression of the living, breathing uniqueness of each person.

#OpenOnPenn opens Thursday with a free, public reception from 6:30-8:30 p.m. McKowen said the Stifel Center will take on a “Penn Ave vibe” complete with Pittsburgh pierogies, beer from Pittsburgh’s Rock Bottom Brewery and music from Penn Ave artists. An artist market, similar to the popular Penn Ave street market, will be set up in the gallery with a variety of artwork available to purchase. Several Penn Avenue artists will be in attendance and available to discuss their artwork as well as the Penn Ave revitalization through the arts.

“Everyone is invited to join us and soak up Penn Avenue’s creative energy. Families, singles, students, seniors, regular Stifel patrons and first-time visitors will find this exhibit engaging,” McKowen said.

The exhibit will be on display through Oct. 27. The Stifel Center is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. Evening hours are dependent on classes and special events. Admission is free.


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