When you think of museums in Pittsburgh, the Warhol may instantly pop into your head. It’s a quirky and classic museum that encapsulates the work and mind of our very own Pittsburgh native, Andy Warhol. But the Warhol isn’t the only museum worth a trip to—in fact, the Mattress Factory is a one-of-a-kind art museum that should land a spot in your rotation of annual museum visits.
The Mattress Factory
Located in a federally designated historic Victorian-era district, the Mattress Factory has been showcasing contemporary art in the North Side since its opening in 1977. But it’s not just any kind of art. The museum showcases art installations (three-dimensional works) that are showcased in room-sized environments. Each exhibition is also paired up with educational programs, such as hands-on art projects, workshops and lectures, which are designed to give a unique experience to the 55,000 visitors that stop by each year.
How It Works: What’s really unique about the museum is something that visitors might not be aware of. The museum has a residency program, which has supported more than 500 artists throughout the world. The program works like this: artists come to Pittsburgh, and the museum supports them in every facet. They provide housing, transportation, materials and equipment, curatorial support, skilled and unskilled labor, an opening reception to present their exhibition and more. They are completely supported by the museum while these artists pursue their artistic dreams. These hundreds of artists come from all over the world, with over ten percent of them reporting from Europe.
History Lesson: Their exhibits are shown throughout the year in conjunction with over 17 permanent collections featuring artists such as James Turrell, Winifred Lutz, Rolf Julius and more. And it’s not just the artwork that is out of the ordinary; these galleries are situated in two creatively reused buildings, which are located in the Mexican War Streets Historic District. This specific area features a cluster of streets that are named after battles and generals of the Mexican-American War.
What to Expect: Performance artist Tavia La Follete curates the exhibit, Sites of Passage. La Follete had participated in the Artists Residency Egypt a few summers ago, where she laid the groundwork for this exhibit, on view through January 8.
An upcoming exhibit, titled Factory Installed, will open on October 28 and close February 26. This exhibition will draw work from a selection of artists from throughout the world who have submitted applications to their residency program. Up to six artists will work and live in residence during September and October in order to create their masterpieces. Be sure to check out the opening reception on October 28.
Also, if you’re an artist, or have one in the making, take a look at their programs for adults, children and family. There’s plenty of education available at the museum for those looking for it. Check out their website for further information on these education opportunities.
Shopping and Dining: The Mattress Factory has its very own shop, full of tons of unique gifts that you would expect only from this quirky museum—exhibition catalogues, children and adult books, beautiful houseware, wind-up toys, pinhole cameras and more. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head over to their café, which offers a great menu—soups, salads, specialty entrees, sandwiches, pizzas and creative desserts, all provided by M catering. Take your food out to their beautiful patio if the weather is behaving.
The Mattress Factory is literally one of those hole-in-the wall gems, a place that many native Pittsburghers may have never heard of. It may be even a little tricky to find, but when you do, you’ll be glad you did.
Christine Mouser is currently living in the Pittsburgh area, where she is an editorial intern for Pittsburgh Magazine. She is set to graduate from Penn State University this summer, with a degree in print journalism. She has written for HappyValley.com, Town&Gown magazine and Penn State’s Valley magazine.