Shared from the 9/10/2018 Mon Valley Independent eEdition

Creative Corridor reaches out to Valley

The effort hopes to promote and expand events in area communities.

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Submitted Adam Piscatelli works on a project at the River of Steel Arts Community Day in July. The program’s new extension, the Mon Valley Creative Corridor, could bring similar demonstrations and initiatives to local communities.

The effects of a new initiative to further creativity and expression in towns along the Monongahela River will soon be seen around the Valley thanks to a Pittsburgh-area organization.

Rivers of Steel Arts, a division of Rivers of Steel Heritage Corporation, uses creative ways to interpret local history and reimagine what the future of the region could look like through festivals, exhibitions, workshops, tours and other pop-up events.

A new initiative under the organization, the Mon Valley Creative Corridor, was launched in April.

The concept was developed to help local communities “leverage their historical, cultural and natural assets into economic opportunities and rebrand the Mon Valley as an ideal location for artisans and creative businesses,” according to a press release.

Chris McGinnis, director and chief curator of Rivers of Steel Arts, said the program is “about as new as it gets” and creativity is at the heart of the effort.

The organization currently runs several successful arts programs, workshops and events at different locations including Carrie Furnaces – a national historic landmark that exemplifies pre-World War II iron-making technology.

“We have several successful programs at different locations and thought we could expand that to encompass other areas intentionally along the river in the Mon Valley,” McGinnis said.

The program has several key components.

Rather than searching for historic sites, which the Mon Valley has many of, the initiative is focused on a “pop-up” style of community outreach.

By working with community organizations, Main Street programs, development organizations and individuals, it aims to expand artistic happenings in local communities.

“From metal casting or blacksmithing demonstrations, to murals and festivals, we want to work with organizations and individuals to respond to what their needs might be and to help things they are hoping to have unfold come to fruition,” Mc-Ginnis said. “We want to work with them and promote and expand upon what is already happening in these communities.”

McGinnis said the organization is not meant “to step on toes.”

“In no way do we want to suggest things already happening are not successful,” he said, “but we want to supplement them and be an addition to those programs and help them to create more dynamic experiences.”

The new program will also help “creatives” in the Mon Valley such as crafters, makers and tradespeople who may be looking for ways to showcase their talent.

“We also want to involve creatives living and working in the area to work with makers and artists that may be living in these Mon Valley towns who are looking for opportunities to show other people what they do,” Mc-Ginnis said.

He said the initiative hopes to compile a list of such people who would like to be included at festivals, exhibitions or demonstrations to bring opportunities commonly found in Pittsburgh to the Mon Valley by featuring the people who live and work here.

The Mon Valley was the perfect focal point for the project, he added.

“At the base level of why we decided to focus here, the Mon Valley has a history of being known as the workshop of America,” McGinnis said. “There is industrial grit in these towns that were integrated around steel and glass and the other industries that used to thrive here. There is a true legacy of hard work.” He said Mon Valley towns have unique character that can be creatively built upon. “People are working hard to attract tourism dollars to help make their communities spaces that people want to live work and play in,” Mc-Ginnis said. “And they want to do that in authentic ways.” He cited the Magic City as an example .

“Charleroi has one of the best downtown spaces I have ever seen,” he said, “with storefronts with these huge windows from the glass industry that is part of their history.

“That is authentic. That is character. We think we can help with what towns are trying to do recreationally through artistic initiatives.” The program held an aluminum casting demonstration in Monessen in May and was recently involved in a mural project in Brownsville. It also has a “filmtique” planned in Monongahela during the annual Fleatique on the Mon Oct. 6. on Main Street in Monongahela and New Eagle.

It will be a “pop-up” antique film project with antique projectors, and the public will be able to bring vintage films to be screened.

There will also be an interactive pedal projection machine that uses a bicycle to power a projector.

It will be the last planned event for the Mon Valley Creative Corridor for the year, but winter events may be scheduled.

McGinnis said the benefit of the new initiative is that it reaches out to communities and the people who live there.

“This is an outreach and a truly public facing outreach,” McGinnis said. “Most of what we do will not happen in one of our buildings; it will happen in your communities.”

Moving forward, he hopes to generate ideas and start conversations with those looking to get involved.

“I want people to recognize we are looking for ideas and collaboration,” McGinnis said. “We want to help achieve the creative aspirations individuals or organizations might have, so we want to hear from you.

“This is not a top-down organization and it is not at all inaccessible. I am interested in gathering a collection of down-to-earth people who want to connect with other communities and each other to make interesting things happen in the Mon Valley.” For more information or get involved, email McGinnis at chris@rosarts.org.

“There is industrial grit in these towns that were integrated around steel and glass and the other industries that used to thrive here. There is a true legacy of hard work.”
CHRIS MCGINNIS
DIRECTOR AND CHIEF CURATOR OF RIVERS OF STEELARTS

See this article in the e-Edition Here