Friday, June 14, 2013

Out and About: the Mattress Factory

Out & About: The Mattress Factory
By PDP Intern Marissa

For this week’s Out and About, I visited the Mattress Factory at 500 Sampsonia Way located on the North Shore. At first thought, and having never been to the Mattress Factory, I pictured the museum covered in wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling plush, cushiony mattresses that you were free to jump and play on. Who can blame me with a name like that? But in my delightful discovery, the Mattress Factory is so much more mentally and physically stimulating than a bunch of fluffy beds. The museum is made up of five floors, each holding several different room-sized works of contemporary art that totally envelop you.

Several exhibits throughout the Mattress Factory are a part of the Feminist and… exhibition, which presents new work by six women artists from around the world whose practices of feminism show that the issue is of many cultures, generations, and can be expressed in many ways. Upon walking out of the elevator on the fourth level, the first thing to catch my eye was an off-white room that had Arabic calligraphy writings covering the walls and floor. This is the work of Parastou Forouhar, an artist from Tehran, who expresses her critical attitude toward Iranian politics and Islamic Fundamentalism in this feminist piece entitled Written Room. After exploring this space, I found myself desperately wanting to know what the writings stated.

Another element of Feminist and… was the piece Active Energy: Pittsburgh, by local Ph.D visual artist Loraine Leeson. This project focused on regeneration of the urban environment, and how it affects both the general quality of life and personal identity. The six-point suspended projection composition is a collection of video interviews of residents of Pittsburgh who are affected by this issue, young and old, male and female. This work was my favorite of the entire gallery because it connects to the people of the Pittsburgh community, and gave them the opportunity for their voices to be heard. I loved hearing their stories and experiences relating to urban development.

One of the long-term exhibits at the Mattress Factory that I found remarkable yet simple, was a room filled with black light, mirrored ceilings and walls, and a white floor covered in brightly colored dots. This creation, which is rightfully named Infinity Dots Mirrored Room, is by Japanese born artist, Yayoi Kusama. When I closed the door to the exhibit, I was able to realize how brilliant yet terrifying this piece actually was. The infinite copies of myself and the room that the mirrors reflected left me with a feeling of emptiness. I could not figure out why this room made me feel so uneasy, until I later read this quote by Kusama: “A mirror is a device which obliterates everything including myself and others in the light of another world or a gallant apparatus which creates nothingness.”

In the basement of the museum I discovered two orange-red flower pots hanging a foot off the ground, suspended by wire from the ceiling. I stared at this display for about a minute, and was getting a little impatient waiting for it to do something, when a noise suddenly came from the two pots, making them vibrate slightly, and caused the cracked paint inside the pots to shake. After learning more about the two objects, I learned that the piece Ash, is by Rolf Julius, and that there are actually speakers inside the pots that are recordings of everyday sounds such as birds, radiators, and crickets, fixed together to make the collage of noise I heard.

After an hour and fifteen minutes of getting lost in the art of the museum, I returned to the main floor of the Mattress Factory where, I of course being the shopaholic that I am, was drawn to the gift shop. There were so many neat knickknacks, books, clothing, and other unique gifts inside, I would have bought one of each if I didn’t have a college student-sized wallet.  Overall, my trip to the Mattress Factory was inspiring and enlightening. I will definitely return to see new exhibits in the future, and I recommend it to any Pittsburgher or out-of-towner looking to satisfy their need for an extraordinary artistic experience.

To learn more about these and other current exhibitions and events, visit

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Get to Know the PDP Staff: Robyn Williams

Robyn Williams (center) receiving the President's Award at the 2013 Annual Meeting with PDP Chairman of the Board, Thomas J. Harrington (left) and PDP President & CEO, Jeremy Waldrup (right)

Name: Robyn Williams

Title of job: Director of Finance

What you do at the PDP?:  I am responsible for all financial aspects of the organization as well as the HR and IT functions.

How long have you been working for the PDP?:  Since November 2008 – 4 1/2 years

How long have you lived in Pittsburgh?:  It will be ten years in August 2013

What do you enjoy doing for relaxation? 
I love to read, do yoga and take walks with my husband and son.

What is your favorite Downtown restaurant? Why? What’s your favorite dish?  
My favorite restaurant is the Diamond Market Grill in Market Square.  They have such great food, service and the overall experience is always excellent!  My favorite dish is the potato and feta pierogies. They also make a fierce Moscow Mule!

What is your favorite book, movie or musician?  My favorite musicians – The Clarks (of course!).

Do you have a favorite movie made in Pittsburgh? If so what is it and why?  
It would definitely have to be The Dark Knight Rises because I was working Downtown while they were filming it and it was awesome to watch so many scenes as they were being filmed.  What was even better was seeing how wonderful Pittsburgh looked on the big screen when we saw the movie.

If you had $100 to spend in Downtown Pittsburgh, what would you spend it on? 
I would head to the Market Square Farmer's Market on a Thursday and stock up on fresh produce, beautiful flowers and awesome salsa!

What is your favorite piece of public art in Downtown? Why?  
Definitely the bronze magnolia trees in the parklet across from Katz Plaza.  Magnolias are my favorite and their blooms simply don’t last very long so to see the trees every single day is magical.

What do you like most about working at the PDP?  
The best part of working at the PDP is that I get to live out my passion of working in accounting and at the same time be involved in so many other aspects of the organization.  At the PDP you can be as involved as you want to be and having the opportunity to help plan, organize and execute great events for downtown is an honor!