boom concepts

Allentown, make room for BOOM.

Prolific Garfield arts collective BOOM Concepts has expanded to the Hilltop with an artist residency program in the RE360 Industry on Industry warehouse at 829 Industry Street.

The 8 to 10 artists selected for the program will become BOOM Studio artist members.

The program includes 24-hour access to semi-private and shared studio space, top priority on the BOOM artist roster for exhibition opportunities, financial and professional development services from New Sun Rising and access to Work Hard Pittsburgh‘s multimedia equipment.

“It’s really a perfect fit,” says Anqwenique Wingfield, BOOM studio manager. “The performance and exhibition space at 5139 Penn Avenue is wonderful for all kinds of things, but we were also looking for a way to provide studio space for artists to work and not just exhibit.”

BOOM was founded in July 2014 with a focus on artists representing marginalized voices.

“As we’re trying to serve artists, we’re thinking more holistically about what are all the things artists really need to be successful and thrive both personally and professionally,” says Wingfield.

Wingfield says that it was important for BOOM to “not just follow the popular wave on the East End” but also expand into other communities that have been neglected over the years. She praises the “ecosystem” of galleries and businesses that exists along Penn Avenue and hopes to catalyze a similar community in Allentown.

“In a lot of ways we’re the plug,” says Julie Mallis, BOOM’s creative director. “Art already exists here. There are artists in every single neighborhood in Pittsburgh but they don’t necessarily have any resources, locations or support.”

The first and most visible result of the expansion is veteran BOOM artist Bekezela Mguni’s Black Unicorn Library at 732 E. Warrington Avenue, which will open on February 18. Versions of the pop-up, which derives its name from Audre Lorde’s The Black Unicorn: Poems, have previously been exhibited at Smith College and the Allied Media Conference in Detroit.

Guests will be able to read books from the Carnegie Library’s collection in the space or sign up for a CLP library card on-site to take a book home with them. Mguni says the collection, which predominantly comprises the work of black authors and especially black feminist and queer authors, gives voice to those who have been marginalized or silenced both historically and in contemporary society.

A librarian by trade in addition to being an artist and screen printer, Mguni stresses the importance of literacy and critical thinking skills to shove off oppressive systems and create a new vision and framework for the world.

“Literacy in all its forms is to navigate the world with power,” says Mguni.

Artists interested in BOOM’s program can request more information by emailing

Brian Conway is a writer and photographer whose articles have appeared in the Chicago Tribune and local publications. In his free time, he operates Tripsburgh. Brian lives in the South Side.