Carrie Deer

carrie deer_medium
Carrie Furnaces

August 16
8 p.m.

Art, industry, restoration and history will converge at a first-of-its-kind event hosted by the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area on Saturday, August 16th–and NEXTpittsburgh is happy to be a media sponsor.

Whether you caught glimpses of its towering steel armature during a tour of Carrie Furnaces, or saw photos or heard stories of its almost mythic construction by local artists, you’re not going to want to miss this chance to go behind-the-scenes and help restore Pittsburgh’s iconic work of urban sculpture dubbed The Carrie Deer.

Since closing in 1982, the Carrie Furnaces have been a storied site captivating all who see it (in person and lately in films, too) and today the National Historic Landmark is poised to play a significant new role as a tourist designation within the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area along the Mon.

For those who have been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to gain access to the iconic structures and their grounds, this event is for you.

To save one of the site’s most beloved attractions, Rivers of Steel needs public support. And that’s where you come in. The public is invited to help save The Carrie Deer, at a special benefit bash and film screening taking place right on the grounds of the iconic mill.

On August 16th, VIPers will enjoy a special reception from 6 to 8 p.m., featuring reserved parking, seating for the film screening, a meet and greet with the artists and filmmakers, food and drink by Superior Motors and Dorothy 6, live music and a behind-the-scenes twilight tour of the Carrie Furnaces. Hosted by actor David Conrad and WQED filmmaker and producer Rick Sebak, the VIP reception will also feature a silent auction and a live interactive kick off to the project’s Kickstarter campaign.

At 8 p.m., the gates will open for the general admission event, which will include live music, street food vendors and a live interactive kick off to the Kickstarter campaign. The film screening will begin at dusk. Attendees are welcome to bring lawn chairs.

Rivers of Steel will premiere an open-air screening of the documentary, The Carrie Deer and unveil its Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to restore and maintain the magnificent structure for future audiences.

Ron Baraff, with Rivers of Steel, says that the public screening and Kickstarter campaign will “bring focus and attention to this amazing piece of art—one that began its existence as work of guerrilla art, clandestine and seemingly temporary, but has now reached well beyond that original scope to be one of the most recognizable and revered pieces of public art in this region.

“When the Industrial Arts Co-op was building it, there was never really any thought that it would last as long as it has,” he adds. “Time and gravity have caused settling of the sculpture.”

The new film tells the story of how a group of artists came together to create the monumental tribute to the Carrie Furnaces, taking viewers back in time to 1997, when the artists entered the grounds in Rankin and Swissvale to explore the abandoned mill as a site for urban art. Inspired by the place, they set about to erect a 40-foot sculpture using remnants of the Blast Furnace Plant.

Borrowing from the mill’s previous mechanical methods, the artists created their own makeshift assembly lines and constructed jigs and pulley systems, creating The Carrie Deer as an artistic homage.

The Carrie Deer has survived 16 years of the site’s evolution from an abandoned mill to a prominent tourist destination, including interventions by scrap collectors, vandals, graffiti artists, extreme weather and even threats of demolition. Thousands of people tour the site each year to discover the Furnaces’ significant place in history as well as its vital role in the region’s cultural, educational and economic renaissance.

“We have, in the Carrie Furnaces, a prime opportunity to showcase the rich industrial legacy of the region, as well as show the impact of post-industrialism on the region,” says Baraff. “This is where the deer really comes into play—it is the poster child of post-industrial rustbelt America. What happens to these sites when the work goes away? How do the communities act and interact with them and what sort of meaning can be derived from these interactions?”

Today, the furnaces are part of the proposed Homestead Works National Park, a $78 million stabilization and renovation effort. Tours, as well as photo safaris and workshops, are offered at the Carrie Furnaces from April through October.

“The Carrie Furnaces are National Historic Landmarks; it is imperative that we preserve them to tell the story not just of the historical significance of this region, but of its impact nationally and internationally,” says Baraff. “It is the story of America’s 20th century and its impact on the world. To that end, the site can serve as an economic development tool and first-day attraction for the region and bring much needed tourism dollars into the surrounding communities that so desperately need them.

“The exploration of the aesthetics of the site, and the environmental impact of the built and natural site, are possible because this sculpture is there and acting as the gatekeeper,” he adds.

Purchase tickets for the Save the Deer event on August 16th.

Jennifer Baron

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator...