For her show at Concept Gallery, The Ordinary Sacred, featuring her famous Black Madonnas, Vanessa German led a foot procession from her Homewood studio to Regent Square where she recited her poetry and sang.

If you know Vanessa German, you know it was not to be missed. And if you know art galleries in Pittsburgh, you know they aren’t what they used to be.

Things have changed in the art world and buyers have more choice than ever in where they buy—not just on the Internet but at big shows like Art Basel in Miami which is attracting buyers of all kinds.

That might be why, more than ever, the local scene deserves your support. And why we’re presenting these four wonderful, long-established galleries in Pittsburgh that are well worth a visit, even if you’re not in the market to buy art. It’s a treat just browsing. And if you can take in a performance or art exhbit opening or a fun party, all the better.

Take note: In our next article on this topic, we will feature newer up-and-coming art galleries.

At Morgan Contemporary Glass.

David Lewin’s Samaki, kiln-formed glass and metal at Morgan Contemporary Glass.

Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery

Step into Amy Morgan’s jewel box of a gallery, the first in the region dedicated to contemporary studio glass, and marvel at the one-of-a-kind, stunning pieces made by glass artists.

In her beautifully arranged space on Ellsworth, you’ll find an astonishing collection, from majestic scale pieces to pocket-sized.

Among the space-dominating pieces: martial, somber-hued columns by American-born Czech artist Wesley Rasko. Equally powerful are curved basins in matte translucent peach, perches for dark sculpted birds and twigs by Hiroshi Yamano.

Midsize works abound for home or office. Consider textures: Cheryl Wilson Smith’s craggy folds mimicking rock or rosy coral and Jen Elek’s playful orbs in wet paint colors.

There’s a knitting project of glass yarn with needles, Jen Blazina’s frosted glass purses and picture frames with retro themes, along with Luke Jacomb’s pure-hued airborne birds—perhaps a flock—which can be screwed into a wall.

If you’re looking for a knockout gift, this could be the place, from teapots in all their anthropomorphic charms to tons of gorgeous jewelry in several media, not just glass.

Mark Leputa’s weighty, crystalline mortars and pestles in saturated colors—a lime mortar, say, with a cerulean pestle—would make a fabulous wedding present.

The Morgan Gallery opened in 1997, after a “try-out year” in Steve Mendelson’s gallery, when he was on a sabbatical in Paris. “Who knew from pop-ups then,” Morgan says.

Morgan, once the owner of a PR business and a former model, fell early for American glass art. Now a grandmother who was widowed three years ago, she’s a recognized expert and a major player in Pittsburgh’s enviable studio glass presence. The center of that scene is the highly-regarded Pittsburgh Glass Center which draws world-class teachers.

Her advice for collectors: “Buy what makes your heart flip-flop” and “If you love it, find a way to afford it.”

Drop in on Amy, Tuesday through Friday afternoons for a free education. She’ll coach you on how to choose work by artists who she thinks might be going all the way.

Flatbed collage by Steve Mendelson.

Flatbed collage by Steve Mendelson.

Mendelson Gallery

Lounging at his own dining room table, along with his affectionate cat and a primitive carving, is gallery owner Steve Mendelson, coffee cup in hand.

Behind him is a 1980s Keith Haring panel. “Haring spray-painted it on a construction wall enclosing the PPG site, and I rescued it,” he says. Below that is a similarly salvaged Man Ray poster. “I have tons of Haring and Man Ray,” he notes. And above dangle whimsical chandeliers, made by Mendelson.

A few steps down is a work by internationally renowned artist Louise Bourgeois, known to Pittsburghers for her Katz Plaza fountain and signature “eye-benches.”

Pittsburgh artists abound at this Ellsworth St. gallery, from 90-year-old wood sculptor Thad Mosely and 93-year-old architect and artist David Lewis to mid-career pop artist John Chamberlain and abstractionists Emil Lukas and Mark Gualtieri.

Steve Mendelson in 2000.

Steve Mendelson in 2000. Photo by Mara Rago.

Boundaries melt between living space and exhibition space. “It’s all connected,” says Steve. “I don’t see art as a commodity. It’s a living work of art, an expression of art by an artist that is (often) a friend of mine. Most of my artists I’ve known for decades.”