Dawn and Gemma

Contemporary Craft will open its new location in Lawrenceville in April with a bang when it features Swoon in its inaugural exhibition. 

“Maram.” Image courtesy of Swoon.
“Maram.” Image courtesy of Swoon.

The internationally-acclaimed, Brooklyn-based artist whose work is featured in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York will stage an exhibition titled “The Heart Lives Through the Hands.” The free exhibit will be part of the museum’s public opening on April 25 and will run through Aug. 21.

Born Caledonia Curry, Swoon is the first woman to gain widespread recognition in the male-dominated world of street art. Her work has been shown globally from Melbourne, Miami and Munich to Paris, Tokyo and Russia.

Swoon’s exhibition at Contemporary Craft will explore relationships between people and their environment and how creativity positively impacts communities during crisis and change.

One of the mixed-media works that will be on view is “Maram,” a piece mounted to two wooden doors and a small glass window that depicts a woman from Syria escaping civil war. It was made using block print, a form of printmaking, and acrylic gouache, or opaque watercolor.

Another, titled “Braddock Steel,” is a scene of Pennsylvania’s industrial era, also using block print but on mylar with hand painting and coffee staining.

Swoon has a history with Braddock, PA. She acquired a 15,000-square-foot abandoned church in the community and collaborated with local ceramicists to design and produce colorful roofing tiles for the building’s roof, according to the Heliotrope Foundation.

In 2015, Swoon ran a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $100,000 to create a ceramics workshop, Braddock Tiles, in the church’s basement.

Contemporary Craft chose Swoon for its first exhibition because her work tells a story, says Stephanie Sun, marketing manager for the arts nonprofit. Street art often makes social or political commentary, and Swoon uses this medium to make a positive impact.

“Her beliefs in art match our belief that art instigates change and empowers a community,” Sun says.

“Katharine G” Image courtesy of Swoon.
“Katharine G” Image courtesy of Swoon.

In addition to the Swoon exhibition, the grand opening events will feature a gala on April 18, and the grand opening day on April 25 with artist demonstrations, hands-on art activities and a first look at the new Contemporary Craft Store and Studios.

Contemporary Craft was a fixture in the Strip District for 33 years until it moved out of the historic Produce Terminal Building in 2018. 

The new location at 5645 Butler St. is a renovated two-story building with 13,500 square feet of space, including a 2,500-square-foot gallery and exhibition area.

NEXTpittsburgh is a media sponsor of the Contemporary Craft opening.

Sarah Dunlap is a freelance writer who lives and writes in Pittsburgh. In her free time, she enjoys dancing and the arts. She trained in ballet for 16 years.