“The mentality is that you’re taught to compete, but you don’t know what competition really is. There is no other form of competition that is more important than someone being able to compete with themselves,” he says. “They should teach competition like this: if you team up with your smartest friends and come up with your best ideas, you can be the first person to do something that changes the world. That’s how you compete. You survive off of your ideas.”

Table at Baron Batch's studio. Photo by Brian Cohen.

Table at Baron Batch’s studio. Photo by Brian Cohen.

Buried not too deeply underneath all this is the not-so-subtle irony that Batch came to Pittsburgh to do something which for the last 40 years has been the only thing keeping Pittsburgh on a lot of people’s maps: he came to play football.

But the things which have kept him here are all qualities prominent in the city’s substantial rebirth—a collaborative spirit, a penchant for innovative enterprise and the same mad work ethic which drove the city to greatness in the first place, but with a decidedly more democratized bend.

In this way, Batch is ideally emblematic of Pittsburgh.

“Pittsburgh’s the frontier of a new era,” he says. “You can see it here. When you go around other parts of the country, it’s not like this. There are people here willing to hustle.”

While he hasn’t thrown a grand opening party for Studio A.M., it’s up and running in full throttle. Batch is working on partnering with different local chefs to cook dinners in the studio’s kitchen, allowing people to eat and mingle while he paints.

An investor just granted him access to a pair of large Lawrenceville warehouses, one vacant and the other filled with knick-knacks ranging from antique furniture to pieces of old movie sets.

The latter will provide him with access to materials for his art, while he plans to use the former to mount installation pieces and shows. While he no longer considers himself a free agent by the NFL’s standards, there’s little doubt as to his status as one in life’s grander scheme.

“You can do whatever you want, as long as you hustle. You can just do good business and make anything and use that to feed yourself,” he says.

“Tonight, we’re going to pick up a piano and I’m going to paint a piano. Tomorrow will be different.”

Baron Batch. Photo by Brian Cohen.

Baron Batch. Photo by Brian Cohen.