Things to do in Garfield
Penn Ave. Homes. Photo by Rob Larson

(Photos of Pittsburgh Glass Center, Garfield condos, Penn Ave. homes, Rob Larson)

Named for President James Garfield, this once-blighted neighborhood is bouncing back with an experiment in incubating creative culture and a cluster of mom-and-pop retail along a vibrant stretch of Penn Avenue.

Arts communities – from galleries to an architects’ studio and the renowned Pittsburgh Glass Center—are helping to make Garfield a destination. Creative expression is alive and well in Garfield in the form of public art, ornate graffiti adorning 90-year-old brick buildings, and outdoor murals by students from Rogers School for the Creative and Performing Arts.

The first Friday of every month, up to 1,000 visitors hit Garfield’s streets to tour gallery exhibits, take in glass-blowing demos, and catch music and art at hot spots like Assemble and Garfield Artworks. Unblurred also directs revelers to North Pacific Avenue for the Garfield Night Market, an after-dark bazaar with locally made food, produce from an urban farm, and handmade wares. The Night Market grew out of 6% Place, cityLAB’s strategic urban planning experiment in Garfield based on the theory that a neighborhood becomes an attraction in its own right once creative workers make up 6% of its population.

In the 1990s, tiny family-owned Vietnamese restaurants, African-American barbershops and salons and arts-oriented businesses offered the first wave of retail resurgence in the 1990s. Now they’re joined by trendy upscale eateries like Salt of the Earth, Verde Mexican Kitchen and Cantina (a tequila bar). Together, Garfield’s roots and its rebirth are drawing visitors from across town to this neighborhood less than half a square mile in size. The area is referred to as the Penn Avenue Arts District and also known Garfield/Friendship due to blurred boundaries.

Active community groups serve Garfield’s more than 3,000 residents, who inhabit Victorians, modest row houses, stately old “Pittsburgh Boxes” and modern mixed-use condominiums.

Garfield is still very much a neighborhood in transition. But Penn Avenue’s ever-increasing assets put this community on the cusp of an arts revival.

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Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Melanie is a free-lance copywriter and journalist whose work has appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Venus Zine and Maniac Magazine.