More Than Material: 20 Years Celebrating Art At CJ

Blog | Posted on: April 26, 2019

Greetings Reuse & Art Fans,

We are excited to welcome back into CJ the group of crafters collectively known as the Handmade Arcade! It is highly likely you have purchased holiday gifts from Handmade Arcade’s annual show at the Pittsburgh Convention Center. If you are reader of this blog or follow us on social media, you also know that the first ever Handmade Arcade Pittsburgh event was held at CJ, way back in 2004. The final Handmade Arcade event here was in 2007, when the CJ staff finally succumbed to the immense size of the event and it moved on to bigger pastures! 

Handmade Arcade (the smaller version-thank the makers) returning to CJ triggers a flood of good vibrations between CJ and the Pittsburgh art community.  We have supported each other in the creative journey. 

Handmade Arcade Show And Sell Earth Month

CJ’s first official art show (2000) was under the 62nd Street Bridge and simply called “Art of Reuse.” I fondly recall a cool chair that was created from a metal shopping cart (I guess that one did not get returned to the store). 

In 2003, 2004 and 2005, CJ worked with a small group of artists who created a project called SALVO (Salvage Artists Linking Venues and Opportunities). The group held three salvaged arts festivals during those years. The first two festivals were free and we attracted 800 to 1,000 participants to create art in the shopping aisles of CJ (as well as the arrival of our space monkey sculpture), under the guidance and inspiration of artists committed to working with salvage materials. The third year, we charged a small fee and the festival “underperformed” producing the “cold feet” feeling that CJ could not generate enough funding to support the effort. It was brilliant while it lasted, thanks to the artists who got involved and continue to shop today.  

The Handmade Arcade approached CJ as a venue for its first Pittsburgh show because of the success of the 2003 SALVO arts festival. CJ’s annual fundraiser, the Steel City Big Pour has always had an art component because of the success of the SALVO. 

Finally, because of CJ’s support from artists, when Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse (PCCR) needed a free space to launch, we provided as much free space as we could for them to do so. In the space that helped launch PCCR, we are now working with local artist Gerry Florida to support Studio Blue, a reuse furniture-painting project working with at risk youth. And everyone knows PCCR is thriving in its larger space. 

And this reminiscence does not include the local theater companies and individual artists who shop at CJ and PCCR on a regular basis. We are proud of our 20 year history and supporting the arts and artists of Pittsburgh with access to reuse, and the amazing things you do with the stuff that finds its way to our space!

One person’s trash is another person’s artistic masterpiece!

Mike Gable

Executive Director