Wicked Pittsburgh spotlights local creatives and raises funds for art charities
Wicked Pittsburgh understands that a career as an artist can be lonely. It can be cutthroat. It can be frustrating.
However, it can also be fun, collaborative and even profitable.
Just two-and-a-half years since its beginnings, Wicked Pittsburgh has brought together more than 50 artists to create, display, and sell their work, all while giving 20 percent back to local charities.
The artist collective is a model that others looking for community and a stage for their work are starting to take note of.
How it all started
Wicked Pittsburgh was the idea of Mike Schwarz, a photojournalist from Waynesburg, PA, who settled in Pittsburgh after graduating from Boston University. In an interview with Artistic Fuel, Schwarz said he noticed that Pittsburgh’s artistic community was hard to break into.
Artists were siloed, competing against one another for the same jobs and the same grants.
So he pitched an idea.
“Why not all come together to go after those same grants and put on an installation that supports all of us.”
In 2017, he teamed up with dedicated creatives to officially form Wicked Pittsburgh with the goal “to transform Pittsburgh into the creative hub it most certainly has the potential to become.”
Wicked Pittsburgh’s mission is to streamline events, pay artists for their work, support local charities, and make Steel City more approachable for artists of all crafts, genders, races, and levels of experience.
Wicked Pittsburgh – How it works
Little by little, Wicked Pittsburgh is changing the face of the local artistic community. It’s bringing artists of a wide range of mediums together to produce work that pushes creative boundaries. And, in turn, it’s resulted in more artwork available for public consumption.
“Pittsburghers are becoming much more normalized and accustomed to wanting to purchase art and participate in the artistic community,” Schwarz said. “I don’t think we’re there yet in terms of a Pittsburgher wanting to go out and buy a $2,000 painting, but we’re getting closer. And that’s our goal.”
The organization does this through a few different avenues. They provide art installations that corporations or organizations can rent or purchase, and also connects those groups to artists-for-hire that create murals and commissions. They put on live art demonstrations where artists paint, draw or sculpt as passersby look on. And they put on events that invite the Pittsburgh community to experience all-things creative—live painting, glass blowing, live music, interactive art installations, and the best of the city’s culinary arts.
“We tell corporations and organizations that we can provide six different forms of art at their event…it’s everything and anything artistic,” Schwarz said, adding that a recent event included a big, blank canvass that attendees were invited to paint. “Once organizations realize that, hey, it’s a good look to put money back into the arts community and people are loving these events, they hire us to do more.”
Wicked Pittsburgh is using its platform to help convince large national companies to settle in Pittsburgh, where they’ll find plenty of creatives to hire and a lower cost of living.
“Money here goes so much further here,” Schwarz added.
How its making art careers a reality
One-hundred percent of the funds raised through Wicked Pittsburgh’s work supports the city’s art scene in some form or fashion.
Seventy percent of the money brought in is paid to the artists who produce the work; 10 percent goes to administrative costs; and the remaining 20 percent goes to local arts nonprofits. Their premiere nonprofit partner is Red Fish Bowl, which recently opened a massive collaborative space to showcase events, music, classes, and studio space.
“They couldn’t be more aligned with our mission,” Schwarz said of Red Fish Bowl.
Wicked Pittsburgh’s goal is to make fair wages for artists a reality, something that many creatives have found is an uphill battle.
But they’re starting to make progress.
As more corporations and organizations realize the number of ways they can monetize art, more artists are in turn able to get enough work that they can actually make art their full-time career, Schwarz said.
He mentioned several Pittsburgh artists—from painters to sculptors to musicians and graphic designers—who are making a name for themselves, including Max Gonzalas, Jerome Charles, Brittney Chantele, Zack Rutter and Stuart Frick.
“There’s so many artists who want to quit that serving job and paint full time and if we can get them two steps closer to doing that, then we’ve done our job,” Schwarz said.
So far, Wicked Pittsburgh has brought in more than $21,000 paid to local artists and donated $2,575 to local charities.
“This has been a game changer for our arts community,” Schwarz said. “It’s thriving.”