Explore the Penn Avenue Corridor
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It starts at the corner of Penn Avenue and Main Street in Bloomfield, and then winds through the neighborhoods of Garfield and Friendship before finally reaching East Liberty. The Penn Avenue Corridor, as it’s known by the music and art fans who flock there on weekend nights, is easily Pittsburgh’s most explicit example of gentrification in motion.
Still somewhat rough around the edges, the stretch has long been regarded as something of a dangerous no-go zone. But an ever-growing collection of eclectic art galleries and live music venues have altered the mood considerably.
One of the best ways to explore Penn Avenue is by joining the Unblurred gallery crawl, which is free to the public; the event happens from 6 to 11 p.m. during the first Friday of each month. Pamphlets featuring neighborhood maps and gallery schedules can be found at some of the more popular stops along the route, or simply visit www.pennavenuearts.org to plan your trip in advance.
Two of the most-visited Penn Avenue galleries include ModernFormations (4919 Penn Ave., 412/362-0274, www.modernformations.com), which displays contemporary visual art by mostly local and unknown artists, and Garfield Artworks (4931 Penn Ave., 412/361-2262, www.garfieldartworks.com), which offers occasional shows of textile and installation art along with photography, painting and other visual arts, also by locals. Both venues also host a regular rotation of indie-rock concerts; the locally infamous curator of Garfield Artworks, Manny Theiner, has been booking underground rock and jazz shows throughout Pittsburgh for nearly two decades.
Also worth a look is the nonprofit Pittsburgh Glass Center (5472 Penn Ave., 412/365-2145, www.pittsburghglasscenter.org), where all manner of flame-working and glass artistry takes place.
If you’re looking for an artistic way to take a break during your exploration of Penn Avenue, try the The Quiet Storm (5430 Penn Ave., 412/661-9355, www.quietstormcoffee.com), a café that acts as something of an unofficial clubhouse for the city’s creative class. Offering an inspired menu of mostly vegetarian- and vegan-friendly foods, The Quiet Storm is also home to a reading library and occasional visual art shows. Also well worth your time is the café’s weekly Sunday brunch, which has quickly become the stuff of local legend.
© Dan Eldridge from Moon Pittsburgh, 1st Edition