By Paige Owens
PITTSBURGH, Pa. — On a crowded street, in the heart of the city, Penn Avenue in the Cultural District sees the hustle and bustle of the city goers, the art addicts, the theatre junkies, and the bar crawlers. The Cultural District is home to countless restaurants and eateries, theatres, galleries, and more. On Jan. 30, the Cultural District became the home of a new, brilliant, second-floor art gallery, Already Famous on Penn.
Already Famous on Penn resides on the corner of 9th Avenue and Penn Avenue above the gourmet chocolate and ice cream shop, Sinful Sweets. The owner, operator, and brains behind this new gallery, Nolan Sanders, is a former Sinful Sweets employee with a passion for photography and a love for undiscovered, unexposed art.
The gallery has been in the production process for approximately three months and was an idea crafted by Sanders and his friend and business partner, Patrick Howerter.
“The layout [of the gallery] came straight out of my head,” Sanders explained. “I saw this place empty and white and took mental notes of what would look right. The colors were my attempt to make it more than just a whitewall gallery. Allowing the artists to paint murals behind their paintings was really important for me, being that I am the only gallery that does that.”
The art gallery began as a dream and an idea for a studio space that Sanders would be able to sell his photography from. Yet his dream snowballed into a unique, innovative, and new art space dedicated to helping the “starving artist” grow and strive.
“My mission is to expose underground artists that I know; I call them under rock artists,” Sanders said. “The mission here is to make starving artists fat! That’s what I want to do. I’m tired of hearing my friends that are starving artists and just don’t have the exposure.”
“The location is key; being in the Cultural District, being right here on Penn and 9th,” he added.
“My main goal is to expose all of these other artists. My photography started first, but now it’s taken a back burner to this.”
Already Famous on Penn is not only an opportunity to reel in artists and art lovers, but party goers, dancers, and skilled musicians. Sanders plans to have a unique combination of artists and art forms on the walls and throughout the gallery. Unique to this venue alone, Sanders will be renting out the venue to outside parties for private events, dinners, yoga classes, ballet classes, and music competitions; something no other art gallery in the area permits.
“The art will move whenever there are big parties,” Sanders explained. “Obviously, we don’t want anything damaged, but the art will be around. What I’m trying to do is relate the art to whatever is going on and music wise too. We’re going to have hip-hop nights, we’re going to have DJ competitions, have singing competitions. So I’m pretty excited about that part.”
The tone of the gallery radiated with appreciation for art as artists lingered in every corner of the room, eager to share a small piece of their world with guests. To the unknowing eye, you may only see paint on the walls, frames, and tables throughout the gallery. However, the gallery permeated the room with original, unique, and bizarre art forms. The tables and furniture, perfectly placed in the room, were created by local artist Wade Bowser.
Featured in the Grand Opening was also Patrick Kelly, an illustrator; Jamie Apgar; a painter with his Insidious Collection painted directly on to the art gallery walls; David Calfo, a salvage artist who creates a story and art with old material from steel and saw mills; Lindsey Brown, a photographer; and Rod Morris from Kittanning where Sanders grew up. Neatly placed across the center wall of the gallery were Sanders’ photographs.
“I think art is important to everybody whether they know it or not,” illustration artist Patrick Kelly said. “I think it’s essential to human life; it’s so important. Some people create it, some people just view it, but it’s necessary. I think it’s part of what keeps us going.”
The Grand Opening of the gallery filled with guests of all ages, friends, family, musicians, artists, and media to have a first-hand look into the world of an artist and to praise Sanders on his success. Guests had the opportunity to purchase art, enjoy wine and refreshments, and listen to internationally known saxophonist, John Petrucelli, and jazz, electric guitar played by Max “the Wax” Snyder.
“It’s about the exposure, it’s about the art, it’s about the people here in Pittsburgh; I feel like they’re hungry for something like this,” Sanders said.
Only time will tell where the future lies for Sanders and his newly opened gallery, all we know is he’s Already Famous on Penn.