Last Friday I drove out to Braddock for the Neighborhood Print Shop‘s party for departing artist-in-residence, Jim Kidd. The product of Kidd’s residency, a lovely handmade book filled with “Kiddisms” drawn from a series of journals the artist has kept since 1967, was on sale for $25 to $60, depending on what each buyer could spare. The event was also a welcome reception for the next resident artist, LaToya Ruby Frazier, a Braddock native whose annotated photographs chronicling UPMC’s withdrawal from Braddock and Levi’s aestheticization of the city’s blight are currently featured in the Whitney Biennial. After spending the latter half of the previous week in New York at art fairs, this get-together in the Braddock Carnegie Library felt refreshingly intimate and inclusive, despite Frazier’s art world notoriety.
In fact the primary mission of the Neighborhood Print Shop, a collaboration between the Library and Transformazium (click here for a short description), is to create opportunities for residents of Braddock “who may or may not self identify as artists to find space for contemplation within the neighborhood.” Though Kidd does have a background in painting, jewelry, and ceramics, he might never have created what must be his most personal and affecting work to date if it weren’t for the residency program. Friday’s event also presented the opportunity for the artist to share his incredible collection of resource material, including hand-written notes, drawings, and photos, as well as postcards and ephemera related to perceptions of African Americans before and after segregation.
I was also glad to finally see the place where our Apartment Talks posters are made by Nia Hogan, a young Braddock resident whose interest in anime has translated into inventive designs for several of our events. I’ve also thrown in an image of the Edgar Thomson Steel Works, a prominent feature of the Braddock landscape, for non-locals. One of only two remaining steel mills operating in Allegheny county, this was Andrew Carnegie’s first plant, built in the mid-1870s. The Braddock Carnegie Library was also his first public library, built in 1888.