Pittsburgh’s art community has really blossomed over the last few years, but one cant help but notice that there has been little to no focus on the medium of photography. Gallery crawl after gallery crawl lacks an emphasis on local (or any) photographers… It’s not for a lack of Pittsburgh photographers, head out on a warm summer evening and you’ll run into a photographer on just about every block these days. Well, fortunately it looks like someone has set out to do something about that.
The 412 Project is a medium used to promote local photographers and bring them together to help beautify Pittsburgh.
We envision empty spaces transformed into extraordinary locations filled with art and supported by the local creative community of photographers.
Recently I had the opportunity to attend a gallery event hosted by the 412project in downtown Pittsburgh’s Cultural District. If you aren’t familiar with the 412project group on Instagram then I suggest you head over to their website and check them out. They are a local group generating attention for local photographers, bringing them together, and shinning a spotlight on the art of photography right here in Pittsburgh.
After attending the gallery event I knew I had to learn more about them and figure out how I could help out. I believe they can shine a spotlight on the art of Photography in Pittsburgh and help give exposure to up and coming photographers. The group contacted me shortly after the gallery event and was kind enough to share a little about the group and what’s next for them…
Q. How was the 412project conceived and why?
A. The original 412 Project was first meant to be a “Pop Up Art Gallery” that brings the beautiful pictures of Pittsburgh to abandoned store fronts and neglected areas of the city. It was our way to showcase local amateur photographers and help make less than desirable areas of the city “beautiful” again. One day we met in the upstairs room in TONIC on Liberty Avenue and a group of 10 of us were sold on an idea of using Instagram as our launching platform. The group put our ideas together and pushed each other to work on the project. We then invested our own time and money into making the 412 Project a reality. We opened our first “Pop Up Art Gallery” on Liberty Avenue in Gateway Plaza with a partnership with Maya Design Inc.
We also feature our selected artists on our Instagram account. This is a common practice on Instagram, taking someone’s photograph and featuring it on “feature pages”. We strive to be different from everyone else so we wanted to change the game when we do our features. More about that in a moment…
Q. Has the reason for the group changed or evolved since its birth?
A. The 412 Project has evolved but the mission of “Bringing Instagram to the Streets of Pittsburgh” and featuring local, amateur, or up and coming photographers has held true. We have taken the idea of a temporary “Pop Up Art Gallery” and sustained its life through 5 months. We have recognized 6 different “Rounds” of artist and have branched out beyond the Kiosk at Gateway Plaza to other venues. We host a “Launch Party” at the beginning of each gallery opening. The purpose is to allow the public and fellow Instagramers to meet our selected artists. We started out hosting the events outside on the sidewalk in front of the Kiosk and it has evolved into finding local spaces (art galleries, studios, etc…) to have these events. Over 140+ people attend our last event in January.
These “Launch Parties” showed us just how interested the community was in meeting the people behind the screen names. So we decided to put a twist on our Instagram features. Most “feature pages” pick an image and post it with a photo credit. We decided to not only pick and post our features but introduce you to the photographer that took the picture. Each time we highlight a featured artist we share a biography telling you who this photographer is and why they love taking pictures. Introducing you to the person behind the images, not just pretty pictures, was one of the biggest advances we have made after the galleries.
In addition to just “Galleries” and “Features” we want to bring together the Instagram Community. We are in the final stages of organizing our first “Instameet” in March. An “Instameet” is an organized photo walk that uses the Instagram platform to promote the event. We are helping build a “tribe” of people who have a common interest in photography and the City we call home. Since we have seen an increase in interest from the people on Instagram to actually meet the people behind the screen names, now we are offering a solution to bring them together with a twist that you will have to stay tuned to our Instagram account to find out about…
Q. What success have you found?
A. We have been very successful so far. In 5 short months we have built a following of over 1,600 followers and continue to rise in a dramatic way.
- We are the fastest growing Pittsburgh Instagram Community.
- We have had over 6,000 images posted using our designated hashtag #412project.
- We have featured over 100 local, amateur to up and coming photographers
- We have launched 6 galleries in three different locations
- We have built our gallery launches from 10 people to 140+ people per event.
- We are getting ready to host our first “Instameet”
But most importantly we have met some amazing, talented photographers and Instagram users and built friendships that we never imagined. As much as the 412 Project benefits other Instagram users, it has helped give us a platform as team members to reach out and talk to other users, build relationships and have a sense of pride in what we are doing as a team. We are “Bringing Instagram to the Streets of Pittsburgh”.
Q. What challenges have you run into so far?
A. Anytime you take 9 or 10 individuals from very different backgrounds and “walks of life” there are going to be stumbling blocks and learning curves. When the “Pop-Up” Gallery became more than just a temporary exhibit the 412 Project Team had to reorganize. Some members of the original Team did not have the time and resources available to continue on long-term with the project. With the reorganization came some new members and refocused drive by everyone still involved. We have differences of opinions from time to time but as our record shows in the end we all work together towards a common goal and the end product has turned out to be more successful than we could have imagined.
Currently our two biggest challenges are funding and location.
The project to date has been solely funded by the team members. As we continue to move forward and have more success our expenses continue to rise. This puts more of a financial burden on each team member. We are seeking sources of outside funding to partner with to ensure the project continues to succeed. The cost of insurance for our events alone will make up 80% of our cost to date. We also rely on the selected artist to assist in funding their own prints for the gallery. One of our goals is to never have to ask our selected artist to contribute to participate.
We have been very grateful to the Maya Group for donating our current gallery location on Liberty Avenue. Unfortunately due to prior obligations the Maya Group has we will be forced to move from that space April 1, 2016. We are currently looking for other opportunities and exploring other avenues to house our galleries.
We are always open to new ideas to solve either of these obstacles.
Q. Where do you see the 412project in the future?
A. We see the 412 Project having a permanent place in the City of Pittsburgh’s Art and Social Media scene. The reason is explained in the following answer to the next question.
Q. How do you see the 412project benefiting not just the art community but the city of Pittsburgh as well?
A. Art Community – The 412 Project prides itself on not only featuring amateur or up and coming photographers but on the everyday citizen of the City of Pittsburgh and surrounding communities. We have recognized an individual that may have taken that once in a lifetime awesome photograph. These are not the professional photographers that go out every day and make a living taking and selling these pictures. This could be your neighbor that never thought or imagined having a photograph he/she captured would be in a gallery.