I came across the remnants of the Lost Pittsburgh School over the past decade, sifting thru gallery back bins, wandering the last of the city's undeveloped industrial brownspace, listening in bars. Preserved in the closets and the spoken memory of long time art lovers like Ellen Neuberg, Richard Parsakian and Pat McCardle, they were, they are, a remarkable and contrary group. With few exceptions, unwilling to be interviewed, difficult to track down, utterly unapologetic about their history and their politics. In other words, a dream come true for someone who believes that the story of post-Industrial America has never been well and truly told. Who believes that a mountainous economic tragedy and its lessons are being sifted away into the cultural landscape.
It's been a thrill to rediscover what these men and women tried to make manifest
across the body of the Nation's greatest industrial city. I feel proud that a fight I only ever dreamt of or was too young to join took place right here in Pittsburgh. An artists' version of the futile fights of the Homestead Lock - out, or the 1919 Steel Strike, or most clearly the 1877 Labor uprising - which almost brought the Country to a standstill. And as those titanic events in United States History are thinly understood even by the educated, I wonder if many cities across the Republic have hidden treasures, scattered within their borders, built and cared for by painters and sculptors, photographers and more, who were compelled to make a public gesture in memory of their version
of an American Dream: not a house and an acre to hide in, but a community built on common needs, towns and laws made to defend greater equality rather than a more rarified liberty. I call them the Pittsburgh School not because they studied together but because they have so much to teach us.