The program is based in the Carrie furnaces National Historic Landmark but offers creative projects throughout the entire eight-county heritage area of southwestern Pennsylvania.
As the creative wing of the Rivers of Steel Heritage Corporation (RSHC), RoSA supports the greater RSHC mission of becoming a nationally recognized brand that not only celebrates our past but also embraces our future, by connecting people to their environs. Through a range of exhibitions, performances and educational experiences, RoSA promotes novel partnerships to enhance the lives of community members, build local pride and attract renewed public interest in Pittsburgh’s Monongahela River Valley.
Creative programs produced by RoSA fall under the two headings MATERIAL and PROCESS. Understood metaphorically, these headings represent a range of approaches to art making and learning opportunities that draw inspiration not only from the historical function of the Carrie Furnaces, but also the cultural traditions of its workforce; the alchemical processes involved in creating Iron; and the site’s ongoing transformation.
The Mon Valley Creative Corridor (MVCC) represents a handful of creative organizations and artists working together to serve communities east of Pittsburgh along an eight-mile stretch of the Monongahela River. This corridor was formed in an effort to re-imagine a new future for Mon Valley communities through novel partnerships, grass-roots community arts programming and creative self-determination. Projects mounted by MVCC partners unfold across multiple boroughs and are designed to increase local pride and forge meaningful, lasting relationships. MVCC’s primary function is to bring the boroughs of this corridor together through coordinated artistic projects that re-energize local residents around the value of their shared heritage.
Our region is alive and well despite greatly exaggerated rumors of its demise. We are being discovered and reinvigorated. We are driven to be forward looking, all the while needing to pause to remember and embrace our industrial hard-scrapple past. It is who we are as a people and a region; it is our consciousness.
Standing tall in the middle of this movement are the National Historic Landmark Carrie Furnaces, marvels of early 20th century engineering, ingenuity, and hard work. At the epicenter of the site stands an unexpected sentinel – the fabled Carrie Deer. Constructed from the detritus of the idled mill as a “guerrilla” art project by the Industrial Arts Co-op in 1997 and 1998, the Carrie Deer has become far more than the transient art it was meant to be when constructed. It has become the symbol of the art-centric redevelopment of furnace site, the poster child of post-industrial rustbelt America. The deer gives physical shape to what happens to these industrial sites when the work goes away illustrating the transformative powers of the art; aesthetics, imagination and creativity. Its presence helps to define the evolution of the region from a place of heavy industry and blue collar work to one of wonder, exploration, inspiration, and experience. The Deer’s presence on the site allows us to show how communities, individuals, and places are redefined, and to use these interactions to open new and exciting doors for visitors to the site and the region. The exploration of the aesthetics, the history, the arts, and the environmental impact of and at the site are all possible because this sculpture is here and acting as a proud gatekeeper, moving it from the periphery to the spotlight in the region’s narrative.
Director of Historic Resources and Facilities
Rivers of Steel Heritage Corporation
Chris McGinnis is an artist, curator and educator working in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. As an artist he has exhibited extensively nationally and internationally, with over ten solo exhibitions and over 40 group exhibitions in recent years. Chris has created projects for the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, SPACE Pittsburgh, Urban Institute of Contemporary Art, the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and The Rivers of Steel Heritage Corporation. He is co-founder and Chief Curator of Rivers of Steel Arts (RoSA) a community art program located in the Carrie Furnaces National Historic Landmark. His art and writing have been published in Sculpture Magazine, ArtSlant, the National Studio Visit Magazine, Manifest’s International Painting Annual as well as numerous local and university publications including Pittsburgh’s Post Gazette and The Tribune Review. Prior to RoSA Chris has worked for institutions across the country including Carnegie Mellon University, The University of Arizona and Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Ivette Spradlin is a Cuban-American photographer, video artist and educator whose work centers around the emotional aspects of transition, adaptation and balance in one’s life. She received her BFA in Photography from the University of Georgia and her MFA in Photography from Tyler School of Art. She is a Creative Capital and Flight School Fellow, Artist Opportunity Grant awardee, and an Art on the Walls artist through the Pittsburgh Arts Council. Her photography has been published in Next Level Magazine and featured on BBC. Her films have screened nationally, including at the Carnegie Museum of Art and at the Transmodern Film Festival in Baltimore. In 2014, her Oval Portrait photographs were part of a Magenta Foundation public art project in downtown Pittsburgh, and Unseen was featured in the Pittsburgh Biennial. Recently, her video You Are Gone, I Am Here won Best In Show in the Three Rivers Arts Festival Juried Exhibition.
Ed Parrish Jr. was born and raised in North Carolina. He attended East Carolina University where he earned a BFA in sculpture. Soon after college Parrish relocated to Pittsburgh where he began working as an artist blacksmith and fabricator. He was part owner of Red Star Ironworks a custom metal shop focusing on decretive metal work. Moving forward he worked as an independent artist and taught foundry classes out of his private studio. Ed also worked in the film industry as a special effects technician and specialty prop maker. Parrish lead Hot Metal Happening a series of public iron casting events at various locations around Pittsburgh. He has exhibited work at the Mattress Factory, the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, The Carnegie Museum of Art, Space Gallery, and most recently, a solo exhibit at the Irma Freeman Center for Imagination. Currently he is working with the Rivers of Steel Arts as the lead foundry artists developing foundry and metal arts programing. Parrish has over twenty years experience and a life long dedication to the exploration of metal arts.
Shane Pilster, who grew up and went to school in the SF Bay Area, has a rich background in street art, graphic and web design, traditional mural painting, and typography. Living in Pittsburgh for the last 12 years, he has established himself as a designer who produces high quality work in print and on the web. Having a wide range of clients (from national corporations to local businesses and non-profits) he is able to explore a plethora of design styles that allow his creativity to flourish. His drive to learn keeps him humble and positive while being immersed in the world of advertising and art. Some of his client list includes M*Modal, DeLallo Foods, Marriott Hotels, The Westin Convention Center Downtown Pittsburgh, The August Wilson Center, 31st Street Studios, Näkturnal, Iron City Brewing, Vitamin Water, Revive Marketing, Hip-Hop On L.O.C.K., Kellee Maize, Watson Standard, Live Gamer, Nak You Out, Whirl Magazine, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh Social Exchange, Giant Ideas, EcoSmart!, I Made It! Market, Faded Industry Entertainment, Westmoreland Community College, Propel Schools, Winchester Thurston High School, The YMCA, and Rivers of Steel.
Mary Briggs is an independent cultural worker living in southwestern Pennsylvania. Until 2012 she held the position of Director of Cultural Development at the Cultural Affairs Division of Arlington County, Virginia where, in 1999, she introduced folk and traditional arts programming within the county. The initiative included field research, public programs, and systematized services to ethnically and culturally diverse traditional artists and communities. She has also done folklore-based presenting and curatorial work. Mary Briggs has a degree in Traditional Arts and Culture from George Mason University, and subsequently partnered with the school’s Folklore Program on fieldwork projects. A native of the Pittsburgh area, she returned to Westmoreland County, Pa in 2012. She has a personal interest in topics related to the Appalachian region and sense of place, is a moderately good fiddler and visual artist, and is active in promoting local art as a strategy for social and economic change. She is currently contracted by Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, an organization that works to document and preserve the cultural heritage of southwestern Pennsylvania. She is a co-founder and board member of the Jeannette Arts Council, a group that works to help revitalize of the city of Jeannette, Pennsylvania through the arts. She is an adjunct lecturer in the Masters in Cultural Sustainability Program at Goucher College in Towson, Maryland.