The Pittsburgh Foundation

Two local Artists

Two local Artists Receive Carol R. Brown Achievement Award

PITTSBURGH, PA, Nov. 19, 2014 – A panel of artists and arts organization leaders has announced this year’s winners of the Carol R. Brown Creative Achievement Awards, one recognized as an emerging artist with potential for significant future work, and a second artist, already established, to be cited for a body of critically acclaimed work.

Conceptual artist Lenka Clayton will be honored as Emerging Artist and interdisciplinary artist Jon Rubin will be honored as Established Artist at the third annual awards ceremony and reception, Dec. 8, at 6:30 p.m. at the New Hazlett Theater Center for the Performing Arts.

Each will receive a cash award of $15,000 in recognition of exemplary artistic achievements and promise for future work.  The Achievement Awards program is jointly sponsored by The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments as part of Investing in Professional Artists: The Pittsburgh Region Artists Program, a major initiative that provides resources to professional artists for the breadth of the creative process, from concept to completion.

Candidates for the awards were nominated by artists and arts leaders from the region and chosen by an independent panel that reviewed applications and work samples. Thirty-seven nominees representing the fields of dance, film and video, literature, multi-disciplinary arts, music, theater and visual arts submitted applications

“Each year, the pool of nominees for the Carol R. Brown Creative Achievement Awards demonstrates the great depth and diversity of artists who make their homes in the Pittsburgh region,” said Germaine Williams, senior program officer for Arts and Culture at The Pittsburgh Foundation. “This year’s nominees and awardees are treasured members of the local arts scene and through their work, project Pittsburgh around the globe.

The awards honor Carol R. Brown, who led the cultural and economic transformation of downtown Pittsburgh’s Cultural District as President of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust from 1986 to 2001.  “It is an incredible honor for me to be associated with Pittsburgh’s community of gifted artists,” she said in response to the panel’s selection.

During her tenure, a 14-square-block area of downtown Pittsburgh, formerly a red light district, was transformed into a nationally-recognized model for arts-based economic development and urban revitalization with theaters, galleries, world-class public art, and public spaces. 

“It is no accident that there is a new narrative about Pittsburgh in the world. Just look at the list of nominees for these awards,” said Janet Sarbaugh, senior director of the Arts & Culture Program at the Endowments.  “We are a city fueled by so many creative individuals.”

The Achievement Awards event continues a recognition program tradition begun by Ms. Brown herself as head of the Trust in 1999 to recognize achievements of artists in the region. “Through this program, we hope to help make Carol’s model of investment in artists a key facet of the distinctiveness of the region,” said Williams.

 Lenka Clayton moved to Pittsburgh from London in 2009 where she had been working in documentary film.  Her work considers, exaggerates and alters the accepted rules of everyday life, extending the familiar into the realms of the poetic and absurd.  Clayton typically makes art by transforming the pre-existing: thinking things through, accumulating or selecting items, and altering and arranging them so that they speak to us in unexpected and revealing ways

She is also the recipient of the 2013 Emerging Artist of the Year award from the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.   Clayton’s work has been shown internationally at numerous sites including MOMA and Anthology Film Archives in New York City; Tehran International Documentary Film Festival; MoCA Cleveland and MASS MoCA; CNEAI and FRAC in Paris; Kunsthalle St. Gallen in Switzerland, and on Channel 4 TV in the United Kingdom.

“Pursuing my career as an artist in Pittsburgh is fantastic,” Clayton said.  “There is so much affordable space here.  Pittsburgh is small enough, especially compared to London and Berlin where I lived previously, that one can feel part of a community.  Artists are respectful of each other and serious about their work.  There’s a real accessibility I haven’t experienced in other cities.  Here it’s possible to call a curator at a major institution and discuss work, or ask for a studio visit and they actually come.  That’s been huge for me. I see myself as part of a community of people who work together instead of in competition with each other.”

Jon Rubin creates interventions into public life that re-imagine individual, group and institutional behavior. Rubin is an associate professor in the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University and head of the Contextual Practice area. In Pittsburgh, he is known for creating the Waffle Shop, a public “lab” that functioned as an eatery, a TV production studio, and as a social catalyst.

His current project, undertaken with a colleague, Dawn Weleski, is Conflict Kitchen, and similar to the Waffle Shop, is a public intervention project that serves as a restaurant. Conflict Kitchen offers only ethnic foods from states with which the United States is in conflict. The project seeks to engage the general public in discussions about countries, cultures and people that they might know little about.

Mr. Rubin has exhibited at The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; The Mercosul Biennial, Brazil; The Shanghai Biennial; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver; The Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard, New York; The Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporaneo, Mexico; The Rooseum, Sweden; The ParkingGallery, Tehran, Iran; as well as in backyards, living rooms, and street corners.

“I moved here eight years ago from San Francisco, a larger city with a bigger art market,” said Mr. Rubin.  “But since I moved here, I have received tremendous support. I tell people that this is an amazing place to be an artist.  You do something here and people recognize it.  A lot of the projects I have developed here have led to work outside of Pittsburgh.  For example, I had an opportunity to represent Pittsburgh at the Shanghai Biennial.”

The awards ceremony and reception is open to the public. Performances will feature previous Investing in Professional Artists program grantees: master dancer and artistic director of Balafon West African Dance Ensemble, Mama Kadiatou; composer and co-artistic director of Squonk Opera, Jackie Dempsey; and multimedia storyteller and artist Daniel McCloskey. Tickets must be obtained and can be reserved at