It’s amazing waking up somewhere new each day, because today I woke up in the Steel City. I must say, I actually liked Pittsburgh a lot. My only complaint, like with most cities, is the traffic. It was extraordinarily confusing. There were bridges everywhere, and if you didn’t know which lane to be in, you would find yourself on a bridge leading you out of the city before you knew it. Even with the help of my GPS I was making wrong turns all the time. It would definitely take a lot of getting used to. None the less, I ventured back into the downtown streets of the city and headed to Bicycle Heaven.
I was told about bicycle heaven by the lovely people I met at Randyland the day before. It’s a bike shop that also has a museum of over 4,000 bikes and bike related memorabilia. It was free admission, so I figured why not? It was actually really neat. They had tons of rare bike models and bikes that had been used in films like Super 8 and Pee-wee Herman’s Big Adventure. There was row after row of unique and eclectic bikes dating all the way back to the late 1800s. While I’m not a bike fanatic, it was still an incredibly interesting stop.
Next up was the Mattress Factory. No, it’s not actually a factory that makes mattresses. It was a completely immersive art museum. It consisted of three different buildings on one block that each had multiple floors. Admission here was $20 a person or $15 for students. It was completely worth it, though, in my opinion. Each exhibit is created by artists specifically for that space, so it was really incredible to walk into a once plain room that had been completely transformed by the vision of an artist.
The very first exhibit I entered was a dark, eerie hallway with only couple of lights lining the ceiling. There were crawlspaces along the bottom of the floor for you to go in, but honestly, I got a bit spooked and decided to come back to that exhibit later. Once I read the artist’s meaning behind it, then it all made sense. It was meant to represent past trauma and memories that you can’t quite fully access. That was kind of how I felt when I was in there. I felt like I had to be on my guard and that something was holding me back from really seeing what was there. Later on I did come back to it, and right as I went to enter there were a few other people that joined me, so that made pretty much all of the fear dissipate. We all explored the crawlspaces and the room at the end of the hall together to keep each other company.
Most of the exhibits were similar to this in the fact that they completely consumed you. It was pretty amazing to experience art in this way. A lot of the time visual art is just looking at a painting or a sculpture, and some of the exhibits there were kind of like that, but most of the time you were actually apart of the art. Between all of the buildings and floors, I spent about four hours at the Mattress Factory. They do change most of their exhibits every year, so I’ll definitely go back in the future to see what new art they have installed.
Another recommendation I had received was the City of Asylum which was right down the street from the Mattress Factory. The City of Asylum is an art community that offers a safe place for people that have suffered some form of oppression to come and seek sanctuary and share their art while they make the transition here permanently. Inside of the City of Asylum was a book store, restaurant, and stage where they do book readings, live music, poetry slams, and a variety of other events. I spent quite some time combing through the shelves of books before picking out a collection of poetry to sit down and read through. After a while it was starting to get dark outside, so I decided it was probably a good time to walk the few blocks back to my car.
Since it was going to be my last night in Pittsburgh, I thought it would probably be a good time to find a place to see the cityscape at night. After a good bit of driving and several wrong turns, I finally found my way into a neighborhood with a spectacular view over the entire city. The sprawling lights and skyscrapers were something out of a dream. It was relatively quiet where I was except for the occasional barking dog, so the entire experience was incredibly peaceful. It was one of those moments that I was reminded why I want to do this. Having so many new experiences, meeting new people, and having the opportunity to spend my Tuesday night gazing out over the gorgeous lights of an unfamiliar city are worth the moments of frustration.