Go beyond classic art, explore different museums

Go beyond classic art, explore different museums

Molly Ebert

November 9, 2011

Everyone has heard of the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Andy Warhol Museum and The Frick Art &… Everyone has heard of the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Andy Warhol Museum and The Frick Art & Historical Center, but for a little variety in your museum-going adventures, here are a few spots in the Pittsburgh area you may have missed.

Bicycle Heaven

1800 Preble Ave., Pittsburgh, Pa.

Pittsburgh’s recent love affair with bike riding has found a home base in Bicycle Heaven.

For cyclists, this antique bike museum and repair shop is located in the R.J. Casey Industrial Park right off the North Shore Trail. For owner Craig Morrow, the museum has been an idea 20 years in the making and this past July, he finally realized his dream.

“A lot of people say it’s breathtaking,” Morrow said of visitors’ reactions during their first trip to Bicycle Heaven.

Encased in a massive two-floor warehouse, the museum’s bicycle collection is estimated to be in the thousands. The bikes date back to the 1860s, and the collection is the result of 30 years of hunting in flea markets, advertising in newspapers and even posting signs on telephone poles.

Right now, the museum’s layout, with a plethora of exhibition rooms, does not have a particular order, but Morrow prefers it this way.

“It gets people to spend more time and really get the whole view of what bicycles are about,” he said.

Bicycle Heaven recently held its first bike show, swap meet and party, which gave bike vendors and enthusiasts a chance to buy, sell and trade vintage bicycles and bicycle parts. In addition to bike-related events and an increase in tour groups, Morrow’s plans for the future of the museum include continuing a past program in which the museum donates refurbished bikes to underprivileged children.

Bicycle Heaven offers everyone free admission.


945 Liberty Ave. # 1, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Suggested donation $4 for anyone 12 and up

Joe Wos fell in love with cartooning as a child when his battle with dyslexia made reading and writing a challenge rather than an enjoyment.

“Cartooning was the one thing I could do that no one could ever say I was wrong,” Wos said, “If my drawing looked funny, it was supposed to look funny. It was a cartoon.”

Today, as the executive director of ToonSeum, Wos’ love for the no-barriers art of cartooning is being shared with Pittsburghers everywhere through art exhibitions and cartooning workshops.

ToonSeum is located on Liberty Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh’s Cultural District. It appears tiny and unassuming from the outside, with only a storefront window looking into its warmly lit, single-room exhibition space.

But despite the small venue, there is plenty to see. The inside is a long, narrow room. Professional cartoonists’ sketches of characters like Pepe Le Pew and Bugs Bunny adorn the gallery’s white walls for the latest exhibition, “Overture: Looney Tunes Behind the Scenes.” Included in the exhibit are the artists’ professional profiles and their personal notes on the cartoon creations most of us grew up watching. A screen hangs directly in the center of the show space playing episodes of “Looney Tunes.”

“Our philosophy is that there are some museums you never outgrow and we are the rare museum you can grow up with,” says Wos.

Like its visitors, the ToonSeum is growing up. It has already begun expanding to create the Lou Scheimer Gallery. Due to open on November 12th, the gallery is named after the famous cartoonist and native Pittsburgher. The expansion will give Wos more space at the museum to share with Pittsburgh what he believes is one of the most accessible and popular art forms.

Photo Antiquities: Museum of Photographic History

531 East Ohio St., Pittsburgh, Pa.

$8 for students with ID/$10 for adults

The Photo Antiquities Museum stands in stark contrast to the modern buildings on its street. With its Victorian-style architecture, complete with white lace curtains and maroon window awnings, it emanates rose-colored nostalgia for past eras.

Ever since it opened, the museum has been dedicated to the education, preservation and history of photography. Stepping inside the space’s six galleries teeming with thousands of antique photographs and hundreds of cameras — including 457 movie cameras — is a welcome way to forget about the hustle and bustle of present-day Pittsburgh. The museum starts at 1839 and goes up to present, said the museum’s owner, Bruce Klein.

Every visitor to the museum receives a guided tour that includes a viewing of a replica of the first photograph ever taken in 1827. The photograph appears as a muddled and faded gray scene of what one has to intuit is a view of buildings from a window. The tour also offers a chance to use the museum’s antique serial viewers in order to view the exquisite photographs in stereo.

The museum’s displays vary greatly, and “people really have an opportunity to really see the full spectrum of photography,” Klein said proudly.

Its permanent exhibits include a recreation of a 19th-century photographic studio and a display of the only known photographs of Pittsburgh’s shanty town during the Great Depression. For those still in the Halloween spirit, the museum’s eerie post-mortem exhibit is still running.

“I’m telling you, it’s something for all age groups,” Klein said.


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