Pittston plans to be NEPA’s ‘art destination’

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First Posted: 7/8/2014

The city of Pittston has been in a constant state of growth over the past several years, with new establishments popping up steadily, and now the self-proclaimed “Tomato Capital of the World” hopes to capture the attention of those in the art world, building momentum through events like the Pittston City Art Walk, which takes place on July 11.

It helps that there are already three galleries that line the main street – Art on Main (formerly ArtSeen Gallery), Totally ArtRageous, and one in the NEPA Tattoo Club – but the Art Walk takes the scene to another level.

What sets it apart from others is the fact that it’s juried.

“Every artist has to apply and be approved by the art director,” Rose Randazzo of the Art Walk committee said, “so the art is at a very high level.”

It’s all part of a grander plan, one Rose said has been in the works for a while now, with the Pittston City Art Walk as a great way to showcase the finer points.

“We wanted to be an art destination, and we’re taking it very seriously,” Rose said. “Our goal is to be the American city that has the most public art in 1.7 square miles, which is the size of our city.”

Renowned artists’ works have been gracing parts of Pittston for a while now, from murals to sculptures. Among these include Dwight Kirkland, who painted the city’s Heritage Mural and the recently painted “Birds of a Feather,” and has also sold paintings to George W. Bush for his private collection.

Rose said she hopes those who attend the Art Walk, and peruse the galleries of Pittston in general, can realize the vast cultural improvement that has been made.

“Once you get to the walk and you start looking at all the art and you realize what’s going on, it’s amazing. This is a city that, five years ago, had nothing, and now we have three art galleries on Main Street and over 40 artists in those galleries.”

There will be another 20 to see at the Art Walk, with a total of 60 different artists from varying genres that walkers can experience.

“We push a little bit of everything,” Randazzo said as far as the type of art showcased. “We want people to be able to see things being done live, so we have woodworkers. We love all performance arts; we have live music and bands that play. There are artists that walk up and down Main Street and just stop wherever they see a crowd to play.”

This time around, there will be an art installation unlike any other seen before: one of the aerial variety, thanks to Eclectic Circus, a performance group out of Jim Thorpe. The group provides stilt walkers, hula hoop artists, magicians, fire throwers, sword swallowers, and much more to those who request it, but for Pittston they’re doing something very special to tie in with the visual arts theme.

“It’s going to be something like you’ve never seen,” Randazzo said. “Imagine this: They travel in an old grey school bus – it’s an ugly school bus, I gotta tell you, very plain – and they come with a spray paint artist able to do large canvases, which are fabulous. Well, he decides he wants this bus to look better, so they park it in the middle of the town and that bus is going to leave a gigantic mural. It’ll be painted in hours, by the artist, on the premises.”

And if that’s not enough in itself, the place the artist draws inspiration from is a real stunner.

“There will be someone doing an aerial performance right next to the bus, as he’s painting.”

This is the seventh Art Walk for Pittston, with No. 8 coming in September. Four are held a year, and with each one the event grows.

Randazzo and her colleagues are thrilled to be able to bring this caliber of event not only during those times of year, but to help people enjoy the artistic presence in Pittston year-round.

“Art gives people pride in their town, and that’s what it’s all about,” she said. “We’re promoting not only the sticks and the bricks of our Main Street; we want to promote a new attitude, a new attitude that we’re proud to come from Northeastern Pennsylvania, and this is why.”