While there are a lot of opportunities for “emerging” artists to exhibit their work in Pittsburgh, Susan Sparks is all about giving “established” artists a chance.
That’s why she helps to coordinate the group Pittsburgh 10+.
“We’re ‘established’ artists, and by ‘established,’ I mean you have to have your AARP card to join the group,” she quipped. “Established artists got to a certain point in their career and didn’t have the opportunity to exhibit, and they also wanted to give back.”
The 14 artists that currently comprise the group are mostly in their 70s, 80s and 90s, she said. Most of them are still producing art every day.
For the fourth year, the Pittsburgh 10+ is exhibiting their work at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh’s Berger Gallery. The exhibit runs through Sept. 27. A portion of the proceeds from sales of the art will be donated to the JCC to support the Zola Hirsch Special Needs Fund, launched by Lila Hirsch Brody in memory of her late husband.
The group formed about seven years ago, initially with five female members, said Sparks, who moved back to Pittsburgh after spending 15 years creating art on the West Coast.
The artists exhibiting in the Pittsburgh 10 + show currently at the JCC include: Zivi Aviraz, Robert Bowden, Lila Hirsch Brody, Eva Lu Damianos, Sylvester Damianos, Kathy Depasse, Joel Kranich, Phiris (Kathy) Sickels, Kara Snyder, David Sparks, Susan Sparks, Dirk VandenBerg, Francine VandenBerg, David Watts and special guest artist Kathleen Zimbicki.
Some of the artists are taking or have taken art classes taught by Brody at the JCC.
Although the group initially was comprised of women, men were eventually included “because we are not sexist,” Sparks said. The Pittsburgh 10+ now includes three married couples.
“The Pittsburgh 10+ takes its name from the Philadelphia Ten, a group of women artists from the Philadelphia area that broke a lot of the rules and exhibited together between 1927 and 1945,” according to a press release. “At the time, exhibits of works by women artists were often described as conservative, but nonetheless, an important vehicle for presenting high quality artwork by women to the general public. This was the first significant step toward integrating women into the art world.”
The Pittsburgh 10+ borrows from this group by having six women artists at its core, “who break the rules in their own works,” and often do so to support a cause. Past causes to which the group has contributed have included the Center for Women, the Squirrel Hill Food Pantry and the Magee-Womens Research Institute and Foundation.
The Pittsburgh 10+ also “gets together socially, to talk about art and to talk about our lives,” Sparks said. Many of these artists first worked together at the former Eastside Gallery, a co-op gallery in Pittsburgh’s East End.
Several of the artists are painters, and the group’s exhibits include work in abstract acrylic, super real oil and acrylic, printmaking, drawing, mixed-media, sculpture, pottery, fiber, and photography.
The works are mostly contemporary, and run the gamut from abstract expressionism to realism.
Highlights of the current JCC exhibit include Robert Bowden’s “A Tree of Lives,” depicting a tree with 11 branches surrounding a Jewish star, as well as his politically-themed watercolors; Brody’s signature vibrantly pigmented flowers; David Watt’s clever and oversized “Perogies and Butter” sculpture; and Susan Sparks’ “Art of Noise” etched metal series.
“There is a strong sense of camaraderie and support in the arts community, especially among this group,” said Brody. “And, we all learn from one another.”
The group presents together two or three times a year.
The exhibit at the JCC is free and open to the community during regular JCC summer hours. A series of artist/gallery talks and demonstrations, each one featuring participating artists, will begin at 1:15 p.m. on each Wednesday beginning Aug. 7 and running through Sept. 18. pjc
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at