With 90 painted chairs, Pittsburghers celebrate the arts while welcoming visitors

(BPT) – In spring 2019, VisitPITTSBURGH launched a new national marketing campaign — Pull Up a Chair. You are Welcomed Here. The now award-winning campaign is built on a welcoming Pittsburgh message and the act of offering someone a chair — a universal sign of hospitality and respect. The campaign is raising awareness of Pittsburgh as a major travel destination, as well as driving hotel room nights. Now VisitPITTSBURGH, along with the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council (GPAC), is taking the Pull Up a Chair campaign to an all new level by using an offshoot of the campaign — the 90 Painted Chairs Program — to drive awareness of the city’s thriving arts and culture community while also benefiting a local arts-related charity.

Named for the city’s 90 unique and diverse neighborhoods, the program has pushed local artists into the spotlight and empowered them to paint parking chairs for a CHAIR-ity — the Teaching Artists Initiative. The infamous Pittsburgh parking chair, which is sometimes used to save neighborhood parking spots, is one of many chairs featured in the Pull Up a Chair campaign. Pittsburghers have latched onto the regional tie-in, embraced the campaign’s message and emerged as the city’s best advocates.

From a chair emblazoned with the face of famous Pittsburgh pop artist Andy Warhol, to a three-dimensional seat covered with lush, green sprigs, and a toy T. rex; to the Monongahela and Duquesne Inclines climbing up and down the legs of one chair and a re-imagining of “The Scream” with the Pittsburgh skyline peeking through in the distance … there truly is a chair for everyone.

All 90+ chairs will be auctioned off through an online service beginning Feb. 25; the auction will close on April 3. The chairs, along with artist bios, are available to view on VisitPITTSBURGH.com.

Launched early this year, the Teaching Artists Initiative is GPAC’s newest program where teaching artists connect for networking, professional development and peer-to-peer learning. The initiative was developed in response to a need from local teaching artists; these creatives have historically had fewer opportunities to connect as a group of working professionals than others in the education or arts sectors. With teaching listed as the top source of income for Pittsburgh artists, GPAC hopes the initiative will fill this gap with education and professional development.

“Pittsburgh-area artists work in many ways to make a living,” Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council CEO Mitch Swain said. “However, in 2018, 40% of our artists reported teaching as their main source of income, followed by other full-time work or selling their artwork. This is a shift from our 2016 report, where the No. 1 source of income was selling artwork. This underlines the importance of creating a space for our teaching artists to commune, learn and grow. We hope that the Teaching Artists Initiative will do just that.”

“Pittsburgh’s art community members serve as fantastic ambassadors for our great city,” VisitPITTSBURGH Chief Marketing Officer Tom Loftus said. “The artists — like all Pittsburghers — have embraced our marketing campaign with open arms and take pride in spreading the city’s welcoming message. I’ve been floored by the beautiful chairs that have been submitted for auction; creativity has no limits in Pittsburgh.

“With the launch of this auction, anyone can own an authentic piece of Pittsburgh artwork.”

As of February 2020, the Pull Up a Chair. You are Welcomed Here. campaign has won seven national and regional awards, including the 2019 PRNEWS Digital Game-Changer Award.