A Guide to the June First Friday Art Crawl

The first Friday of every month, Garfield’s stretch of Penn Avenue gets together for an evening of art shows and pop-up shopping. Called “Unblurred,” the night out is a project of the Penn Avenue Arts Initiative since 1998 and has helped establish Garfield as an art district.

While the art crawl goes on rain or shine, the summer months are the best time to catch First Friday at its peak. When it’s warm out, restaurants like Apteka and Soju are lively with conversation. Vintage stores like Twisted Vintage and 5110 put racks out on the street for passers-by to shop from. Inexplicably, a jazz band always pops up somewhere. Whether you want an early bedtime or a long night out, First Friday is fun. The festivities tend to run between 5PM and 10PM, loosely, with clubs, bars, and restaurants often open slightly later.

Here’s TABLE Magazine’s guide to what’s up at the art galleries on Penn Avenue this June. Other galleries across the city often also time their openings around First Friday due to the momentum to venture out on the town, so we’ve also included several Saturday events. If you’ve never been to a gallery opening or feel intimidated by the concept, First Friday is a great place to start!

Friday, June 7

Bunker Projects

5106 Penn Avenue

Showing: Paul Peng – My Subject / Cole Modell – (F)utility and Utility

Bunker Projects, on the second floor of 5106 Penn Avenue, is one of Pittsburgh’s premier galleries. It has a nationally renowned residency that allows artists to develop a show concept in their cozy-but-chique studio space. This month, it has a double-bill of works on paper by Paul Peng and Cole Modell. Also, founder Jessie Rommelt just bought their building, so the celebratory energy is going to be extra high.

Bantha Tea Bar

5002 Penn Avenue

Showing: Tom Ndiaye — Remnants

Bantha Tea Bar is a true bohemian café in the vein of the old-school Beehive Coffeehouse. Its owner also shows art, and this First Friday marks the last day to catch Tom Ndiaye’s solo exhibition Remnants. Have some tea, kava, or kratom while you’re at it. Bantha is a good “home base” for checking out the art crawl and circling back for a snack after you’ve had too much free wine at other venues.

Irma Freeman Center

5006 Penn Avenue

Showing: Christopher Boring, Vania Evangelique, Heather Heitzenrater, Lewis V. Pell – Beyond the Brush 

Irma Freeman is right next to Bantha, hard to miss with the copious mosaics on the outside. The gallery and community space was founded in memory of German Jewish artist Irma Freeman and usually hosts group shows featuring craft and 3D work alongside paintings.

Pullproof Studio

5112 Penn Avenue

Showing: Matthew Constant – Mumbles

Pullproof Studio has a screenprinting facility, but not all of its shows are screenprints. It’s a small, intimate space good for showing drawings or unstretched canvases, like Matthew Constant’s. The shows there tend to have a quirky, DIY feeling. Also, if you want to buy something but aren’t in the market for a huge painting, Pullproof often has cool smaller works for sale in a more affordable price point.

Mixtape

4908 Penn Avenue

Showing: Max Gonzales, Shane Pilster, DakPak, Melon James, Paula Tikay – Shadow Style

For anyone who wants to dance the night away until late, club and bar Mixtape has you covered in Garfield. This June, they’ve brought in work by both local and international graffiti writers and muralists, plus DJs from historic Pittsburgh music venue Shadow Lounge. Mixtape is a bit more lowkey than some other East End clubs, so it’s also pretty easy to just sit at the bar and enjoy the vibe and a specialty cocktail.

Saturday, June 8

ZYNKA Gallery

904 Main Street

Showing: Ashley Cecil – Common Wealth

If you’re looking to see high quality art or start a collection in your home at a higher-market price point, ZYNKA Gallery is one of the best places in Pittsburgh. Curator Jeff Jarzynka’s background in design gives him a great eye for connecting artists with collectors’ tastes.

Bottom Feeder Books

415 Gettysburg Street

Showing: Cole Tucci – Just Married / Sophia Marie Pappas – Howlin’

Bottom Feeder Books specializes in high-quality rare and used books, but their beautiful open space in Point Breeze also makes a great art show venue. This month’s opening uses both the back gallery space for Cole Tucci’s work and the storefront for Sophia Marie Pappas’s. (Note: Sophia illustrated the cover and several other pages of TABLE Magazine’s May 2024 “How to Pittsburgh” issue.) Bottom Feeder’s mixture of visual arts and literary arts shows that creatives of all kinds can appreciate each other’s work.

Romance

5429 Howe Street

Micah Schippa-Wildfong – all fish in the night become birds 

Romance is an apartment gallery, meaning that you literally walk in through the gallerist’s kitchen. If you’re looking for a taste of an “art world” type vibe while still in a cozy Pittsburgh home, Romance is the place to be with a combination of high-reaching show concepts and a friendly demeanor.

Story by Emma Riva / Photo courtesy of Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation 

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