Local Curator Gets Creative with Gallery Space

The Mine Factory is on North Braddock Ave., right on the edge of Point Breeze, as old 1920s mansions (most renovated into apartments) give way to industrial warehouses. There, Jeffrey Jarzynka is hanging art for his latest exhibition, “Controlled Chaos,” a showing of pieces by Pittsburgh artist Jesse Best.

Jeffrey doesn’t have a gallery or studio space of his own, but instead circulates between many in the community for his pop-up series “Presented by Jeffrey Jarzynka.”

“When I’m thinking about working with an artist and thinking about their artwork, I try to display their art in a place that I feel is going to best showcase and represent it.”

With high ceilings, huge windows, and stark white walls, The Mine Factory can morph to fit many aesthetics. Today, rectangular and circular panels lean against the walls, depicting swirls of cloud and scatterings of constellations. Jesse and Jeffrey move around them, evaluating the order and placement.

“After [Jesse] paints the panels, he coats everything with a really slick layer of resin, so it has a nice polished look that I think contrasts really well with the rawness of the space. In many ways, I just find it very meditative and serene. In this particular series he’s working with taking the idea of outer space, which is this very vast concept and colliding it with abstract painting, which is very flat and singular in dimension.”

Though Jeffrey studied art in school, majoring in graphic design and minoring in painting, he later found his real passion is not in creating art, but curating it.

Jeffrey stands near one of the large windows at The Mine Factory.

Jeffrey stands near one of the large windows at The Mine Factory.

“I find that I’m a better supporter of artists…and that has led to being an active independent curator and art consultant. I’m working with artists and trying to develop their careers and get them more exposure through pop-up exhibitions and other things. And then I work with clients on the other side, whether they’re individuals who want a piece for their home to add to their collection, or corporations who want something for their office, or even hospitality. I’ve worked with a couple hotels now as well.”

In the space where Jeffrey and I are talking, he’s hung a painting by an artist whose studio is in Bethel Park. A client wanted to see the painting, but didn’t want to drive so far out of the city, so Jeffrey stepped in to facilitate a viewing, just another aspect of his job.

His pop-up exhibitions and private showings often take place at The Mine Factory, which he’s helping run this season, but he also loves showing art in other underutilized yet amazing spaces. He had a recent show at AIR in the North Side, an artist’s lab for printwork, etchings, silkscreens and more. He’s also looking forward to planning a show with Marcus Studio, a furniture workshop and gallery space.

“I think Pittsburgh lacks galleries and exhibition space,” Jeffrey says, “and that’s something in my small way I’m trying to change or evolve. I don’t think it lacks artists though. A lot of artists at one time left Pittsburgh because they felt they needed to be elsewhere to be successful. I think now they’re realizing Pittsburgh truly is a great place to call home and live and work because of the affordability.”

Many artists are realizing you don’t need to be in New York to be connected to the art world. Jeffrey cites social media and the Internet as revolutionizing the way artists can connect with each other and promote their work.

Yet while Pittsburgh is certainly experiencing a new artistic renaissance, it’s always had art in its history.

“Even though it’s a small city, [Pittsburgh has] a lot of culture at its backbone. That could stem from as far back as Carnegie introducing the museum and the library system here, and of course all the performing arts downtown with the symphony and the opera and the ballet and so forth. I think in general Pittsburgh has that as part of its fabric.”

That Pittsburgh fabric has just grown in recent years, expanded by great medical resources, many universities that are attracting and retaining new talent, and a huge tech movement.

“[That growth has] spurred a lot of development and brought opportunities for smaller businesses to open up their own ‘ma and pa’ coffee shops or boutiques. We’ve seen a crazy boom of the food and restaurant scene here, and that keeps going and expanding. I think art is right below that surface. It’s not part of the conversation yet. Right now it’s all about the food and the development, but my goal is to try to bring art to that table too as a topic. It’s here, it’s just kind of underground. A lot of people don’t know where to find it, but still have an interest in it.”

Another of Jesse's pieces: "The Sky As You See It"

Another of Jesse’s pieces: “The Sky As You See It”

For those people interested in art, but still looking for new ways to experience it, Jeffrey suggests following artists and galleries on social media. He also talks about Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, of which he is a board member, and their work promoting new artists. However, the best way, like so much of Pittsburgh, is still old school: word of mouth. If you attend one gallery opening or show, it’s easy to hear about another one, and another one after that.

There’s an easy and simple way to dip your toes in the Pittsburgh art pool to get that first recommendation. “Controlled Chaos” opens Friday, April 8, with a free showing open to the public from 7pm-10pm. Through April 23, you can also view the pieces by appointment.

by Morgan Kayser