The Cultural Legacy of Andrew Carnegie

Artistic, bold, confident, dynamic – you need a list of superlatives to define the city of Pittsburgh today. For over a century it was the world’s unrivalled centre of oil, iron, glass and steel production. Having thrown off its grey industrial cloak and nickname Smoky City, a green, clean new environment has sprung up in recent years featuring brash modern architecture, a world-class cultural scene, great shopping and nightlife. Urban regeneration has restored 19th century factories and downtown warehouses to create new hotels, art galleries, theatres, bars and bistros, with a cutting-edge convention centre and new sports stadium now dominating the stunning river waterfront.

Pittsburgh does not simply follow trends and fashion, it creates its own. A city of world firsts it was here that the Macdonald Big Mac hamburger was invented by Jim Delligatti in 1968, while Klondikes choc-ices (vanilla ice cream dipped in chocolate and wrapped in silver paper) were first produced in 1929 at Isaly’s store. And it was in Pittsburgh that the first modern art gallery opened as far back as 1895 – almost before the term “modern art” had even been coined.

The forward-thinking entrepreneur behind a museum of art was Andrew Carnegie, one of America’s most successful industrialists and – it could be argued – the world’s original philanthropist. But some people may not be aware that Andrew Carnegie was not an American but a proud Scotsman to his death.

Andrew Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, Fife in 1835, the son of a weaver, whose skills were soon made worthless by the introduction of new textile machinery.  At the age of 12 he travelled with his family to the United States, the land of freedom and promise. He began working in the cotton mills before training as a telegrapher with the Pennsylvania Railroad where his skills were noted by an official, Thomas Scott.  By the time he was 24 Carnegie had become a superintendent and with Scott`s help in the form of a loan, advice and influence, he was already making money on the stock exchange. He invested in oil and soon saw the potential for development in the steel industry. Carnegie observed that iron train rails were wearing out too quickly, causing devastating derailments. The railroad was ordering stronger Bessamer steel rails all the way from Britain, which inspired Carnegie to quit his railroad job to manufacture them in Pittsburgh.

On the Monongahela River in Braddock, Pennsylvania, Andrew Carnegie’s first major steel mill opened on August 22, 1875 introduced cheap, high-volume steel to the Pittsburgh area. He was a shrewd businessman, nicknamed the “Steel King”, and a hard task-master, holding down wages and keeping costs to a minimum and prices below his competitors. His vast steel mills at Braddock, Duquesne, and Homestead boasted the latest equipment and were the most productive in the world.

When he sold out to the US Steel Corporation in 1901 for $250 million, he found himself one of the richest men in the world.  Exactly 50 years since he had arrived in the United States, he had succeeded beyond his wildest expectation in business acumen and material wealth. But he had never forgotten the pain and poverty of his childhood and understood more than most the social injustices in life. He felt it his moral duty to put something back into society believing that “the man who dies rich, dies disgraced.”

Carnegie was particularly concerned in giving less fortunate people an education. He invested part of his fortune in building 2,500 libraries across the United States and Britain. He endowed universities, set up trust funds, pension schemes and foundations to assist students, medicine and social projects. He funded the building of the Carnegie Hall, New York and in his adopted city he created the Carnegie Museum of Art which opened in 1895.

A Palace of Culture

The Carnegie Museum of Art is part of the extensive Carnegie Institute – a Palace of Culture – covering contemporary art and sculpture, Architecture, a Music Hall, Natural History, Science, a library as well as city educational colleges. Carnegie’s aim in creating an art gallery was to introduce to the people of Pittsburgh the best contemporary American and European artists of the day. The gallery would focus on the Old Masters of Tomorrow, purchasing new work for a permanent collection. An annual exhibition, the Carnegie International, was launched in 1896 which has featured through the years, new work by Whistler, Pissaro, Matisse, Hopper, Jackson Pollok and David Hockney.

Over a century later the International (now triennial) is a world class, prestigious event. It continues to reflect a bold, eclectic selection process to capture ‘the spirit of the age’, innovative contemporary art, which has always been the ambition of the museum.

38 artists were selected for the 2004/ 5 Carnegie International, representing five continents from the U.S, Germany, China, Japan, Italy, Turkey, Ethiopia, Poland, Ireland, England and – (Carnegie would have been proud to see) – Scotland.  Peter Doig from Edinburgh is a world traveller and paints sundrenched landscapes and islands, capturing distant horizons or the empty road ahead.

In contrast Jim Lambie (Glasgow), makes unusually surreal installations using everyday objects such as handbags, chairs, photographs and record albums. Imaginative and fun.

The entire exhibition is absolutely fantastic, colourful and inspiring, as you walk from room to room to observe what’s new around the world in painting, animation, sculpture, photography, film, video and installations. The winner of the Carnegie Prize for 2004/5 was Kutlug Ataman from Turkey for his amazing 40 TV monitor installation.

The Carnegie Museum of Art offers a superb permanent collection of American and European art from the late 19th century to the present day – French Impressionist, American Expressionism, drawings and watercolours. Arranged in chronological order, fine art is interspersed with decorative arts, furniture, silverware and ceramics to show the complete picture of a creative period.

Andrew Carnegie was determined to bring the world to Pittsburgh when he created a Sculpture Court. Marble replicas of some of the most famous classical architectural sites, churches, monuments and Ancient Greek ruins are on show. The magnificent Hall itself is modelled on the Temple of Athena in the Acropolis, Athens and this collection is unique in America.

Children will be enthralled by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History which houses one of the finest dinosaur collections in the world including skeletons of Tyrannosauraus Rex, Diplodocus and other wonderful fossils.

The Carnegie Science Center where education is fun has a planetarium, WWII submarine and Omnimax theatre.

The Andy Warhol Museum is one of the four museums within the cultural remit of the Carnegie Institute. It is the largest and most comprehensive single-artist gallery in the world.

“They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” Andy Warhol Andy Warhol (Andrew Warhola) was born on August 6, 1928 in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, the son of Slovak immigrants. Andy showed an early talent in drawing and painting and after high school he studied at the Carnegie Institute College of Fine Arts in Pittsburgh.

Unique, eccentric and living in his own fantasy world, Warhol is considered the most influential American artist of the 20th century. His signature style used commercial silkscreening techniques to create identical, mass produced images on canvas. Warhol first applied his silkscreen techniques as a commercial illustrator in the 1950s working on shoe adverts.

His initial forays into Pop Art came in the early 1960s with his Coca-Cola Bottles and sculptures of Brillo Boxes which brought worldwide recognition.

Warhol’s depictions of famous objects and people from Campbell’s Soup Cans to the face of Marilyn Monroe provide a revealing commentary on contemporary American society, the media and the role of the celebrity. Warhol died in his prime in New York on February 27, 1987 after a gallbladder operation.

The aim of the Andy Warhol Museum – which spans across seven floors – is to form an essential archive for his vast collection of work. This comprises 900 paintings, 77 sculpture, thousands of drawings, films and photographs as well as invaluable early illustrations and sketch books. Warhol was the ultimate hoarder and an incredible amount of ephemera surrounding his daily life and work has been stored in 608 ‘time capsules’. These include letters, magazines, books, diaries, audiotapes, scripts and personal belongings. The museum has opened 100 of these cardboard boxes for cataloguing with selected material from 15 boxes put on display. You could browse for hours around glass cabinets containing hand written letters, invitations to gallery private views and glamorous parties in New York. Amongst his collection of celebrities’ clothes are Jean Harlow’s dress and Clark Gable’s shoes.

The museum offers art classes to encourage children to follow in Warhol’s footsteps.  On Friday nights – Good Fridays – the gallery is open till 10pm with a cash bar, films and lectures to draw a young crowd. Just as Warhol enjoyed a lively, club and cultural scene in New York, this museum, created to commemorate and preserve his work, is an alive, creative and happening place.

“In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.”  Andy Warhol

The Mattress Factory

Warhol’s legacy for bold, innovative creative art continues in Pittsburgh at the Mattress Factory. This contemporary art gallery is housed literally in an old mattress factory within the historic Mexican War Streets in the city’s North Side, a preserved community of 300 houses built in the late 19th century. With the tag line, “Art you can get into”, the museum acts as a research laboratory and commissions artists from around the world to create specific installations for the space.

Always breaking new ground and showing something radically different, a recent exhibition was Artists in Residence – Cuba. The only problem was that the 11 artists were forbidden to travel from Cuba to Pittsburgh. But through careful collaboration, the stunning, thought-provoking work was created on their behalf. The whole exhibition was given a curious edge being able to see this diverse range of art by a group of absent artists. The meaning behind their work – freedom, social and political issues – became all the more powerful.

The Cultural District

Fourteen blocks within the Downtown district is known as the Cultural District. The culture of Pittsburgh goes beyond the visual arts and other wealthy city entrepreneurs were also generous benefactors. The Heinz Hall, with its marble staircase and furnished in classic red and gold, is the home to the world renowned Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

(place picture Benedum here)

Nearby is the 2,800 seat Benedum Center for Performing arts, opera, dance and ballet as well as pre Broadway shows. And for theatre check out what’s on at the Byham and the O’Reilly theatres.

Shopping,  Dining and Visitor attractions

First the most important fact. There is no sales tax on clothes and shoes in Pittsburgh. The city offers superb shopping opportunities in the Downtown district, including the major stores, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor  and Kaufmann’s. Located just across the river from downtown Pittsburgh, Station Square is now an historic landmark. Formerly the freight yard and terminal for the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad, it has been renovated into a unique shopping, dining, and entertainment concourse. One of the highlights is the Grand Concourse restaurant which was the old station waiting room. Retaining original stained glass windows, booth seating, and signage it’s an elegant place to enjoy fine seafood.

Nearby Station Square is the Monongahela Incline Funicular Railway which, along with the Duquesne Incline nearby, takes visitors to the top of Mt. Washington from where you will have a fabulous view over the city between the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers with their magnificent bridges.

Another part of town to visit for a daytime browse or nightlife is the Strip District.. It sounds like a red light district but traditionally the Strip District was a flat strip of land on the Allegheny River’s south shore just east of Downtown, previously the industrial heartland of the city lined with warehouses, iron mills and glass factories. This is where Carnegie’s steel mill was located. Today a complete renaissance has taken place where new bars, restaurants, funky boutiques and quality food stores have moved in.

Experience the city’s hottest nightlife here revolving around the jazz bars and nightclubs. The Strip is a favorite weekend destination for Pittsburghers and is a must-see for visitors.

Here you’ll find great places to eat such as Primanti’s, a traditional diner which has been serving fast food with a smile since 1933. Even Carnegie is here, included in a mural of famous locals.

Try one of their famous sandwiches such as steak, tomato, cheese, coleslaw and French fries inside one enormous bun.

Lidia’s Italian restaurant opened along the Strip in 2001 following the success of Lidia’s in New York and Kansas City. The restaurant specialty is Pasta Trio – three fresh (homemade) pasta dishes served with unlimited refills. The design of the stunning old factory building is worth the trip here as much as the signature cuisine.

Where to stay

Tried and tested is the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel on Sixth Street, in the centre of the Downtown Cultural District. It’s a magnificently restored architectural landmark building with the most amazing entrance hall and staircase. Bedrooms offer homely comforts and a taste of luxury with all mod cons – internet access, in-room movies, minibar and bathrobes. The Opus restaurant serves (probably) the best breakfast in town to set you up for your day exploring the city.

Renaissance city

Pittsburgh enjoys a great location for visitors, within a two hour flight or a day’s drive of over 70% of the US population. From the UK, US Airways offers daily flights to Pittsburgh throughout the year from London and Manchester, and from Glasgow during the summer months. This is certainly a city for art lovers, but whether you simply enjoy the buzz and bustle of city life, Pittsburgh is a fascinating destination of contrasts, blending history and heritage with a vibrant contemporary attitude and atmosphere. Its famous son Andrew Carnegie was the ultimate entrepreneur always on the lookout for what was new and innovative in order to succeed.  He would surely be proud of the sparkling new-look Pittsburgh of the 21st century and that his legacy, to bring arts and culture to the city, lives on in great style.

Visitor Information

Vivien’s itinerary was arranged by the Great Lakes of North America.  www.greatlakesnorthamerica.co.uk.

For more information on Pittsburgh check out www.visitpittsburgh.com

The Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel: rooms start from $149 per room per night and can be booked by calling the hotel direct on (001) 412 562 1200.