Plein Air Art News > It isn’t every day that a plein air painter gets his own day in a major American city, but that’s what just happened in Pittsburgh. In honor of the “90 Pittsburgh Neighborhoods” project, the mayor and city council named August 1, 2018, Ron Donoughe Day in Pittsburgh. The event was then celebrated at the Pittsburgh Center of the Arts with over 500 people attending.
“I painted all 90 Pittsburgh neighborhoods over a 12-month period, alphabetically, while considering it my love letter to my adopted home,” Donoughe said. “I wanted to dig deeper into the city by physically going to each neighborhood and painting there. In some ways, it was a social experiment. What happens when an artist randomly paints in a place where folks generally have never witnessed it?”
“I kept a blog as I met people who were curious about this project,” he continued. “After completion, I used the blog entries to publish a 112-page hardback book that features the 90 paintings and experiences.
“Being on location is a special opportunity to become a part of the scene. I often encourage students to get out and walk a neighborhood before painting. The 12-month period also allowed for the change of seasons. By painting the neighborhoods in alphabetical order rather than geographically, I transversed places at different times of the day. Seeing something at a certain time of the day can spark an idea for a painting.”
“The idea came from seeing an old woodcut map of the city,” Donoughe said. “Even though I had been painting the city for 30 years, I realized there were places I never knew existed. The project fit into my mission of documenting places I care about. I’ve completed several other projects that consisted of 100 or more small panel paintings. The idea is make a contemporary installation of the plein air panels, without the heavy framing. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. In other words, the entire installation has an independent existence as a work of art.”
The collection of 90 paintings was exhibited and eventually acquired by the Senator John Heinz History Museum. The curator there considered it to be a visual time capsule of the city. It is on permanent display there next to the Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood set.
Visit Ron Donoughe’s website at donoughe.com.