Visual Arts: Deborah Willis and LaToya Ruby Frazier




PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust welcomes the arrival of two internationally acclaimed artists exhibiting at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, 980 Liberty Avenue, from Friday, September 22 – Sunday, December 31, 2017. Deborah Willis’s Went Looking For Beauty: Refashioning Self: Photographs by Deborah Willis will be housed in the Claude Worthington Benedum Gallery and LaToya Ruby Frazier’s collaborative exhibit, On the Making of Steel Genesis: Sandra Gould Ford can be found in the BNY Mellon Gallery. The August Wilson Center visual art galleries are free and open to the public. Gallery hours are Wednesday & Thursday: 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.; Friday & Saturday: 11:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.; Sunday: 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Went Looking For Beauty dives into the meaning and desire of beauty as an aesthetic. Throughout history, it has been simultaneously idealized and challenged, and the relationship between beauty and identity has become increasingly complex within contemporary art and popular culture. “Through the years, I have been exploring new narratives about community, desire, and beauty.  I am excited to share my new body of work that refers to themes relating to refashioning the self within the photographic medium. The exhibition also includes a selection of other work focusing on the similar themes and my experiences photographing in Florence, Italy and in Eatonville, Florida. To return to Pittsburgh to share my work as an artist is thrilling, as I have another opportunity to look at history within the framework of cultural and personal memory,” says Deborah Willis, Ph.D.

Deborah Willis, Ph.D., is Chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at New York University/Tisch and has an affiliated appointment in Africana Studies. Professor Willis was a 2014 Richard D. Cohen Fellow of African and African American Art History at the Hutchins Center, Harvard University, a 2005 Guggenheim Fellow and Fletcher Fellow, and a 2000 MacArthur Fellow.

On the Making of Steel Genesis: Sandra Gould Ford is a collaborative exhibition that explores the work and life of artist Sandra Gould Ford. Ford had worked as a clerk and secretary at the Jones and Laughlin Steel Company, founded in 1852. Although the taking of photographs was prohibited on the premises, Ford quietly photographed the blast furnaces, coke ovens, and ladles, devoted to capturing the spirit of the workers in this environment. Many of the prints have been made by LaToya Ruby Frazier as cyanotypes, a 19th-century photographic process that renders images in shades of blue, referencing an architect’s blueprint and the idea of “blue collar” work, which finds itself between documentation and artwork. This exhibit showcases the Black experience in Pittsburgh and tells the story of ordinary people working to create something beautiful, meaningful, and true while facing great challenges and systemic injustice.

LaToya Ruby Frazier is a 2016 MacArthur Fellow who works in photography, video, and performance to build visual archives that address industrialism, rustbelt revitalization, environmental justice, health care inequity, family, and communal history. She had this to say when commenting on her latest work, “I’m proud to finally exhibit in my hometown for the first time, and honored to contribute to the legacy of August Wilson by sharing stories about the lives of the working class.”

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust visual art programming seeks to give audiences the opportunity to explore and discover experiences that would not have been found otherwise. These exhibits, both in their own unique and compelling way, tell untold stories. While beauty is subjective and hard work is defined individually, the empathy felt through shared struggle allows us to connect to the human condition.

Both exhibits opened as a part of the Fall Gallery Crawl in the Cultural District. Produced by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, this free multi-venue, community-centered event showcases a plethora of dynamic art that opens dozens of galleries, stages, storefronts and public spaces, creating a true sense of togetherness.

August Wilson Center for African American Culture

The August Wilson Center is an architectural gem that offers multiple exhibition galleries, a 472-seat theater for performances in all genres, an education center for classes, lectures and hands-on learning, and dazzling spaces for community programs and events.

The African American Cultural Center is the non-profit organization that owns the August Wilson Center. For rental inquiries, visit the African American Cultural Center pages on

For more information and a calendar of events presented by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust taking place at the August Wilson Center, call 412-456-6666 or visit

Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has overseen one of Pittsburgh’s most historic transformations: turning a seedy red-light district into a magnet destination for arts lovers, residents, visitors, and business owners.  Founded in 1984, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is a non-profit arts organization whose mission is the cultural and economic revitalization of a 14-block arts and entertainment/residential neighborhood called the Cultural District. The District is one of the country’s largest land masses “curated” by a single nonprofit arts organization.  A major catalytic force in the city, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is a unique model of how public-private partnerships can reinvent a city with authenticity, innovation and creativity.  Using the arts as an economic catalyst, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has holistically created a world-renowned Cultural District that is revitalizing the city, improving the regional economy and enhancing Pittsburgh’s quality of life.  Thanks to the support of foundations, corporations, government agencies and thousands of private citizens, the Cultural Trust stands as a national model of urban redevelopment through the arts.  For more information, visit us on Twitter @CulturalTrust, and like us on Facebook.


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