One of the most creative coworking places we’ve visited is StartUptown in Pittsburgh, a coworking space in the city’s poor Uptown neighborhood.
Founder Dale McNutt filled the former Elks Lodge/funeral home/chiropractors office with books, posters, sculptures and oddities, seemingly haphazard, but actually carefully curated by McNutt, a graphic artist who lives in the building.
Since our visit in 2012, StartUptown has added a second space in a former film company building. This one is more contemporary in its design, cleaner and less crowded than the original.
We asked McNutt to give us his thoughts on how he decorated the first space:
The collections of art work and books come from a lifetime of reading, looking, and collecting: from a great “deal” on 20 framed-and-mounted Polish theatre posters from local Concept Art Gallery, when my own business first started in 1983; to about 300 books of art and design of the 20th century, mostly culled from local used bookstores Caliban and City Books and museum shops from NY to LA.
The book, The Collaborative Habit by dancer/choreographer Twyla Tharp, sits on top of a stack on a classic wood chair. Next to it, a painted yellow chair (I can’t get enough of that deep yellow — I look at it every day for nourishment.)
Much of the artwork is from local artists: James Shipman (ceramic), Ed Eberle (porcelain), and regional painter Kate Bazis; and others acquired through trade of my design services. New works come from young local artists — StartUptown hopes to establish an “arts acquisition fund” to help support local art in our expanding campus of activity. I personally fund when I’m able.
We’ve hired Felipe g-Huidobro, from Chile, now a Pittsburgh resident, to design the roof deck at the Paramount. Very young local sculptor/painter Ryan Lammie (via Yale) has two pieces in the main studio room. Lammie’s Radiant Hall project in Lawrenceville (expanding to other communities) is about artists coworking. He is an extraordinary young artist/businessman and his endeavor seeks to support artist entrepreneurs and build revenue-generating models like the recent “Studio Direct” concept successfully accomplished by artist, Seth Clark, a resident of Radiant Hall.
A portion of the art is mine (I’ll set aside a place mid-room to paint on a small scale for 2 months at a time, though recently I’ve given that space over to new film company resident, In Medias Res, grown out of Point Park University). There are always 3 to 4 — what I refer to (laughingly) as 3D “Pinterest” boards which include small art works; magazine and NY Times clippings; copies of Picasso dog paintings; architecture (anything Frank Gehry!); illustrations; fashion; an article on Peter Thiel, or coworking or robotics, crowdsourcing or hacker spaces. Anything that stimulates creativity and place-making. A swatch of fabric. Molded architectural-like packing inserts.
Woody and Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story are perched on a bookshelf. An inflatable snake from the water fountains near the Paris museum, Centre Pompidou. Large photos from local photographer Mark Perrot (a series on painted billboards). Robert Qualters, regionally celebrated . . .
Well, you get the general idea. Everywhere I look I see new potential for creating and building upon what’s been done. Which is, after all, the “way” it all works. In the heightened visual reality of the visually literate (yes, we can educate our eyes) we are always rapid-prototyping the next iteration of our own idea.
Our eyes can be educated! Like learning to play a musical instrument or solving a complex problem with mathematics, having a refined sense of vision is about seeing the art of possibility and opportunity everywhere you look. Very appropriate to our burgeoning entrepreneurial culture.