Artists Image Resources (AIR) was established in 1996, was incorporated as a nonprofit Pennsylvania Corporation in 1997 and received nonprofit 501(c) 3 tax status in 1998. In 1996, AIR started working with professional artists on projects and began to organize resources in a 10,000 square foot space in an urban neighborhood on the North Side of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. In 1996 and 1997, AIR began working with university educators to design programs that would allow the aspiring artist to work directly, hand in hand, with the professional artist in an active real world studio environment. This methodology continues to define the studio as the active and engaged art production and learning laboratory that it is today.
As AIR continued to support working artists and students in the creation of new work and the development of best artistic practices, we also began to organize exhibitions of the work created. AIR began to archive prints and developmental material (sketches, preliminary proofs, etc.) to create a print inventory and educational archive. The fundamental structure of the organization consists of these three elements: production, education and archive/exhibition.
As we have integrated all of these activities into a dynamic whole, we have expanded the nature of how we initiate artists’ projects, how we allow general access to the shop and how we allow our apprenticeship program to expand. We have also developed a more formal collaborative educational program structure that engages high school students and youth into the shop dynamic. We have further expanded the exhibition opportunities that we provide through the studio, allowing more and more diverse work to be presented and discussed.
In 2012, AIR completed work on a major portfolio project supported by the Heinz Endowments and the Carnegie Museums. The portfolio celebrated the 250th anniversary of the city of Pittsburgh and included work by seven artists working nationally and internationally. We also finished work with six Resident Artist Projects including Tresa Varner, Abby Sheehan, Jerstin Crosby, Michael Hegedus, Michael Budai and Robert Williams, and we completed a project supported by the Heinz Endowments / Pittsburgh Foundation’s Black Arts Initiative with Pittsburgh artist Tina Brewer.
In terms of AIR’s educational and community access programming, in 2012 we continued to expand our support of independent projects with professional artists, including tutorials, shop rentals and other community access projects, supporting work with over 15 community groups, schools and museums.
In 2012 we began a new project with The Andy Warhol Museum, supported by the Benedum Foundation that includes projects and technical support for a number of organizations in semi-rural locations in southwestern Pennsylvania and West Virginia and we continue a successful partnership with the Andy Warhol Museum that includes project work with students at The Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA). In 2012, we expanded this programming to include projects with middle school students, with the support of the Grable Foundation.
In 2012, AIR organized its first annual national juried exhibition titled Printwork 2012. This project engaged Nicholas Chambers, the new curator of contemporary art at the Andy Warhol Museum to serve as juror for the exhibition. The project has enabled AIR to reach out to a broad, national population of working artists that might be served by AIR in the future.
In 2011 and 2012, AIR also exhibited work from its archive at venues in Manchester, England (Richard Goodall), Cincinnati, the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum, Pittsburgh’s Concept Gallery and at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust education facility. AIR also had work from the archives purchased and placed in collections at Reed Smith in Pittsburgh and at West Virginia University in West Virginia.