In 2015, Brett Yasko invited 400 artists from a diverse set of genres to portray his friend, John Riegert, himself an artist. Fifteen years ago, John began suffering from mental illness and much of his world had unraveled over the subsequent years. Brett couldn’t compensate the artists for their time or materials, but hoped a few artists would take on the challenge and the project would lift his good friend up. To Brett and John’s surprise, 250 artists responded to the call.
The resulting paintings, sculptures, performances pieces, films, photographs and conceptual pieces were displayed at SPACE Gallery from June through August 2016 in one of Pittsburgh’s largest ever group art exhibitions. John served as docent for the exhibit.
Awesome Pittsburgh was inspired by Brett’s dedication to the project and by the generous and creative contributions of such a large number of artists. With the $1000 grant, Brett hopes to produce book featuring all the works of art and documentation of how the project came together.
Awesome Pittsburgh Trustee Pete Maher said that the group was impressed by the uniqueness of the project and the generosity it inspired. “Through Brett’s great idea, John was able to meet and engage with many of the artists. He visited artist’s students, met them in coffee shops, parks, museums and even a cemetery. But, as Dan Byers, senior curator at The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, put it, the project also became a portrait of Pittsburgh, its artists and what it means to be a creative individual within a small community.”