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Local Pittsburgh Magazine Features Start With Art

Start with Art: Creating Brand New Collectors in Pittsburgh

June 7, 2016 by Aleita Hermanowski

Launched by artist and Robert Morris professor Matthew Conboy in January of 2015, Start with Art gives every baby born at The Pittsburgh Midwife Center, St. Clair Hospital, and UPMC Mercy a photograph by a local artist.  John Lawson, a poet and professor of English at Robert Morris, has also written descriptions of each photograph.

In 2006, Matthew moved to Pittsburgh from Athens, Ohio, where he was working on a doctorate in interdisciplinary arts at Ohio University. He was familiar with Pittsburgh and had been coming here since 2001 to visit the Mattress Factory and see the exhibits at the Carnegie and Warhol Museums. When he began teaching courses in art at Robert Morris University, he was shocked to find that he had students who had never been to a museum or art gallery. It was then he realized that he wanted to find a way to reach people and change their perception of art and culture well before they got to college.

Matthew had heard that St. Clair Hospital was giving Terrible Towels to all of their newborn babies as a part of gift baskets that went home with mom and baby. He imagined how many Terrible Towels were distributed to newborns throughout Pittsburgh, and thought about how giving children the gift of art and enabling them to begin life as art collectors could be life-altering. He developed the idea for Start with Art in early 2014.

“I had this idea that if I was going to give away art, it would be to babies who could grow into it. I could also support emerging artists and give them an audience that was exponentially larger than any they had ever encountered before,” says Matthew.

In 2014 Atlanta-based nonprofit Crusade for Art awarded him their $10,000 inaugural Audience Engagement Grant. Start with Art has also received help from a Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts grant and assistance from the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.

This July, Jessica Server, writer, poet and instructor at CAPA High School will be the featured artist and Start with Art will give their 5000th piece of art to a newborn baby.  Mayor Bill Peduto will also present Matthew with a proclamation at a Pittsburgh City Council meeting this summer.

“The thing that excites me the most about this project is that I am sharing my love of art with an entire generation of kids in Pittsburgh. From the moment they’re born, they will be collectors of art and photography and that is something that no one can take away from them.”

If you’d like to make a tax-deductible donation to Start with Art, you can do so through New Sun Rising.



Feature Shoot Interview: Jennifer Schwartz, Emerging Photography Competition Juror

Originally posted on December 8, 2015 on Feature Shoot. See the full post here.

As the creator and director of the non-profit Crusade for Art, Jennifer Schwartz helps find new ways to connect photographers with wider circles of buyers. Each year, Crusade for Art awards a $10,000 Crusade Engagement Grant to carry out an forward-thinking way to engage new audiences with photography. By increasing the demand for photo-based art, Schwartz works to empower artists around the world. 

Prior to founding Crusade for Art, Schwartz ran her own gallery out of Atlanta, where she highlighted work by emerging artists. We are thrilled to have her on the jury for the 2015 Emerging Photography Awards, and we caught up with her about Crusade for Art, the industry, and what she'll be looking for in this year's submissions.

Tell us a bit about why you decided to create Crusade for Art

"When I had my gallery in Atlanta (Jennifer Schwartz Gallery), I was really interested in finding ways to get new people engaged with photography and specifically with my gallery and artists. I saw (and continue to see) an imbalance between supply in art and the demand for it. Crusade for Art is committed to creating demand for art, specifically fine art photography, by cultivating art lovers, patrons and collectors. "

At Crusade for Art, you have the unique position of working between photographers and buyers. What are buyers—and potential buyers— looking for?

"Photography is the perfect medium for people who are new to buying art. It is accessible and affordable. Beyond that, I think seasoned buyers and new potential buyers are looking for a connection. They want to be drawn to an image and also be able to lock onto something that makes the piece really stand out for them – a connection to the artist, a new experience, a feel-good opportunity – something that gets them to take that step from appreciation to buying."

The Crusade Engagement Grant supports innovative ways to connect photographers to new audiences. Could you share one of your success stories with us? 

"Our second grant winners are just getting their project LDOC up and running, and it’s really going gang-busters. But we have been able to follow the success of our first grant-winning project, Start With Art, throughout 2015, and the response to it has been absolutely incredible. Start With Art is Matthew Conboy’s program where babies born in three Pittsburgh-area hospitals all go home with an original, signed photography from a local artist."

As a former gallerist, can you tell us a bit about the kind of work you're personally drawn to? 

"I am personally drawn to a wide range of photographic styles and subjects, and my personal collection is very diverse. I love images that are powerful and tell a story."

What will you be looking for in these submissions?

"I will be looking for thoughtfulness in concept and execution. I can’t wait to see what comes my way!"

From the 2015 Crusade for Art  Verso print sale

From the 2015 Crusade for Art Verso print sale

Apply to the Feature Shoot 2015 Emerging Photography Awards here



Two Great Press Pieces About LDOC - Our 2015 Crusade Engagement Grant Winning Project

Columbia College and Lesley University are proud of their alums, Danielle and Joseph Wilcox!

Reading on the Rails
Jan-Henry Gray / Nov 24, 2015

If you ride the Red Line during rush hour, you may have been handed a copy of LDOC, a free newsprint publication pairing the work of a creative writer and a photographer every issue. The publication was likely handed out to you by its founders Danielle Wilcox (MFA ’15) and her husband Joseph Wade Wilcox. The couple launched the project in early October after winning the national competition for the 2015 Crusade Engagement Grant. 

Read the full Columbia College interview here.


2015 Crusade for Art Engagement Grant recipients Joseph Wilcox and his wife Danielle are creating a shared accessible arts experience by distributing bi-weekly newsprint publications to commuters on Chicago’s “L” trains.

Wilcox, a working artist based out of Chicago, and his wife came up with the idea of a literary publication that could be distributed “guerrilla-style” on public transportation to excite and inspire the 9-to-5 employee and to get photography and creative writing into the hands of the everyday traveler.

“By putting the artwork on public transportation, we are removing the access barrier and putting the public art directly in the hands of individuals,” says Wilcox.

The Crusade for Art Engagement grant annually awards the applicant with the best idea for building an audience for fine art photography. It fully underwrites the execution of the Wilcoxes' idea in the amount of $10,000. The project is entitled “LDOC,” for the elevated, or “L,” trains of Chicago and DOC for the actual document.

“I imagine people hopping on the Red Line with their copy during a distribution day and seeing others reading the same publication,” says Wilcox. “My hope is that this shared experience sparks conversation or creates a community bond that wasn’t there previously.”

This idea of creating engagement and community bonding through art is something that Wilcox is passionate about, and it’s key to the project’s success.

Crusade for Art Engagement Juror Brian Sholis says, “LDOC was the proposal that best balanced effective cost management and distribution with artistic quality. It imagined a captive, repeat audience for the publication and has the potential for long-term sustainability. It is an ambitious but exciting project.”

Adds Wilcox, “As an artist, I am interested in creating work that opposes existing power structures within institutions, consumer culture, and society. By defining my own role as an artist, I give myself the permission to be curator, object-maker, documentarian, and organizer.”

Read the full Lesley University article here.



Photoshelter Lists Crusade for Art as an Organization that Wants to Fund Your Photography Project

22 Organizations That Want to Fund Your Photo Project

So you’ve got a great idea for your next photo endeavor, but not the funds to see it through. Sound familiar? To help you out, we’ve partnered up with G-Technology for our guide 22 Organizations That Want to Fund Your Photo Project. We’ve collected 22 grants, monetary awards, and scholarships that could be your golden ticket to telling the story that matters most to you. This guide gives you a quick run-down of grants for fine art photographers, photojournalists, editorial, environmental, adventure photographers, and more. Download the guide today!



10,000 Hours Podcast with Jennifer Schwartz

Grant and Vince chat with the charming and inspiring Jennifer Schwartz, arts advocate and executive director of Crusade for Art. Jennifer joins to talk about creativity with a cause, realism, keeping focus, and (of course) maintaining houseplants.



Couple Win Grant To Give 'Not Too Abstract' Magazine to Red Line Riders

By Kelly Bauer | July 2, 2015

CHICAGO — A Pilsen couple are using a $10,000 Crusade Engagement Grant to launch a twice-monthly, free publication they plan to pass out to Red Line riders.

Danielle and Joseph Wilcox's publication, .LDOC, will feature short stories and essays and photos that are "accessible" and "not too abstract." They plan to distribute 3,000-4,000 copies twice a month on the Red Line using the grant, which was awarded last month. .LDOC's first issue is set to come out this fall.

The grant focuses on engaging people with photography, Joseph Wilcox said, and.LDOC gives the Wilcoxes a chance to fulfill the grant's mission and combine their talents: Joseph is a photographer and Danielle is a writer.

"We also really liked the medium of newsprint," Danielle Wilcox said. "It feels kind of vintage ... we wanted to combine that idea of photography and writing."

.LDOC will also feature work from local contributors. One issue will pair photos of life as a second-generation Mexican-American man with stories from a woman about her Palestinian culture, and another issue will have a story about a man seeing the ghost of his father on the train paired with photos depicting death and the afterlife.

The Wilcoxes chose to distribute .LDOC on the Red Line because it is heavily used and runs through a variety of neighborhoods, so they can reach people from all over the city. The name combines the Red Line — the "L" — with "document" and starts with a period so readers are reminded of a digital file, Joseph and Danielle Wilcox said.

They said they're pursuing funding options so the publication can be self-sustaining beyond the grant's funding. They hope to provide subscriptions at .LDOC's website and have twice-yearly collections of their stories and photos.



Crusade for Art Funds Forthcoming Arts Publication Distributed on CTA Red Line

Published June 29, 2015. See original article here.

.LDOC, a biweekly one-sheet publication of photography and creative writing, will appear at select Red Line stops this October, offering the public a gateway to the arts. The publication received a $10,000 grant from Crusade for Art, funding the first year of the free print. Volunteers will hand out new issues on the first and third Monday of each month at Loyola Avenue, Belmont Avenue, Lake Street, 69th Street and 95th Street stops on the CTA Red Line. Newcity sat down with .LDOC founders, the wife and husband duo Danielle and Joseph Wilcox, to get the backstory on the new project.

The forthcoming first issue of .LDOC, featuring photographer Meg T. Noe and writer Alex Jaros. Photo by: Joseph Wilcox.

The forthcoming first issue of .LDOC, featuring photographer Meg T. Noe and writer Alex Jaros. Photo by: Joseph Wilcox.

The Wilcoxes explain that they envisioned the paper as a way to allow the general public an escape from the daily grind, offering a new chorus to the rhythm of the workweek. “Each issue features one piece of creative writing and one photographer, with corresponding thematic elements in a fourteen-by-twenty-two inch, one sheet of newsprint folded twice,” Joseph says. The print is Chicago-centric, though available for order to other locations in the United States.

The first issue features photographer Meg T. Noe and writer Alex Jaros, touching on themes of death and grief. The following issue will feature photographer Victor Yanez-Lazcano and writer Sahar Mustafah, referencing identity politics through the lens of Mexican-American and Palestinian viewpoints. While the first three issues have been curated by the pair, the intent is to open the publication to submissions. This offers relatively rare access for writers and photographers to a wide audience via print. The publication stands out from other arts publications and freebies, as it provides an ad-free window to an arts experience. There are no reviews, just featured creative work. The project reaches out to an audience who might not already be plugged into the arts community.

Danielle and Joseph Wilcox, .LDOC Founders/Photo: Joseph Wilcox

Danielle and Joseph Wilcox, .LDOC Founders/Photo: Joseph Wilcox

This is the first time the couple has collaborated on a project directly, but their decade-long friendship and relationship has served as a precursor to the project, organically offering opportunities to grow and learn from each other’s interests and work. The print is all about finding photographers and writers that pair well, work that can be experienced separately but together open a conversation about the work. Written pieces are selected based on accessibility, favoring stories that open quickly.

Audiences get an opportunity to interact with writers and artists directly, as the main distribution channel comes through a face-to-face volunteer distribution base. Volunteers enjoy the opportunity to get to know other creative members of the .LDOC community and open up about the arts to the general public, making the reader a part of the experience. Not set in stone, the couple envisions an issue send-off party where volunteers get to meet-and-greet with the writer and photographer and enjoy a cup of coffee as they receive issues set to distribute.

The Crusade Engagement Grant awards $10,000 annually to the entry with the best idea for building an audience for fine art photography. The grant covers the operations cost for the first year of distribution. Subscription costs and supplemental means of obtaining the issues will sustain the project for longer. For those not riding the Red Line, a $30 subscription gets you all twenty-four issues and are available for pre-order. Danielle and Joseph intend to create a biannual collection of work available for purchase to further support sustained funding for the project.

What needs to be done before the launch? The Wilcoxes say, “We need to officially lay out the first three issues and get them printed. We did the mock-up already for the grant and have the basic ideas. We need to scout stations and map out specific distribution spots. We need to recruit volunteers and print the t-shirts. Basically, everything!” (Whitney Richardson)

- See more at:



Q&A | Crusade For Art's Jennifer Schwartz

Brook Brolen | May 6, 2015
read full article here

Maybe it’s because superheros have secured their popularity in present-day pop culture, or maybe it’s just that many of the same qualities (tenacious, purposeful, tireless) apply: Either way, it’s hard not to think of Crusade for Art’s Jennifer Schwartz as a superhero among the Atlanta art scene. A literal champion for the arts through Crusade for Art, Schwartz helps create demand for the creation of art as well as opportunities for people to engage with and collect art.

Here, Schwartz talks to us about her work, her organization, the importance of art, and what’s in the works for both.

CommonCreativ: What brought you to Atlanta?

Jennifer Schwartz: I’m not from here, but my husband is a native. We met in college and decided to move here a few years after.

CC: How did Crusade for Art get started?

JS: I owned a fine art photography gallery (Jennifer Schwartz Gallery) in Atlanta for five years. When I opened the gallery at the beginning of 2009, I hung photographs on the walls, opened the doors, and then said, “Where is everybody?” The people who were coming in weren’t buyers, they were other photographers who wanted to get their work on the walls. So I had to do a lot of thinking about who I needed to target, what connection points I had to them, and what obstacles I had to get around to reach them. I realized there was a large pool of educated, engaged, culturally-minded people who were not buying art, but perhaps would if given the right (exciting, experience-driven, not intimidating) exposure to it. I developed a lot of unique programs and events to build the collector base for the gallery, and they worked.

CC: What came next?

Over the years, I became more and more passionate about audience engagement and how to cultivate new collectors for photography. I began working with individual photographers to go through the same process of identifying their target audience and creating innovative ways to connect with potential collectors. I also wanted to go to other communities and reach out to people who were not even seeking an arts experience, and create an opportunity for them to connect with artists and their work. That impulse turned into the Crusade for Collecting Tour, which was a tipping point for me, in terms of really dedicating myself to bringing new audiences to photography.

I felt I could make a larger impact by developing and supporting programs that would create demand for art and opportunities to collect it (as opposed to operating a commercial gallery that also created audience engagement projects). I decided to transition the tour from a one-off project to a non-profit organization dedicated to creating demand for photography, and I closed the gallery at the end of 2013 to focus on Crusade for Art full-time.

Collage from the Crusade for Collecting tour

Collage from the Crusade for Collecting tour

CC: How do you promote Crusade for Art?

JS: Fortunately I had already built a large audience of photographers and collectors from the gallery and the tour, so between my mailing list, social media and my relationships with curators, publishers and gallerists in the industry, I’ve been able to get the word out about our programs pretty effectively.

CC: Your mission statement endeavors to “engage new audiences with art.” How do you do that?

JS: Art increases our intelligence, heightens our sensitivity and deepens our humanity. But artful communities cannot thrive without audiences to appreciate them. Crusade for Art strives to create and nurture a society that supports and sustains the arts, where individuals crave the inspiration and connection that only art can give.

We aim to create a viable arts ecology where artists can achieve economic sustainability because demand for art is strong. Toward that end, Crusade for Art develops innovative approaches to create new paths to engagement.

Photograph from the second round of Crusade for Art’s CSA program |   Climber on the ascent, Palo Verde Mountains Wilderness Area, near Blythe, California, 2013   (Yellow Dot) by John Brinton Hogan

Photograph from the second round of Crusade for Art’s CSA program | Climber on the ascent, Palo Verde Mountains Wilderness Area, near Blythe, California, 2013 (Yellow Dot) by John Brinton Hogan

Current Initiatives:

  • The Crusade Engagement Grant awards $10,000 annually to the applicant with the most innovative idea to build audiences for photography. The grant puts our greatest resource—the brainpower of our creative force, our artists—toward exploring this systemic problem of a lack of demand for art.
  • In our Crusade Supported Art (CSA) program, we commission six talented, up-and-coming artists to create work for sale in a limited edition of fifty. Buyers receive a collection-worthy piece from each artist at an exceptionally affordable price point.
  • Start with Art builds a culture of collecting by gifting original, signed photographs from local photographers to newborn babies through partnerships with community hospitals. Launched in Pittsburgh by Matthew Conboy, this was the winning entry in our first Crusade Engagement Grant. Plans include multi-city expansion.
  • In our curation program, FOCAL POINT, we select three talented, up-and-coming photographers each quarter to highlight and mentor.

Initiatives in development:

  • An anthology of stories by art collectors about their collecting experiences.
  • An experiential arts survey course to be piloted in Atlanta and replicated in other cities.

Jennifer Schwartz

CC: Are there any projects/artists you’ve encountered that are particularly near and dear to your heart?

JS: The Crusade Engagement Grant is really the centerpiece of our organization and something I feel very proud of. We give $10,000 (all raised through private donations) annually to the person with the most innovative idea to connect new audiences to photography. Our goal is to get our creative force, our artists, to think about how to solve this supply and demand imbalance that exists in art.

Last year’s grant winner was Matthew Conboy, a Pittsburgh photographer and educator who is giving original, signed photographs by local photographers to every baby born in three Pittsburgh hospitals in 2015. The project, called Start With Art, has gotten a lot of media attention and has been very well-received. Matthew plans to continue and expand the program after this year, and Crusade for Art is looking for funding to pilot the program in Atlanta in 2016.

Our initial application period for this year’s grant cycle just closed, and reading the submissions has been truly inspiring—so many fantastically creative ideas.

CC: What inspires you?

JS: Art and a challenge—I guess that’s why I do what I do.

Photograph by Dorothy O’Connor (Atlanta), an artist featured in our FOCAL POINT Quarterly Curated Program

Photograph by Dorothy O’Connor (Atlanta), an artist featured in our FOCAL POINT Quarterly Curated Program

CC: Looking ahead 10 years, what do you hope to have achieved with Crusade for Art? 

JS: My hope is that the programming Crusade for Art is able to develop and support has begun to create the next generation of art lovers, patrons and collectors. We (artists, galleries, institutions, organizations) would all be actively working toward connecting people to art in approachable and engaging ways, and that audiences would be responding.

CC: How can people support Crusade for Art?

JS: With money! We rely on private donations to fund our programming, and every bit counts. Whether you’re an art lover, collector or just think art makes the world a better place, you can make a tax-deductible donation here.

CC: What’s next for you and Crusade for Art?

JS: We have some big ideas (we’re never short on ideas!). We would like to focus on in Atlanta, including an anthology of collecting stories from local art collectors and an experiential arts survey course aimed at educating adults about different art mediums through interactive classes and site visits.

Learn more about Crusade for Art on their site.



A Crusade for Art Collecting, Looking for "Wild and Crazy" Ideas

by Nancy W. Goldenberg

Have an unusual scheme (or project) to promote art collecting? Crusade for Art supports inventive ideas with a yearly $10,000 grant awarding innovative models that foster demand for art, specifically photography. Innovation may be a conservative description. Last year’s winner, Matthew Conboy, sought support to encourage art collecting by giving every newborn in 2015 at West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh an original, signed photograph from a local photographer. His Start with Art project estimates over 3,000 photographs to be distributed in the next year. Now that’s a lot of art collecting.  

Crusade for Art is a 501(c)3 dedicated to promoting art collecting through a number of initiatives. Founder Jennifer Schwartz recognized a need to develop creative ways to bridge the gap between the general public and artists, converting those who had a passing interest in art into collectors and developing markets for artists where they previously did not exist. Through on-line exhibitions of emerging artists, local chapters which “crusade for art,” and very creative initiatives, the organization makes inroads for artists to connect with collectors.

One such initiative is the Crusade Supported Art (CSA) program. The basis for this model came from CSAs, or community supported agriculture, normally associated with farm goods distributed to members during a growing season. CSA for photography utilizes the same model with 50 shares sold to collectors who then receive six original signed photographs. Every two months for three months (the season), collectors receive two signed photographs along with information about the emerging artists who created the work and what the work means to them. This information contextualizes the works and encourages collectors to understand the art in a deeper, more intimate manner.

Crusade for Art’s ideas and projects push the boundaries of the status quo, and its grant program is no exception. Projects considered for grants can be controversial. An informal survey of individuals who attended Jennifer Schwartz’s presentation at the recent Society for Photographic Education conference in New Orleans called last year’s grant finalists names ranging from random to interesting, and one individual even weighed in with inspiring. Despite the range of opinions, the opportunity generates a great deal of interest and ideas. There is a need for artists to think outside the box so the art industry can create much needed demand to catch-up with an overwhelming supply of quality work. One reason for the Crusade for Art grant is for it to act as a mechanism to encourage this type of thoughtful creativity.

Crusade for Art is looking for that one “wild and crazy idea” to spark the public’s interest in art collecting. If you think you have the one, the application deadline is April 17th and guidelines are available here



Pittsburgh-area effort aims to foster love of art very early

By Janice Crompton / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pete and Laura Bianco of Imperial hold their newborn son, Luca Simon Bianco, at St. Clair Hospital in Mt. Lebanon on Jan. 30. He was born at 2:56 a.m. Pete's brother, Michael, and his wife, Nicole, had Michael Adonis Bianco at 1:58 a.m.

Pete and Laura Bianco of Imperial hold their newborn son, Luca Simon Bianco, at St. Clair Hospital in Mt. Lebanon on Jan. 30. He was born at 2:56 a.m. Pete's brother, Michael, and his wife, Nicole, had Michael Adonis Bianco at 1:58 a.m.

Parents of babies born this year in three Pittsburgh-area hospitals will find something unique tucked among the booties, receiving blankets and other goodies in their new-family care packages.

“I think it’s a given that we’re a city of champions, but people forget we are a city of culture, too,” said Matthew Conboy, a Robert Morris University adjunct professor of photography who has embarked on an ambitious plan to distribute original works from local artists to newborns.

“I thought it would be an amazing thing to create the youngest art collectors right here in Pittsburgh.”

Mr. Conboy, of the North Side, was selected among hundreds of applicants to receive a $10,000 audience-engagement grant last year from Crusade for Art, a nonprofit based in Atlanta that is devoted to cultivating demand for art.

His winning idea, Start with Art, is a free program that aims to promote artists in the Pittsburgh region by creating a culture of collectors who are given signed prints from local artists.

Mr. Conboy selected 12 local artists — one for each month of the year — to create original photographic prints that he began giving to newborns at the start of the year at St. Clair Hospital in Mt. Lebanon, UPMC Mercy in Uptown and the Midwife Center for Birth & Women’s Health in the Strip District.

The art is free and the grant is being used to pay photographers an honorarium of $350 each, along with supplies such as ink, paper and plastic bags. Each 8 ½-by-11-inch photograph is signed and numbered.

Babies born in January received “Mist over the Ohio,” a photographic print of the Ohio River by artist Aaron Blum of West Virginia. Those born this month are receiving “The Blue Breasted Kingfisher” by artist Maria Mangano.

The first baby to receive a gift — and the first baby born in 2015 at St. Clair Hospital — was 8-pound, 1-ounce Eliana Bodo.

Eliana’s parents, Christina and Mark Bodo of Mt. Lebanon, coincidentally are avid supporters of the arts and strong believers in the power of creative thinking.

“I really see the importance of art for children,” said Mrs. Bodo, a second-grade teacher at South Park Elementary Center in the South Park School District. “I believe in the importance of exposing children to the arts — all creative arts. I do think it’s very important.”

Educators and scientists have long believed that visual arts may have an impact on learning and cognitive development in children.

Many also feel art is an important right-brain booster and have inspired a movement to alter STEM -- learning that emphasizes science, technology, engineering and math -- to STEAM, with the A standing for art.

“I thought it was a really great idea because we did so much with the sports teams in the city. It was great to give them a little culture with their sports,” said Linda McIntyre, head of the birthing center at St. Clair.

Mr. Conboy approached St. Clair Hospital because it is known for outfitting newborn infants in Steelers, Penguins or Pirates regalia during important games.

“I remember years ago hearing about St. Clair giving the Terrible Towel away to newborns,” Mr. Conboy said.

When he approached hospital officials about his idea, “They were just so open and excited; they wanted to start that very second,” he said.

The program this year expects to distribute about 1,400 pieces of artwork at St. Clair, more than 1,000 at UPMC Mercy, and about 450 at the Midwife Center for Birth & Women’s Health. 

“I was super excited. I thought the program sounded great,” said Rachel Dingfelder, development coordinator at the midwife center. “Everybody was just really excited about it. It’s a really thoughtful, touching program.”

All of the families presented with the artwork so far this year have agreed, Ms. McIntyre said.

“The patients have been very positive about it,” she said. “I think that it’s something different, not what you would routinely expect because it’s not baby-related. I think it’s important — it gives them an exposure to art and it might be their first exposure ever.”

Mrs. Bodo said she plans to frame the photograph and hang it in Eliana’s nursery. Later, she will add it to her treasure box, along with other keepsakes, such as Eliana’s hospital bracelet, footprints and the newspaper clipping of her birth announcement.

“I think it’s a shame that there’s been a decrease in the appreciation for art because everything is so accessible right now,” she said. “But this is authentic — that means something. It puts value to it. It has meaning.”

Eventually, Mr. Conboy hopes to include all of the babies born in Pittsburgh in his program.

“The idea is to treat 2015 as a soft opening,” he said. “If we could have all the hospitals in Pittsburgh, that would be wonderful.”

His ultimate goal would be to hear that his efforts made a difference.

“Hopefully, we’ll find out in 18 to 20 years from now whether it changed anything,” Mr. Conboy said. “When someone asks these kids who their favorite artist is and it’s one of these artists — that would make my year.”

See the original article here.



Start With Art gives Pittsburgh newborns a baby step toward culture

EMILY YARRISON | WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2015 - View original article here.

Most adults could tell you where they acquired their first piece of art: a local shop, a tiny gallery in a seaside town in Italy, the IKEA clearance bin.
Not many people began their collections as children. 
Start With Art Pittsburgh is looking to change that. Matthew Conboy is the brains behind the project, which is sponsored by a $10,000 engagement grant from Crusade For Art. The idea? Send more than 3,500 newborn babies home with original, signed photographs from local artists.
Walking into Conboy’s North Side home, it’s easy to see his appreciation for art. Each room is lined with photos and prints. Art is even the reason they live in the North Side.
“I told my wife we could move to Pittsburgh if I was within walking distance of the Mattress Factory,” he laughs.  
The inspiration behind this project came from two places. Conboy, a board member at the Mattress Factory, is also a professor of photography at Robert Morris University and Point Park University. He was alarmed to discover in speaking with his students that, despite having grown up in a city with incredible places like the Carnegie Museum of Art and The Andy Warhol Museum, many had never set foot inside an art museum. He found this disheartening but was unsure how to tackle the problem. 
Then he recalled St. Clair Hospital’s 2011 gimmick that made national news: giving parents their newborns swaddled in Terrible Towels.  
“I thought it was a cute idea! But how many Terrible Towels will a Pittsburgh kid have by the time they’re seven or eight? I thought we could give them something they may be able to hold onto for a lifetime.” 
That’s when his work began. The $10,000 grant he won from Crusade for Art -- an Atlanta-based nonprofit committed to building audiences for photography -- was the first step. Crusade for Art funds engagement grants like Conboy’s annually, giving to projects that align with their mission. In 2013, Creator Jennifer Schwartz embarked on a journey called “Crusade For Collecting,” driving around the country in a VW bus and holding pop-up events to give away original photographs from local artists. Conboy followed Schwartz’s quest, hoping the organization would support his own idea. They did, and in summer of 2014 he began to recruit artists for the cause.
Conboy chose 12 artists, one for each month of the year. They are mostly photographers, but Conboy did not discriminate by medium. 
“I chose artists whose style I liked and whom I thought could translate that into photography.” For example, February’s artist is the Mattress Factory’s Maria Mangano, who attended Carnegie Mellon University and has exhibited her art regionally. She is mostly known for her print work and drawings -- of dead birds.
“I liked her aesthetic, though, and I really wanted to include her,” Conboy said.
The result is a beautiful capture of a majestic (and very much alive) blue-breasted kingfisher, which will be distributed to all the babies born at UPMC Mercy, St. Clair Hospital, and The Midwife Center for Birth & Women’s Health in February.
Another featured artist is Ryan Lammie, executive director of Radiant Hall, a studio in Lawrenceville. Lammie is a Pittsburgh-born, New York City-educated sculptural painter, who uses mostly found objects and industrial materials. Conboy was drawn to Lammie’s complete immersion in the Pittsburgh art scene.
“He is doing great work with local artists,” Conboy said. “He’s constantly creating, curating, and showing.” 
We’ll have to wait until December to see Lammie’s work, however. Even Conboy is still waiting to see some of the art that will be presented to the tots. “Our June artist is planning a trip to Bhutan and would like to include an image from there.”
Conboy has a lot of hopes for the future of the project.
“The grant only covers 2015, so right now I’m looking for other funding opportunities,” he said. “I already have a list of artists for 2016! In the future, I’d love to see it maybe turned into a calendar, or have an exhibition at City Hall. I’d like to prove this project is scalable. I would love if people in other cities used this idea!”
He also hopes that Start With Art’s popularity will mean that, eventually, hospitals will be the ones calling him to be included.   
“Mostly, I want this to be zero-sum with no profit. We are providing art as a gift.”
So what will be the result of Start With Art Pittsburgh? Will it be a new generation of kids who can think critically about art?
“In 20 years we’ll be able to see how it affects kids who have a head start with art,” Conboy says. 
For now, it’s a great opportunity for Pittsburgh artists to get exposure and gain a following, albeit one that can’t walk yet.



Jennifer Schwartz Selects on Fototazo

The premise here is simple: to ask a curator, blogger, editor, photographer or other person involved in contemporary photography to select five portfolios of work that they are currently excited about to recommend to the rest of us, placing emphasis - ideally - on work that hasn't seen heavy rotation online. The portfolios are not presented in any sort of order.

The series comes from a belief that the Internet has a tendency to briefly cohere around certain projects and, longer-term, establish its own canon of photographers, distinct and separate from the gallery and museum canons.

While these dynamics have advantages, they also have the expense of promoting a limited number of projects on a large scale, frequently overshadowing other projects equal in quality. This series, then, seeks in particular to look for great photography that counterbalances heavily distributed projects. It also is part of a general interest I have for this site to go behind the limits of my single vision, personal knowledge and time.

Today's guest is Jennifer Schwartz. Her biography follows the post. For previous posts in this series, please see the site links page.

Nataly Castaño helped organize this post.


Crusade for Art is always searching for talented photographers to feature in our online curation project,FOCAL POINT. FOCAL POINT surveys the landscape of emerging photographers and selects three talented, driven and noteworthy artists to highlight each quarter. It was a challenge to select just five for fototazo, but I chose photographers whose work may be new to your audience.

© Dorothy O'Connor

© Dorothy O'Connor

Dorothy O’Connor
The worlds Dorothy creates are full and glorious, and as someone lucky enough to have been able to see many of them close-up and in person, I can attest to the fact that every minute detail is considered. Her Scenes are a wonder and some of richest images I have seen.


© Katie Koti

© Katie Koti

Katie Koti 
Katie's photographs are raw and wide-open in a way that is both refreshing and a little unsettling. The energy and unselfconscious way the subjects seem to embrace life and each other feels rare, precious and foreign. I want to keep looking, either to puzzle it out or to wonder at the pure beauty. But I want to just keep looking. . .


© Amelia Morris

© Amelia Morris

Amelia Morris
Amelia describes her work as "a series of public declarations and private confessions." Her photographs are that plus whimsy and humor and heart. They feel honest in the most beautiful way.


© Julien Mauve

© Julien Mauve

Julien Mauve
After first seeing Julien's photographs in the student award area of Paris Photo in 2012, I couldn't stop thinking about them. They pull you in with mystery and beauty and then keep you there.


© Ansley West Rivers

© Ansley West Rivers

Ansley West Rivers
Ansley has a gift of creating visually beautiful images that address not-so-beautiful environmental issues.Seven Rivers (still in progress) showcases that talent to the fullest. All of the images are created in-camera to create a layered effect that shows both the current state of the river and also alludes to future consequences of unchecked threats to fresh water.


Jennifer Schwartz is the creator/director of Crusade for Art, a non-profit organization focused on cultivating demand for art, specifically fine art photography. Jennifer owned a fine art photography gallery in Atlanta (Jennifer Schwartz Gallery) for five years, showcasing the work of emerging photographers. She also created the online project, The Ten, and is the co-creator of Flash Powder Projects. In the spring of 2013, she traveled around the country in a 1977 VW bus, engaging audiences with photography. Her book, Crusade For Your Art: Best Practices for Fine Art Photographers was published in March 2014.



St. Clair Hospital Newborns Start with Art

The Almanac
Published Jan 23, 2015 at 9:52 am

Matthew Conboy believes children aren’t getting enough exposure to fine art, so he has reached out to three regional hospitals to provide parents and their newborns the work of professional photographers and artists through 2015.

“Mr. Conboy saw our Steelers and Pirates babies all decked out and thought it would offer a similar opportunity to expose some fine art to a very new audience as well,” said Linda McIntyre, women and children’s services director at the hospital.

“I teach at Robert Morris and Point Park, and I have students telling me they’ve never been to a museum. It’s a foreign concept to them,” said Conboy, a photographer and educator.

Conboy was awarded a $10,000 grant from Crusade for Art to underwrite an educational program, so he pitched to St. Clair Hospital – along with UPMC Mercy and The Midwife Center for Birth & Women’s Health – the “Start with Art” program.

The pieces are provided by six photographers and six artists, each specializing in a style or method.

“February’s piece is a photograph called Mist over the Ohio, a color photo of the river with some low-hanging mist over it,” McIntyre said.

“The pieces will change month to month,” Conboy said, “for instance, February’s will be of a beautiful bird. Then later on in the year you’ll see some abstract art and city landscapes.”

Conboy hopes the art pieces will inspire children, perhaps not as early as toddlers, but later as mementos their parents can remind them about.

“With the museum story, we’re in a region so rich with culture, history and art, it’s important to me to get these students a head start in that regard. By going home with a piece of art, they have a 25-year head start on me – that’s when I bought my first piece of art – and I’m an artist,” he said.

“We would like feedback as well. And on social media. So if parents could reach back on Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #startwithartpgh, it helps us track what pieces were received well and how to further improve this program.”

For more information, visit



Next Pittsburgh Features 2014 Crusade Engagement Grant Program

Deanna Lee
January 21, 2015

Every year, thousands of parents walk out of Pittsburgh hospitals with their newborn babies. Many are anxious. Most are sleep deprived. And they’re all armed with diapers, blankets, instructions, and plenty to worry about.

This year, some of these parents will leave with something else, something unexpected: their baby’s first original work of art.

Matthew Conboy, an artist and professor of media arts at Robert Morris University, is responsible for helping the babies born this year at St. Clair Hospital and The Pittsburgh Midwife Center become the world’s youngest art collectors.

His project is entitled Start With Art: PGH, and its funding was secured thanks to a $10,000 grant from the nonprofit organization, Crusade for Art. The grant is awarded annually to “unique, approachable programs that bring new audiences to photography” and this audience is about as new as it gets.

After winning the grant for his unique vision, Matthew selected 12 artists—one for each month—to contribute to the project. Every day in 2015, the “goodie bags” that are sent home with parents and their newborns will include an original photograph from that month’s artist. The photographs are printed small enough so that they’re easy to frame, hang on the refrigerator or place in a baby book.

The art is definitely kid-appropriate, says Matthew, but “it’s not just blue, or pink, or primary colors. We are working with renowned artists, so we thought it was important to give the babies something that represents their work.”

The photographs are indeed diverse—from landscapes and portraits to more conceptual and abstract works.

Matthew Conboy with a new collector 

Matthew Conboy with a new collector 

So, why exactly does a baby need art? “It’s about opening new eyes up to what art can do,” says Matthew. “The value of it is looking at our surroundings, our lives and our beliefs from a different perspective. I think we all need to do that, and why not start as soon as possible?”

Start With Art: PGH is free to both the hospitals and the families who receive the photographs. Looking toward the future, Matthew’s goal is to secure more funding from local foundations, so he can help all Pittsburgh babies get their art collection started right away.

For more information on the project, as well as a full list of the 2015 artists, visit