How is the project operated?
Unicorn Mountain is a loose artist-run collective of (mostly) Pittsburgh-based creators. Although we sometimes organize gallery shows and other events, we’re primarily known for publishing anthologies that showcase the comics, art, writing and music of Pittsburgh artists and like-minded creators from elsewhere. Although the print runs are small (500-1500), the books are sold everywhere.
How long has it been in existence?
What was your motivation?
Our original motivation was to prove you didn’t need to leave Pittsburgh to do art, comics, writing, music, etc. We hoped that by banding together, we could draw attention to the cool, unnoticed things people were doing here.
Number of organizers/responsible persons of the project.
There’s been dozens (if not hundreds) of people involved with the project since it’s inception. Our current anthology features the work of over 30
How are programs funded?
Early on, we received catalytic funding from an organization called The Sprout Fund. Eight years on, we’re still scraping by (by the skin of our teeth). In order to keep the book prices low, we sometimes do fundraisers and auctions.
Who is responsible for the programming?
At the moment, Unicorn Mountain is primarily being managed and curated by myself (Curt Gettman) and artist Tara Helfer.
Number and average duration of exhibitions/events per year.
We do between 2-3 gallery shows a year and publish an anthology roughly once every three years.
What kind of events are usually organized?
The events are typically group shows that showcase the visual artists in the collective. We also try to work live music and video in the mix.
How is your programming determined?
With the anthologies, we put out a call for submissions and reach out to new creators that fit the feel of the project as it develops. The process is pretty organic.
Do you accept proposals/submissions?
Yes. We have a pretty open submission policy. Hopefully as we move more content online, we’ll be able to feature more creators whose work didn’t make it in the books.
What is your artistic/curatorial approach?
We try to be observant and play connect the dots with the personal work local artists are doing. Many of the creators who started out making underground comics have moved into visual poetry and work that is more experimental. I think our last anthology The Black Forest documented that growth pretty well. Although the work we often feature is very regional and rustic on the surface, there’s a lot of thought behind it.
What’s working? What’s not working?
Hard to say! Early on we tried to actively “market” Pittsburgh and it’s creators. We’re more relaxed about our role now. I feel kind of like Alan Lomax documenting a certain kind of regional folk art. The P.T. Barnum approach gets old after a while.
What kind of role do you hope to play in your local art scene or community?
Early on, we felt a huge responsibility to draw attention to the Pittsburgh art scene. I think we were pioneers in a way. I’d like to think we had a small part in the improved art reputation Pittsburgh has recently developed. Nobody was talking about this being an arts city eight years ago.
What idea are you most excited about for the future?
Game design! We’ve always been inspired by the DIY feel of early pencil and paper RPG games. I think we might try our hand at it.
Images courtesy of Unicorn Mountain.
James McAnally is the executive editor and co-founder of Temporary Art Review. A graduate of Washington University, James McAnally is a founder, Co-Director, and Curator of The Luminary Center for the Arts, a nonprofit artist resourcing organization based in St. Louis. In his personal practice, he works as part of the artistic collaborative US English.