Mattress Factory[uds-billboard name=”MFactory”]The Mattress Factory inhabits a unique physical and conceptual space for a museum, specializing solely on room-sized installations spread across two reused buildings in Pittsburgh and maintaining an unusually strong degree of artist-centric support. The museum was a pioneer for immersive artistic practice when it began in 1977 and remains at the forefront of installation art through a remarkable permanent collection and a long-standing commitment to embracing experimentation in its residency program and exhibitions. As the organization states, its “physical and organizational environments have developed out of and responded to a central focus in the creative process,” which is seen in its continual embrace of emerging practices and new ideas.
How is the project operated?
We are a nonprofit. But you could technically say we are artist-run since our two founders and co-directors are artists and our entire mission focuses on the creative process of the artist.
How long has it been in existence?
What was the initial motivation?
To build a multidisciplinary artists community. Installations more often than not contain many disciplines in one project, so becoming an installation museum was a natural path for us.
Number of organizers/responsible persons of the project.
We are a small museum and have 12 full-time staff. We have supported more than 500 artists over the last 35 years.
How are programs funded?
Programs are funded through foundation and public funding support, admission, membership dues, event sponsors, shop and cafe purchases.
Who is responsible for the programming?
A mix of guest curators and our two co-directors are responsible for the artistic programming—but once the artists are selected, the artists have 100% say in what they want to do. The directors, the artists, the curators and the education department staff are responsible for the education programming.
Number and average duration of exhibitions/events per year.
We have 3-5 exhibitions per year and approximately 10 artists per exhibition. Each exhibition is on view anywhere from 2 months to 1 year.
What kind of events are usually organized?
Our biggest events each year are exhibition openings and our biggest annual fundraiser, the Urban Garden Party. In addition, we host dozens of additional varied events each year—from summer workshops for young artists to butoh dance events.
Do you accept proposals/submissions?
We aren’t accepting submissions at the moment, but every few years, we open our submission to anyone and everyone.
What is your artistic/curatorial approach?
Always, always, always with the artist in mind. The Mattress Factory is a research and development lab for artists—we encourage them to try new things and take risks. The Mattress Factory’s artistic program is focused on the commission, presentation and collection of new site-specific installations that are developed in residency. Each installation is conceived for and executed in the space in which the public sees it. The work is integrated into the site and depends on its relationship to the setting for its final effect.
What’s working? What’s not working?
It works best when you have the right chemistry between the artist and the organization/staff—it always seems to work when an artist is willing to try something new. It doesn’t work in just the opposite—when finished work is shown; it takes away from the dialog between the artist and the community.
What kind of role do you hope to play in your local art scene or community?
Our role is to provide a dialog between the artist and the community—we have artists from India, Cuba, Ukraine, England, Japan, and many other countries. Since they live at artist residencies a couple blocks from the museum while they create their new installation, the dialog between the artist and the community is quite literal.
What idea are you most excited about for the future?
New installations. We have absolutely no idea what they are and that’s exactly what excites us.
Responses are by Lindsay O’Leary, Public Relations Manager, and Co-Director Michael Olijnyk.