For Lauren McMillen, there might be nothing better than turning her father’s dream into a reality. Dennis Inserra always knew that his home, tucked in the heart of the thriving business district of Point Breeze, was destined for more than the casual events that took place over the years. According to his daughter, McMillen, it was time to either sell her childhood home or turn it into the artistic community center she and her father always hoped it would be.
PointBreezeway quickly came into being when McMillen began attending entrepreneur classes through Chatham, and three months later started a company, received a loan, and finished out the studio, which consists of two rooms and a patio. The official grand opening will take place this Sunday, the 20th. Details below.
McMillen hopes to market the space for intimate gatherings, small weddings, special events, and performances. At a Chatham breakfast series, she met Linda Reznik, the Artist Manager of River City Artists Management (RCAM). The two stayed in touch, and Reznik eventually presented McMillen with an idea to host local dance at PointBreezeway. McMillen was open to the idea and now has artists lined up through the fall for a once monthly “Sunday Series.”
While RCAM has promoted dance on a national level, they will now provide local arts organizations with a smaller-scale platform to showcase their work. The series will happen on the second Sunday of each month as a matinee performance. At each showing, two Pittsburgh artists will share the program.
Only a few weeks ago, Jessica Marino, a dancer who also works for RCAM and will co-curate the Sunday Series, performed with a poet and guitarist. McMillen felt that the unique performance suited the space. About 35 people attended; some watched casually through the patio doors while others sat close up.
Also curating the events will be Andrew Blight, a former Pittsburgh Ballet Theater (PBT) dancer. Blight knew Reznik from her management days at PBT, and he sometimes accompanies her at presenting conferences. For the Sunday Series, Blight says he is “interested in juxtaposing artists that come at their work from different directions.” He also helped choose artists whose work would thrive in a smaller space.
He goes on to say that although the program is heavy on dance, RCAM hopes to bring in music, spoken word, and performance art. McMillen’s love is music, and she would like to add jazz and blues musicians to the mix.
August, September and October have been booked, and the performers showing work are interesting and prominent local dancers. On August 10th, Shana Simmons Dance will team up with Pittsburgh Complaints n’At Choir. Simmons has presented multiple works in other site-specific locations around town.
On September 14th, Jasmine Hearn will share the space with Continuum Dance Theater (CDT). Hearn produces smaller works, lately solos and duets, using improvisation and sometimes pedestrian movements that investigate gender, race, and sexuality. CDT is a larger all-female company that uses high-level technique and theatrics, often in a traditional proscenium.
Lastly, the October 12th show will present Gia Cacalano and Staycee Pearl. Cacalano is best known for her improvisational skills and her international company that garnered attention at their Wood Street Gallery performances. Pearl’s group has shown multiple works at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater and more recently at Pearl’s own studio in Wilkinsburg.
All shows will run at 2:00 p.m. for $10 (pay at the door).
As for McMillen and her father, they are both excited and nervous to see their home transform into the center they always dreamed of. Inserra will be on hand to assist in events and keep up with the grounds. McMillen will run the events and says she will count on people like Reznik and Blight to “guide the space artistically.”
The two of them invite the public to the grand opening this Sunday from 4:00-6:00 p.m. The afternoon will feature live music with a Flamenco guitarist and “funky bagpiping.” Light fare, wine and refreshments will be served. The building sits on the corner of Reynolds and LeRoi in Point Breeze (7113 Reynolds St., 15208). All are welcome.