The CARRIE DEER
In 1997, a group of young Pittsburgh artists defied convention, risked personal injury, dodged police, fought nature and faced a tragic moral event to complete a yearlong adventure of personal and artistic growth that forever changed their lives.
During these early years of Pittsburgh’s industrial salvage site-specific artworks, Tim Kaulen and fellow artists created the infamous Owl sculpture at the Carrie Furnaces and later produced the public statement Millipede movie. Creatively sparked by abandoned industrial sites, they erected a hidden 40’ sculpture believed destined for vandalism or demolition. Hiking covertly each weekend onto the guarded site, carrying backpacks of hand tools and food, they extracted site materials, built jigs, designed assembly lines and struggled with engineering issues despite cold, rain and snow.
The Deer’s physical processes mirrored the mill’s mechanical production methods as the artists’ dogged determination echoed that millworkers to achieve personal goals beyond those grueling workdays, difficult conditions and hard labor.
The Deer, surprisingly, survived. Vandals, graffiti artists and even the site owners respected the sculpture which today is one of the focal points in the revitalization of this important industrial national heritage site while many of the artists formed Pittsburgh’s Industrial Arts Co-op or became leaders in the arts community.
Our documentary and exhibition project, uniting these artists for the first time since the Deer’s completion, tells their stories through unique echoes of industrial labor in collective creation. It explores rights of creative expression versus vandalism, obsession and determination, and the idea of public art.
As a 2012 recipient of a Sprout Fund Award, we are honored to have the support of one of Pittsburgh’s leading organizations for catalyzing change through art, innovation and community leadership. This funding supports the completion of the documentary, a special exhibit on-site at the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area Carrie Furnaces location and a student workshop providing young artists the mentorship opportunity to collaborate with artists in creation of a work of community public art.
Standing amid the monolithic remains of the Carnegie Homestead Carrie Furnaces, the 40′ deer head now draws the attention of admirers touring the historic plant site.