David Conrad Hearts Art

This hometown Hollywood star, who keeps a loft in the Strip District and supports the local arts scene, will serve as Honorary Centennial Chair for the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh's 100th year.



Photos by Cami Mesa

With an impressive and idiosyncratic array of paintings and photographs by local talent that sprawls through his Strip District loft, his former prep school and a Los Angeles apartment, David Conrad is a real-life rare character: a collector whose passion is for the Pittsburgh region rather than for the paintings.

"The arts thing is actually small. I don't spend much money on art," says the Swissvale-born screen, stage and television actor, whose credits most recently include CBS' Emmy award-winning "Ghost Whisperer."

"I want to make sure young artists can pay the rent and stay here. My interest is in the city itself. The arts are the colors of that."

That's why Conrad is as passionate about the region's efforts to preserve its history as he is about the contemporary arts scene. He's a board member for Rivers of Steel, which is the effort to interpret the Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio river valleys' steelmaking past, and also sits on the board at the Mattress Factory, the North Side's out-there museum of contemporary art installations.

He's also the Honorary Chairman for the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh's Centennial Exhibition. Conrad, who will serve as the AAP ambassador for the year, earned the nod after winning a majority of votes from AAP committee members, who were forced to narrow down a lengthy list of candidates. But the choice was easy, seeing as though Conrad has displayed a "long-running support" for the organization.

"It's his humanity, his down-to-earth attitude, his genuineness," says Susan Sparks, AAP vice president and Centennial co-chairwoman. "He genuinely cares about arts in the region."

david conrad

In his Strip District loft, David Conrad showcases a small portion of his art collection. Conrad is the honorary centennial chairman of the Association Artists of Pittsburgh 100th anniversary celebration.

This celebration of the region's arts history is a natural extension of those interests. "It's like getting to know [topography]," he says. "You bike around; you see where the water flows. I get a feel for the cultural landscape."

Among the local artists Conrad collects are such acknowledged masters as Robert Qualters, along with newcomers like Ben Matthews, whose carefully distressed canvases resemble surreal advertising posters.

Conrad admires the landscapes of Bedford's Kevin Kutz as well as the gritty industrial still lifes of 29-year-old Colin Noonan. He's particularly intrigued with the work of Stowe Township's Fabrizio Gerbino, a Florence-trained painter whose works have been exhibited locally.

A particular favorite of Conrad's is Charlee Brodsky, the documentary photographer who shared his fascination with the region's industrial history.

During his college years at Brown University and The Julliard School, Conrad worked with volunteers assessing early efforts to evaluate the remnants of Big Steel in the Mon Valley. "I remember going into J&L and walking around. It was as if [the steelworkers] left yesterday—shoes were there; lockers were open," he recalls.

"The artifacts represented the history of a people that got wiped out, and I was fascinated with how that got recorded," he goes on to say. So he began to collect Brodsky's photos and later met her through Qualters.

Conrad refuses allegiance to a particular artistic aesthetic. "I like sculpture, painting, painterly photography. I like AC/DC and Stravinsky," he says. "I have catholic tastes," he says. "That's the advantage and the drawback of being an actor—I empathize."

When Conrad's collection grew beyond the confines of his home, his thoughts turned to the walls of the Kiski School. A 1985 graduate of the Westmoreland County boys academy, Conrad returns often and serves on the school's board of trustees. The Saltsburg school's broad lawns and public spaces sparked an idea: Donate the works to a place where they could inspire a new generation.

Now, that collection of 151 works, valued at $300,000, is exhibited throughout the campus: A 1,500-year-old Hindu bust peers from a second-story sunroom, while oversized quilts and paintings brighten building stairwells. "I don't care if [the students] think it's wallpaper," he laughs. "I want it to be part of their daily life. That's my only goal."

Back in the Strip District, in a loft he calls "a box of light," Conrad is surrounded by frescos and framed paintings (including a bathroom full of nudes).

A glass mosaic by Edgewood's Daviea Davis flows from the living space to a balcony, flanked by an 8-foot-tall screen of ornamental ironwork. Conrad designed the motif for the screen, which was executed by the city's Red Star Ironworks.

More framed works clutter tabletops and floors, but that doesn't mean the actor is putting the brakes on his local collection. He happily points to a handful of small pieces he's just picked up at Art All Night, the annual Lawrenceville art show. "If what I get [from acting work] can support others' work, that's great," he says. 


For more about AAP centennial exhibits and events, visit aapgh.org.

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Best Restaurants 2016

Best Restaurants 2016

Which 33 Pittsburgh-area establishments did our independent Restaurant Review Panel include among its top picks this year? Find them here.
Six Pittsburgh Chefs Who Are Outstanding in Their Field

Six Pittsburgh Chefs Who Are Outstanding in Their Field

In addition to awarding Best Restaurant honors this year, our Independent Restaurant Review Panel also voted to recognize six chefs for their contributions to Pittsburgh’s culinary community in 2015.
Citizen Artist: Vanessa German

Citizen Artist: Vanessa German

German blends a collage of community activism and soul-searching artistry.
PittGirl to Wooers: ‘Not Today Satan, Not Today’

PittGirl to Wooers: ‘Not Today Satan, Not Today’

It only takes one person, one jagoff, one childish, attention-seeking, discourteous jerk to send a woo through PNC Park.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

5 Reasons PyroFest Will Light Up Your Memorial Day Weekend

5 Reasons PyroFest Will Light Up Your Memorial Day Weekend

PyroFest will also include live music, food, a Kids Zone and more.
8 Things You Might Not Know About Kennywood’s Jack Rabbit

8 Things You Might Not Know About Kennywood’s Jack Rabbit

When you compare what it cost to build the coaster in 1920 to what it would cost today, it's obvious Kennywood's owners got their money's worth.
Second New Restaurant Moving into Union Trust Building

Second New Restaurant Moving into Union Trust Building

The upscale seafood eatery is expected to open in late 2016 or early 2017.
Local Filmmaker Celebrates Pittsburgh Food

Local Filmmaker Celebrates Pittsburgh Food

Artist David Bernabo creates a series of films that track various aspects of Pittsburgh's food culture.

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our new, daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Best Restaurants 2016

Best Restaurants 2016

Which 33 Pittsburgh-area establishments did our independent Restaurant Review Panel include among its top picks this year? Find them here.
Six Pittsburgh Chefs Who Are Outstanding in Their Field

Six Pittsburgh Chefs Who Are Outstanding in Their Field

In addition to awarding Best Restaurant honors this year, our Independent Restaurant Review Panel also voted to recognize six chefs for their contributions to Pittsburgh’s culinary community in 2015.
Citizen Artist: Vanessa German

Citizen Artist: Vanessa German

German blends a collage of community activism and soul-searching artistry.
PittGirl to Wooers: ‘Not Today Satan, Not Today’

PittGirl to Wooers: ‘Not Today Satan, Not Today’

It only takes one person, one jagoff, one childish, attention-seeking, discourteous jerk to send a woo through PNC Park.
Daytripping: Canonsburg is a City of Antiques

Daytripping: Canonsburg is a City of Antiques

Nearby Canonsburg is a rare find for antiques collectors.
U.S. Open at Oakmont: Will The Town Finally Be a Player?

U.S. Open at Oakmont: Will The Town Finally Be a Player?

The U.S. Open is returning to Oakmont — and unlike previous tournaments, this one could make the community a vital part of the action.
Edit Module

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


5 Reasons PyroFest Will Light Up Your Memorial Day Weekend

5 Reasons PyroFest Will Light Up Your Memorial Day Weekend

PyroFest will also include live music, food, a Kids Zone and more.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Richard DeShantz Plans Two New Restaurants at Salt of the Earth Building

Richard DeShantz Plans Two New Restaurants at Salt of the Earth Building

DeShantz owns three other Pittsburgh restaurants and is about to open a fourth.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The quiet rise of Pittsburgh's tea scene gives us a few favorite gems.

Comments


Highmark Stadium Pub Wants Your Attention

Highmark Stadium Pub Wants Your Attention

The in-house tavern at the Riverhounds' home stadium is now welcoming guests during weekdays. But is it worth a dedicated stop?

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Resurrected Penguins Writing Their Story Their Way

Resurrected Penguins Writing Their Story Their Way

These Penguins have been downright unrecognizable, individually and collectively, on the way to the Stanley Cup Final.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Flip the Switch: Industrial-Style Lighting Made in Pittsburgh

Flip the Switch: Industrial-Style Lighting Made in Pittsburgh

An electrician by trade, designer Thomas Verscharen creates custom lighting out of repurposed pieces.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The X-Men Would've Done Better in Wonderland

The X-Men Would've Done Better in Wonderland

Reviews of "X-Men: Apocalypse," "Alice Through the Looking Glass," "A Bigger Splash" and "Love and Friendship."

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Get with the (Wedding) Program

Get with the (Wedding) Program

Have you ever considered making programs for your wedding guests? If not, think again and get creative.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
A Tiny House that's Big on Energy Savings

A Tiny House that's Big on Energy Savings

Spread out across the city for these upcoming events, including a “Tiny House” exhibit at the Carnegie Science Center displayed by the FIY Network.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Duquesne University to Host Small Business Networking Event

Duquesne University to Host Small Business Networking Event

The event will connect hundreds of small business managers and owners and provide useful information to help them take their enterprises to the next level.

Comments