Sunday, February 6, 2011

thirty-fifth visit: Feb 6th 2011 United Methodist

10:30am (super bowl) sunday
Stanton Heights United Methodist Church
4721 Stanton Ave, Pittsburgh PA 15201
stanton heights

"It's that door. You're right. Go ahead and just use the front door, that one, right there." Observers kindly called to me from the side street. I am hesitating, not necessarily because I am not sure which door to use, but because the door is smeared with blood. The bloody area, slightly higher than my face, amounts to not more than 12 by 12 inches, but that's big enough to render the action unmistakably deliberate. Prints reveal that it was applied directly by a human hand. Still bright red. This church is not in a notably heavy-crime neighborhood.

I take pride in my serendipitous tendency to show up at worship places that happen to be celebrating an anniversary of some sort, a holiday or birthday specific to the congregation, so that I'm able to stay for an after-service celebration, allowing for a rich experience and more time for interaction with congregants. But this time, I serendipitously picked the morning that this church's door happened to be smeared with blood.

I'm pretty sure it has nothing to do with Passover. The pastor mentions the blood-smeared door more than once during the service, but you know as much as she and I do at this moment. The police arrive just as I leave the service.

The service: The pastor is the organist. And the electric keyboardist. 24 worshipers in the sanctuary. I recall an acquaintance of mine commenting once on her visit to a church. She is Jewish. She said, "To follow Judaism you have to learn a whole other alphabet and language. Whereas, in the Baptist church I visited, most of the hymns consisted of a repetition of five words. There is something to be said about accessibility." At Stanton Heights, there are hymnals, but they are not opened. Hymns' vocals are led and joined-in. Easy.

It is Super Bowl Sunday.
The Steelers are mentioned three times during the service, and are thought of, I'm certain, each and every one of the 34 times that the word "victory" is spoken or sung. Not serendipitously. When I first moved to Pittsburgh one and a half years ago, trying to hone in on the inner workings of this city, questioning the artists' role here, I remember seeing this headline on the front of a local publication: "Pittsburgh: Family, Faith and Football." How do I connect to this? ...and how do I connect to this as an artist? And so gatherings climbs into my studio. (Well, it's not exactly as simple as that, but that's part of it.)

I'm not the only one raising this question. The art exhibition "Whatever It Takes: Steelers Fan Collections, Rituals, and Obsessions," (CMU's Miller Gallery) was slated to close on Jan 30th. See, artists and curators don't always have the 2011 Super Bowl date (Feb 6th) ingrained in our minds, let alone
on our calenders at all. But spontaneity can make up for it. The show has been extended a week, and closes today with a Super Bowl party/reception, sponsored by Iron City Brewery. "What the The New York Times describes as 'the Steelers at the intersection of Iron City Beer and Art Basel.'" Just like the traffic intersections here in Pittsburgh: five-spoked and unmarked, tripping me up whenever I'm trying to drive somewhere in a hurry—I'm still trying to figure this out. How do artist's connect to their audience here? Sometimes, that's what art is for: figuring things out. I thank those who are open to my endeavors.

Oh, and here's an update on the running count of
worshipers spotted wearing Steelers garb while worshiping:

8 worshipers in blackandyellowblackandyellowblackandyellow
2 worshipers carrying terrible towels
(10 out of the 24 in attendance)
Running Total for the project: 26 (to date)

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