Loretto native and artist Ron Donoughe will be recognized for his contributions to the Pittsburgh art scene next month.
Donoughe will receive a proclamation from Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto declaring Aug. 1 as “Ron Donoughe Day” in the city.
On Aug. 5, the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts has planned a free event for the public from 1 to 4 p.m. dubbed “Celebrating Ron Donoughe Day.
According to a press release from the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Donoughe says the center in Point Breeze has been a vital part of his artistic life as he took classes and taught there.
Donoughe is also the shop-featured Artist of the Month for August, and his work will be exhibited in the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts’ shop and galleries during the celebration and the rest of the month.
“When we celebrate Ron, we’re celebrating our communities and the passion of where we live,” Joy Sato, director of special events for Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, said in a press release.
Sato got the idea for the celebration in January after listening to Peduto’s inauguration speech where the theme was about celebrating the city’s 90 neighborhoods.
Donoughe worked for a year on his 90 Pittsburgh Neighborhoods project published in 2015 that resulted in an art exhibition, book and blog as he painted portraits of each city neighborhood to create what he called “a visual love letter to the people of Pittsburgh.”
Donoughe said he was surprised, delighted – and slightly embarrassed – to hear of the celebration in his honor. He said he feels particularly honored because he is not originally from Pittsburgh.
While Donoughe follows the advice of his first painting instructor – paint what you know – he thought that after painting the city for three decades, he would know it well. It wasn’t until he came across a woodcut map showing all 90 officially designated Pittsburgh neighborhoods that he decided to come to know them all.
“I learned that when you’re getting to know a place, it’s important to confront it on foot,” he said.
“I was using my art as a conduit to these places and people: Seeing and experiencing the city of Pittsburgh one painting at a time.”
Painting “en plain aire” – meaning open air, directly from life, Donoughe captured the essence of Pittsburgh through backyard views, doorways and alleys. He captured seasonal changes and interacted with local residents from across the city.
“There was deep pride that I didn’t know was out there in the city,” Donoughe said.
“Pittsburghers really love their neighborhoods.”
As part of the celebration in Donoughe’s honor, the Pittsburgh Center for Arts’ shop will be selling a limited edition set of notecards printed especially for the occasion.
Scenes from 20 of the neighborhoods featured in Donoughe’s “90 Pittsburgh Neighborhoods” were selected for the new boxed set, including Brookline, Friendship, Hazelwood, Sheraden, Shadyside and the Strip District.
Anne Madarasz, chief historian at the Heinz History Center
– which purchased the paintings of Donoughe’s 90 Neighborhoods project through the generosity of local foundations – said that Donoughe’s work in the project “captures an artist’s perspective on his city in his time.”
“The creative approach to his subject, painting one piece for each neighborhood, details the iconic elements shared city-wide while also recording what is special or unique about each neighborhood,” Madarasz said.
“Pittsburghers are drawn to the work – seeking out their slice of the city and then reacting to the artist’s conceptions. The work encourages discussion, demonstrating the relevance of the art and the connection that residents have to their corner of the city.”
Donoughe’s interest in plein air painting led to the formation of the Plein Air Painters of Western Pennsylvania. He has worked full time as a professional artist/painter since 1991. His work can be found in many corporate and private collections, as well as the Duquesne Club, Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, The Westmoreland Museum of American Art and the University Museum at Indiana University at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Jocelyn Brumbaugh is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter @JBrumbaughTD.