Art and Inspiration

Firebox Art Studios

Carnegie, PA

On one side of FIREBOX art studio’s square business card is printed strictly conventional contact information for Eva Trout’s one-year old gallery on Main Street in Carnegie, PA, just six miles from downtown Pittsburgh. The other side, however, is definitely a surprise: Trout’s personal business card, where three words are given equal prominence. Floating on the red, green, and orange background of one of Trout’s compelling, cloudlike encaustic paintings are her three identities: Artist, Missionary and Speaker.

A conversation with Trout illuminates how all three are braided into one being; how light and the cosmos and divine order permeate her paintings; how outreach programs, often using the arts, “encourage and inspire people who lived in extreme circumstances or have suffered emotional trauma; and how workshops at home and abroad encourage the importance of “individual unique expressions regardless of ability. “I am a maker, a teacher, and a creativity advocate for people who have experienced duress and hardship,” Trout said. Since 2009, she has worked as the Missions Director and pastor at Covenant Church of Pittsburgh.

To Trout, who has traveled to South Sudan where she has established an ongoing water campaign and to Guatemala where she has reached out to girls and women who’ve been trafficked for sex, these trips represent not only the need for clean water and healing from trauma but the larger issue of the interconnectivity of cultures. “There’s a God-sized thumbprint on every human being that is to be honored in everyone,” Trout said. She believes in Albert Einstein’s motto that “Creativity is contagious, pass it on.” That is precisely what she is doing in her life and at the Firebox Art Studios.

Trout’s artistic resume reaches back several decades. A graduate of the Tyler School of Art (BFA), she has been exhibiting her work for over 20 years, with many paintings currently held in private collections. She has served as the Exhibition Chair for the Pittsburgh Society of Artists and is a member of both the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Society of Artists, two organizations from which Trout currently draws women artists for her new gallery. Art is selected purely by the artist’s aesthetic, and not by religious or cultural persuasion.

In its short life, the gallery has already been nominated as one of the finalists for Pittsburgh’s Top Creative Arts Projects of 2018. Earlier this year, FIREBOX exhibited The Ron Rivera Memorial, Potters for Peace Water Filter Exhibition, which was curated by Dick Wukich and featured the works of many renown, contributing potters including Val Cushing, and David MacDonald. The exhibit highlighted a simple clay and colloidal silver water filter that, Trout said, “is now changing life for impoverished villages around the globe by making clean water a sustainable possibility.” Clearly, the show exemplified the deep link between Trout’s artistic philosophy and her commitment to global social activism.

Currently at the gallery is Taking Shape, the first exhibit she has curated with a name. Why that name? Trout answers without hesitation: “Because I felt like the gallery was taking shape!” After many months gutting the space and stripping down to the brick walls, the show with 80 pieces by 10 artists hangs salon style in the space. Opened on July 13th, in conjunction with the first Art Walk in Carnegie, the gallery is geared to small collectors “who are buying for their homes.”

In addition to her own work, including a recent diptych, Coalesce and Sequence, (an encaustic work made with heated beeswax, damar varnish, and oil pigments), that was featured in a room designed by Alisha Gwen for The Junior League of Pittsburgh’s Show House Event, the exhibit includes new works from artists who have been exhibited at the gallery: Joyce Werwie Perry, Patricia Apuzzo, Maura Koehler Keeney, Sarah Jacobs, Monique Sarkessian, Hiromi Katayama, Marian Phillips, Gina Dominique Hersey, Maggy Aston, and Crystal Latimer. Works range in price from under $100 to $6,000. Also for sale in the gallery is artisan jewelry including a line of copper cuffs by Branded Collective, each one stamped with an initial and a number. The initial belongs to the survivor who made the cuff; the number is a unique number on each piece, enabling the purchaser to send a Message of Hope to the survivors.

Trout notes that a little arts community has been evolving on Carnegie’s Main Street. Nearby is the 3rd Street Gallery, Abandoned Pittsburgh (a photo gallery), and the Pittsburgh Pottery. There’s even a music school, Higher Voice Studio, run by Hilerie Klein Rensi which offers lessons for singers at all levels.

Around Pittsburgh, many folks see Carnegie as the next Lawrenceville, PA, where Butler Street, its main drag, is filled with restaurants and nightspots, much like Brooklyn NY’s Williamsburg. Trout disagrees. “Carnegie is different because it attracts diverse residents: Indians, Africans, and Middle Easterners. “It’s an old steel town with cross-generational residents and a big mosque down the street,” she said.

We walk down Main Street to the old Carnegie Post Office, now a coffee shop shared with a drug store. The vibe is cool, the coffee delicious, and the pastries homemade. It’s not Museum Mile on Fifth Avenue in New York City or the slick art galleries in Chelsea on Manhattan’s West Side but there’s something honest and pure about the scene. “It’s thriving,” Trout said modestly, adding that “a new generation of people are coming to the town.”

FIREBOX ART STUDIOS 110 East Main Street, Carnegie, PA 15106

Gallery View FIREBOX art studios
Gallery wall with works by Eva Trout, Marian Phillips, Hiromi Katayama and Crystal Latimer
Eva Trout, owner/director of FIREBOX Art Studios in Carnegie, PA
Encaustic painting, Wisdom Speaks, by Eva Trout
Assorted metal bracelets from the Branded Collective.
From the Potters For Peace exhibit, Third World Water Cooler by Gary Greenberg