Outlines Modern Art Gallery in Pittsburgh 1941-1947

Pittsburgh’s first modern art gallery opened its doors in 1941. For that generation, the notion of modern art was akin to other things supposedly dangerous for the future of American society. As disruptive as a venture like this was back then, it’s hard to imagine how even more disruptive it would have been for a 21 year old woman to be behind the whole idea. That’s how old Elizabeth “Betty” Rockwell Raphael (1920-1998) was when she opened Outlines.

At the time, Betty made the city less boring by providing a place for exhibits, lectures, concerts, films, and plays. Artists like Alexander Calder, John Cage, Maya Deren, and Merce Cunningham were among the many that manifested the atmosphere at Outlines. She brought in works from all over the world and introduced a new world of art and culture to Pittsburgh.

The gallery was located at 341 Boulevard of the Allies and served open-minded enthusiasts of creativity until 1947. There simply wasn’t enough support in the city to keep it going. But that didn’t stop Betty, she went on to bigger and better things and eventually founded the Society for Contemporary Craft in 1971. She has been called one of the most ground breaking women in the art scene.

Jason Tracy and Cayce Mell (2nd State Productions, a husband and wife team) have spent four years producing a documentary film from information found within a gallery chronology and scrapbook kept by Betty. For more info about the Tracing Outlines film, check out the trailer below and follow @outlinesfilm.

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