ShareThis Page

Local man's Robot Repair shop in city the unreal deal

| Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012, 8:55 p.m.
Bridgeville Area News
Toby Fraley sits at a desk at his Robot Repair shop on Sixth Street in Pittsburgh. Randy Jarosz | For The Bridgeville Area News
Bridgeville Area News
Toby Fraley of Bridgeville stands in the front of his Robot Repair. Randy Jarosz | For The Bridgeville Area News
Bridgeville Area News
A work area in Toby Fraley's Robot Repair shop on Sixth Street in Pittsburgh. Note the robot repair guide. Randy Jarosz | For The Bridgeville Area News

It's almost impossible to figure out whether Toby Fraley's Robot Repair Shop is real.

Fraley, 35, of Bridgeville, won the Public Art Award from the Greater Pittsburgh Art Council on Nov. 30 for his installation. The award is sitting on one of the repair tables on display, and is the only authenticity giveaway.

Fraley's piece features an intricate display of robots, lights and parts, and it looks as if the repair shop were a functioning entity.

The piece is located at 210 Sixth Ave. in downtown Pittsburgh and has been on display since Light Up Night 2011. The initiative to use the vacant storefronts is part of the Pop-Up Pittsburgh Project, which is meant to bring more art and commerce into the business and cultural districts.

“People think that it has to be real; there are mail slips and order slips, and notes about being out of town on the door,” Fraley said.

Fraley's storefront contains approximately 300 different items that he imagines would be found in a robot repair shop, and, he said, that he has added around 25 percent of the items gradually.

“I remember reading mechanics magazines with my dad when I was a kid, and some of them were about the future,” Fraley said.

“I wanted to create an alternate space where some of those things could have been true.”

Fraley's exhibit changes with the seasons and currently is displaying a robot sprinkling fake snow around a shiny white Christmas tree. He revisits the shop at least every two weeks to add components and check on the display.

“I give the robots a number in a sequence,” Fraley said. “I am up to 67.”

He has been a full-time artist since 2001 and does craft festivals, gallery shows and commissions.

“A lot of people ask for robots,” Fraley said.

Fraley has constructed robots for various clients, including corporations in Silicon Valley and Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh.

The storefront was supposed to come down on Light Up Night this year, but the landlord is letting him continue to use the space.

“It is month to month at this point,” Fraley said.

“But I would like to keep the piece up until I have said all that I would like to say.”

Fraley will be doing a solo project at SPACE gallery in Pittsburgh starting in February 2014.

Jacquie Harris is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.