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Fox Chapel resident shares the story of steel mills through art

Tawnya Panizzi
| Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016, 2:11 p.m.
Fran Gialamas sits in her art studio in Aspinwall where she designs and frames her work.
Jan Pakler | For the Tribune-Review
Fran Gialamas sits in her art studio in Aspinwall where she designs and frames her work.

From her first exhibit as a Chatham College student in 1958, Fox Chapel artist Fran Gialamas has found inspiration in the ubiquitous remnants of steel town life both in Pittsburgh and her hometown of Youngstown, Ohio.

“It was the environment that I grew up in,” said Gialamas, whose work speaks to the triumphs and tears of the industrial rise and fall.

“It is just part of my fabric.”

Her most recent exhibit, “Chronicles of a Chatham Art Major,” will run through Oct. 16 at the Chatham University Art Gallery along Chapel Hill Road, Shadyside.

The show revisits her first solo exhibition, which took place when she was a college junior. It also features work that spans her career, from venues like the Rivers of Steel Bost Building in Homestead, the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and the Ceres Gallery in New York City.

Gialamas has created her art in an Aspinwall-based studio for more than four decades. She uses family photographs, university archives and personal memories for inspiration. As a child, she would pass a steel mill on her way into town.

The former president of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh hopes to highlight the gritty life in the mill and the behind-the-scenes details of the workers who were its lifeline.

Her current show includes 26 pieces, dealing with the full spectrum of life in the steel industry. Included are drawings, photo collages and paintings.

“There is a 1958 oil painting of a steel mill and others that deal with life experiences like a community wedding,” she said.

Another painting depicts Venus de Milo with a gas mask, meant to portray the dangers of the business.

The Chatham University Art Gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends. For more information, call 412-365-1106.

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. Reach her at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at

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