Devan Shimoyama in Pittsburgh

Devan Shimoyama in Pittsburgh

From the Warhol Museum to Croatian murals, Devan Shimoyama shows us why Pittsburgh deserves a spot on any American art pilgrimage.

4 min read

Devan Shimoyama in Pittsburg

This is an Avant Arte City Guide in collaboration with Trippin World.

Most travel guides will sell you the idea that in only a few days you can learn everything, and see everything there is to see in a city. Devan Shimoyama doesn’t like to pretend. Even though he’s lived in Pittsburgh for almost a decade, he insists  “I'm originally from Philadelphia, so my position in Pittsburgh is still somewhat of an outsider.”

Art Historical Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh isn’t on the map of global art cities like New York or Los Angeles. But perhaps it should be. The city has been home to giants of modern art

Andy Warhol was born in Pittsburgh in 1928 when it was an industrial steel town. The legacy of the industrialist Andrew Carnegie still looms large over the city lending its name to universities and cultural institutions. One of those institutions is dedicated to the pop-culturally relevant Andy. Make The Andy Warhol Museum the first stop on your art pilgrimage to Pittsburgh. 

The Warholian disciple, Keith Haring, also made his mark on Pittsburgh. He went to art school there, and worked at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts where he also had his first solo exhibition in 1978. The non-profit community arts centre continues to run artist residencies and exhibitions. Discover local artists and even take an art class.

Beyond the Museums

For Devan, you have to go beyond the museums to really see the city.

The neighbourhoods here make Pittsburgh so special and are worth exploring.

The buildings and architecture tell the history of Pittsburgh – from its founding in 1758, through the economic boom of the early 20th Century that gave birth to “Millionaire’s Row”, and the constant evolutions it has had since. 

Devan’s favourite neighbourhoods are Squirrel Hill, Mexican War Streets, Lawrenceville, and Shadyside. Aside from their beauty, these neighbourhoods also have a strong older LGBTQ+ presence – "there are rainbow flags everywhere".


It’s community that has held Pittsburgh together through its many iterations. Devan’s work explores themes of displacement and belonging from his lens as a Black queer artist. He is critical of gentrification and stresses the importance of supporting local communities – particularly the Black community that made Pittsburgh what it is today. 

If you’re not sure where to start, Devan recommends checking out the website Black Pittsburgh:

Black Pittsburgh does a great job sharing news and culture about the Black communities in Pittsburgh.They have a staff full of integral leaders who are engaged in all sorts of great events, programming, community organising, etc.

Art is a great way to learn about the history of these communities. The Maxo Vanka murals at St. Nicholas Croatian Church is a profound example of communities coming together.

It's fascinating to learn that these murals were made during WWII for the immigrant Croatian community, and many of the Jesus figures and other appearing characters depicted were based on Black models. I think that communities who share bonds of poverty, trauma or Otherness often relate to one another.

At the other end of the spectrum is Randyland. It is the home and artist studio of Randy Gilson, who purchased the abandoned buildings and created a colourful utopia open to the public.

Randyland is one of the places that I noticed when first moving here, it's been around a long time and I love seeing when artists create their own spaces that become staples of their neighbourhoods and communities.

Next door to Randyland you'll find the Mattress Factory. Although more of an institution, the Mattress Factory does rotating contemporary artist shows – " A must see.”

Meanwhile, Here gallery is a newer space that puts on some great shows.

Shop Local

There’s quite a bit of good vintage shopping locally, including Highway Robbery Vintage and Fifty One Ten Vintage for t-shirts.

If you’re going shopping in a new place, what’s the point of going to chain stores filled with things you can find anywhere else?

If you’re looking for something a little more mystical and metaphysical, visit The Psychic Shop.

One of Devan’s favourites is Three Rivers Vintage where he buys costume jewellery for his multimedia paintings. Drag is one of his biggest influences, and he likes to source his supplies from the same stores drag performers shop.

Food and Nightlife

When it comes to food and drink in Pittsburgh, Devan is definitely not an outsider. He has recommendations for every occasion. 

Looking for something sweet? Five Points Artisan Bakeshop.

Out and about and need something quick?  Pigeon Bagels, “a great spot for lox on a bagel.”

Craving Polish vegan food? APTEKA. 

Coffee that isn’t Starbucks? KLVN Coffee Lab.

Want something a little fancier? Pusadee’s Garden, “a beautiful Thai restaurant here with great outdoor seating.”

Thirsty for a whiskey? Acacia for an Old Fashioned cocktail. 

Devan’s favourite hangouts however are Tina’s and Round Corner Cantina. They are “great places to run into friends”, and perhaps feel a little more like an insider.

Photographer: Zachary Riggleman @ZacRiggleman



Subscribe to the Avant Arte newsletter for the art world in your inbox.

By continuing, you’re agreeing to our terms & conditions and privacy policy.