Located on Frankstown Avenue in Homewood, the Pittsburgh Coliseum is a community fixture, given to a variety of artistic uses that celebrate African American heritage, local culture, Pittsburgh history, and the visual and performing arts.
Owned and operated by venerable historian John Brewer, Jr., and his wife, visual artist Tina Williams Brewer, the Greater Pittsburgh Coliseum is a capacious structure whose walls bear the black and white images of everyday men and women from bygone eras. Many of the framed photographs adorning the permanent display hall are from the Pittsburgh Courier; some photographs were taken by Pittsburgh’s most famous African American photographer, Charles “Teenie” Harris.
On a given day, the Coliseum will be bustling with various levels of activity. Visual artists and artisans can be seen using the walls and floors as staging areas for their work, laying the pieces out for jury selection for a special exhibition, or hanging the works of art themselves for public display. Tina Brewer’s magnificent story quilts, Vanessa German’s intricate sculptures, and even the art of local students have been on view. Visitors can converse with the Brewers casually, learning all about the historical and cultural underpinnings of a rich, varied, and vital African American community in Pittsburgh.
The building is also a prime venue for community discussions, neighborhood convenings, large family gatherings, dances, weddings, and other affairs. Over the years it has seen audiences numbering in the thousands—to view national and international talent, as a dance floor, and even movie screening venue.
By Cecile Shellman, independent curator