The Drift offers Pittsburghers an unparalleled experience exploring one of the city’s most iconic yet underutilized features: the three rivers. Designed as a floating platform, The Drift provides a stage on the water for artworks, performances, poetry readings, films and other creative projects. This mobile venue seeks to attract audiences who live, work and play along the river, and encourage greater interaction with the water beyond simply crossing bridges.
The project grew out of a collaboration between seven MFA students at Carnegie Mellon University who wanted to create something provocative in Pittsburgh. Recognizing the cultural and geographical significance of the rivers, and hoping to access an atypical art audience, the artists set out to build a 12 square foot hexagonal platform, complete with a motor and six barrels strapped to the bottom for buoyancy.
“We’re creating work that we hope will bring people to the rivers and create space for artwork to exist in contexts that are unique to Pittsburgh,” says one of the artist-curators, Steve Gurysh.
The Drift debuted as a giant iceberg floating outside PNC Park on opening day for the Pittsburgh Pirates 2012 season. Subsequent projects transformed the platform into “Drift by Drag,” where drag performers both interrupted and entertained audiences at the Pittsburgh Regatta, and “More Barn,” a live concert of Neil Young covers. In August, The Drift will debut a floating film series for boaters and kayakers.
After receiving support from The Sprout Fund, the founders have expanded their focus from creating work of their own to curating projects—inviting other artists to submit proposals for their projects that address the context of the rivers and waterfronts. The Seed Award enables the crew to offer artists an incentive to collaborate with The Drift—$250 stipends and a material budget. During the programming season that runs from April to October, Gurysh says he and his peers want to create constant activity on the rivers, including large scale artworks, regularly scheduled events and performances as ephemeral as the name, The Drift, suggests.
Written by Courtney Patterson