The Rust Belt Biennial

Alyssha Eve Csuk, Bethlehem Steel Chrome VI, Bethlehem Pennsylvania , 2006

There are certain terms we know but can’t put the finger on when we’ve heard them first. We usually have some associations with these kind of terms but can’t really put everything together firmly. Such is the Rust Belt. Anyone who lives in this country know of it, and is familiar with the narrative, but what stands behind the definition? For some it is economic hardship, for others it is the place they know best and call home.

This name, Rust Belt (a term mainly credited to 1984 Democratic presidential candidate, Walter Mondale) was coined in the hardest times of decline, but where is the region going from here? It is exciting to see the effort of individuals, taking manners to their own hands and start making a change. Two such individuals are Yoav Friedländer and Niko Kallianiotis who decided to take initiative and create a venue for photography in the heart of coal country – they named it – Rust Belt Biennial. Creating new opportunities for exposure and cultural debate inside the region itself.

The first Rust Belt Biennial, hosted at the Sordoni Art Gallery at Wilkes University, is a celebration of photography featuring curated work of native Pennsylvanian and Rust Belt artists alongside prize winners and a top selection from the Biennial’s open call for work made in the region, juried by renowned photographer Andrew Moore.

“This land, its people, the pride and the struggles, the patina of the past and above all, the histories and memories ingrained in the soil across the region inspired us to form a new venue to celebrate and focus on photographic work from the Rust Belt Region. It is time to start a new dialogue about the state of photography and it’s social, cultural and political effects in our society; it is time to give back to the photographic community but also the region.”
(text: The Rust Belt Biennial founders)

September 7th | 6-8 PM
Sordoni Art Gallery 141 S. Main Street, Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania

Jeffrey Stockbridge, Carol, North Philadelphia, 2010

Ed Eckstein, Cassville, MO, 1977

Lauren Orchowski, “Starry Night, Poughkeepsie”, Poughkeepsie, New York, 2019

“It was my great pleasure to be the juror for the first Rust Belt Biennial of 2019. The work submitted presented a wide cross-section of artistic backgrounds, geographical locations, and philosophical approaches to the challenges and beauty of this region. Although winnowing down these submissions to a group of finalists was a challenging task, I ultimately chose the finalists for the emotional richness and aesthetic integrity of their portfolios.

I should also mention that there were many other bodies of work, deeply felt and highly charged, which I look forward to seeing in the exhibition to be held at Sordoni Art Gallery.

My heartfelt thanks go out to all those who took the time to contribute their work and look forward to meeting all those who attend the show on September 7th. Lastly, as I reviewed the many submissions, I was once again reaffirmed in my belief that the stories of the Rust Belt continue to be of singular importance to the greater trajectory of America today. My sincere thanks go out to the organizers of this important project and I wish them much continued success in the coming years for this bold endeavor. “

Andrew Moore

1st Place Winner : Matthew Abbott, Robert (65), Detroit, Michigan, 2017

2nd Place Winner: Allison Nichols, Untitled, Lockport, New York, 2018

3rd Place Winner: Mike Majewski, Excerpts from Summer in Lundsville, Pennsylvania, (Photographed in Northeast Ohio.), 2018

CURATED SHOW ARTISTS: Andrew Wertz, Anna Beeke, Costa Sakellariou, Dave Jordano, Ed Eckstein, Jeffrey Stockbridge, Kathleen Gerber, Lauren Davies, Lauren Orchowski, Lori Nix, Luke Wynne and Michael Froio.

JURIED SHOW FINALISTS: Alyssha Eve Csük, David Bernstein, David Obermeyer, Emily Najera, Eric Kunsman, Frank E. Schoonover, Hans Gindlesberger, Joel Anderson, John Lusis, John Sanderson, John Wyatt, Kylie West, Parker Reinecker, Peter Essick, Raymond Thompson Jr, Scott Houston, Susan Copich and Tom Lamb.

1st Place: Matthew Abbott
2nd Place: Allison Nichols
3rd Place: Mike Majewski.

Andrew Wertz, Centennial Belle, Shenandoah, PA, 2016

Dave Jordano, Sophie and Steve, Steve’s Place, Congress St., Detroit 2013, Detroit, Michigan, 2013

September 7th | 6:00 – 8:00 PM
Reception will begin at 6:00 PM followed by a gallery talk and tour of the exhibition with Sordoni Art Gallery Director, Heather Sincavage and Rust Belt Biennial founders Yoav Friedlander and Niko J. Kallianiotis.

September 11th | 5:00 PM
Yoav Friedlander, Niko J. Kallianiotis, Ed Eckstein of Frame 37 and Jamie Longazel of Anthracite Unite.
Moderator: Heather Sincavage, Director of the Sordoni Art Gallery.

September 20th | 4:30 PM
Undocumented Fears: Immigration and the Politic of Divide and Conquer in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. Jamie Longazel, founder of Anthracite Unite.

October 2nd | 4:30 PM
Mining our History: What We Can Learn from Photos of the Past. Aimee Newell, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Luzerne County Historical Society in Wilkes-Barre, PA.

Michael Froio, Pratt Truss Bridge, Susquehanna River, Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania , 2010

John Sanderson, Steel Mill and Houses, Lackawanna, New York, 2009

Scott Huston, Julie, East Liverpool, Ohio, USA, 2009

Joel Anderson, Farmer Bob, Anthracite Miner, Old B&B Mine

Luke Wynne, Weyerbacher Loading Dock, Easton, PA, 2016

Costa Sakellariou, Waiting Ladies, Binghamton, NY, 1998

Anna Beeke, Bill With Trucks, Amsterdam, NY, 2009

Lauren Davies, Youngstown 1, Youngstown, OH, 2018

Emily Najera, 807 Bridge St., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2018