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GASP in Focus for Unblurred

Updated: Feb 29

April’s first-Friday arts crawl on Penn Avenue, Unblurred, was full of cartoons for this iteration of the event’s ever-changing theme.

For this occasion, GASP dug up historic film footage and drawings from its archives and opened its doors after hours, inviting the wandering multitude of curious sidewalk crawlers to investigate GASP’s new headquarters and old influences.

Several reels of 16mm film showed GASP’s original mascot, “Dirty Gertie the Poor Polluted Birdie,” brought to two-dimensional life and in the midst of various adventures, such as flying high over Pittsburgh…only to be consumed by the clouds of smoke overhead.

Another reel, shot in the early 1970s, gathered eyewitness reports from local citizens on the state of air quality, accompanied by interviews of prominent local medical doctors, to produce a hard-hitting documentary titled “Don’t Hold Your Breath.”

The walls of the foyer were hung with hand-drawn incarnations of Dirty Gertie, from the very first sketches to the mock-ups for a bumper sticker. 

Those who shuffled in to admire these works and video projections did so while nibbling on Gertie-shaped cookies, hand-made from the original recipe found in a cook book authored by Jeannette Widom, an early GASP member.

The cookies served as a throwback to a foundational period in GASP’s history – lovingly called “flour power” – in which GASP “fought air pollution with a rolling pin” and created a yearly tradition of selling cookies to raise money and awareness of air quality. 

Certainly, the hundreds of Pittsburghers who streamed through the foyer were awash in a dense plume of yesteryear, which is the only type of plume we appreciate going up through our city. 

Two attendees checking out some 70’s style (and learning about air pollution)

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