Pittsburgh has its fair share of unique museums within the city limits, but take a quick trip outside the Golden Triangle, and you’ll find the Westmoreland Museum of American Art–a gateway into the history of Pittsburgh, and the artistry of Pennsylvania.
A little less than an hour from downtown, the Westmoreland Museum of American Art (or WMAA) sits on Greensburg’s main street. From its always-free admission to its design, marrying classic with the modern, the museum celebrates both its art and the community surrounding it.
In the grand scheme of museums in the area, WMAA is a relatively new edition. The space was bequeathed in 1957 from the estate of Greenburgh resident Mary Marchand Woods. In 2015, the museum completed its striking modern addition, which currently houses visiting exhibitions.
Until late October, WMAA is featuring an exhibit on multidisciplinary pop artist John Van Hamersveld’s bright and intricate murals and poster art.
FREE art for all
Until late last year, admission was charged based on a suggested donation policy. In an attempt to make the space accessible for all, the museum’s new director, Anne Kraybill, changed it to a free admission policy.
The welcoming atmosphere doesn’t stop there. The museum covers a wide swath of art, from American and Pennsylvania art from the early 19th century up until modern day, but it does so with the visitor always in mind. Volunteer docents float from one gallery to the next, eager to answer questions, or simply share their favorite work of art. Portable chairs and yoga mats for meditation and reflection send the clear message that lingering and reflection is encouraged. Thoughtfully placed opera glasses next to a gallery wall prompt curious observers to take a closer look at pieces hanging high above, suggesting that galleries aren’t just for looking and staring, but taking an active role in discovering art.
Select artwork descriptions include messages written by WMAA staff members, explaining the history of the piece, or what the viewer should pay close attention to. Towing the fine line between hand-holding and hands-off, each thoughtful touch gives the visitor free-range to experience the museum on their own terms.
The Center for Creative Connections on the second floor welcomes interactive experiences for visitors of all ages. Hands-on experiences in the space mirror art found throughout the museum and create a dynamic experience for attendees.
American art from local artists
WMAA features American Art, but more specifically, it highlights notable Western Pennsylvania artists. While Pittsburgh often celebrates Andy Warhol, there’s more to the city’s art history than just the pop artist. The museum galleries feature classic works from Pittsburghers Mary Cassatt and Teenie Harris to extend into contemporary pieces by Vanessa German and an upcoming exhibit from Alisha Wormsley.
Notably, the folk art and 19th-century gallery brings local art traditions to life, explaining the area’s history through the art it created. Familiar Pittsburgh-area landscapes and skylines appear in nearly every gallery, reminding visitors of the rich history of art in the area. Tying in traditional crafts and craftsmen of the area highlights the rich history of the everyday object.
Named in honor of the museum’s founder, Cafe Marchand on the first floor features light meals and treats. However, this isn’t your average museum snack bar. The museum partnered with chefs Christophe Fichet and Nicolas Grunewald, the duo behind Latrobe’s beloved French Express to include an extensive selection of desserts, pastries, and quiches. The cafe also features a rotating selection of local craft beers and specialty wine.
Events, programming, and more
Just as exhibits come and go, WMAA’s rotating calendar of events keeps things fresh for first-time visitors and regulars.
On Wednesday, October 2nd, the museum welcomes artist John Van Hamersveld to discuss his career and featured exhibit. Later that week, on October 5th, the museum will hold its annual Big Art Party, celebrating with a groovy ‘60s theme in celebration of the Van Hamersveld exhibit.
On October 11, WMAA brings back its Art on Tap program to celebrate Oktoberfest. Festivities include a polka band, beer tasting from local breweries, and traditional German snacks.
Looking to get in touch with your inner artist? WMAA’s monthly Pop-Up Studio program gives adults the chance to try out different techniques and media. Try creating a sculpture or using crayons to batik one-of-a-kind works of art.
If you’re looking for a more hands-on experience with a docent, WMAA does offer guided tours for groups and can be tailored to a specific interest or subject. The classic guided tour might not be your taste, but the WMAA’s Museum Munity Tours could be just what you’re looking for. These tours, organized for a group of 12 or less, welcome visitors to experience art through music, games, dance, and storytelling. The museum also offers weekly Art Talks every Saturday at 1 pm and Wednesday at 6 pm. The Art Talks “explore the rich diversity of American art” with the help of visiting and local scholars.
WMAA also offers a chance to get zen in the galleries with weekly yoga classes. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings from 8:30-9:30 am, join yogis of all levels in the Paul & Carol Evanson Community Room for a drop-in class.
Whether you come for an event or a weekend day trip, the Westmoreland Museum of American Art offers each visitor a unique experience to explore the art of America and Western PA, on their own terms.
Know before you go: Westmoreland Museum of Art
- 221 N. Main Street, Greensburg, PA 15601
- Monday Closed
- Tuesday Closed
- Wednesday 11 am-7 pm
- Thursday 11 am-7 pm
- Friday 11 am-7 pm
- Saturday 10am-5pm
- Sunday 10am-5pm
Closed Monday & Tuesday as well as New Year’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas