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Pop Filter Hot Pick: Mattress Factory Urban Garden Party remixes art, soul and Motown

This Friday, June 21st, one of the best parties in town will erupt on the longest night of the year. The summer solstice seems the perfect night for the Mattress Factory museum of contemporary art to host its singular Urban Garden Party. Museum staff, event co-chairs Anne and Anuj Dhanda--along more than 1,000 museum fans--invite you to get your garden groove on.

For its latest installment, the Garden Party provides a flavor of the museum's Fall 2013 exhibition--Detroit: Artists in Residence--with a benefit bash that takes a cue from the legendary groove, glamour and creative vision of soulful Motor City. Garden-goers will celebrate an era when outfits were flashier, hairstyles were funkier and 45 rpm was the only speed in town, all while looking ahead to a new sense of grassroots revitalization and creativity harnessed by artirsts currently working in this enduring American city. Dubbed Soul Factory: Motown at the Museum, this year's benefit bash also marks the Mattress Factory's 35th year on Pittsburgh's Northside.

"Everything the Mattress Factory does comes form artists who are working at the ground level. We visited Detroit and artists' studios, and it's the artists who are making things happen, changing the neighborhoods and taking risks. Artists are responding to their situations. That is the language we understand; it's who we are, who we are connected to, and what we are interested in," says Michael Olijnyk, co-director of the Mattress Factory. "We did not want this party to be an oldies party. It's a mash-up of Motown, electronic and techno. Detroit has a history and it has a future."

What's new and why should you be there?

1. Support world-class art.

Sure, it's one of Pittsburgh's best parties, and queen bee of the summer social scene, but this garden gala is also a party with a purpose. A world-renowned museum known for its staunch commitment to supporting the creative practice of living artists from around the globe, the Mattress Factory works tirelessly to bring cutting-edge art and art-makers to Pittsburgh.  For 35 years and counting, the museum has provided artists from Cuba to the Czech Republic with the space, time and materials needed to develop new practices and present work in an unrestricted venue. Projects are ambitious, innovative large-scale, with many installations involving partnerships with local companies and nonprofits, who contribute directly to the creation of new artwork in Pittsburgh. The museum has garnered critical praise from arts media across the globe, and was just cited in the New York Times blog on June 16th, for its pioneering early work with the groundbreaking light artist James Turrell.

All proceeds from the Garden Party directly support the museum's operations, exhibitions and educational outreach. And the party has helped in a significant way. Serving as the museum's annual fundraiser for 16 years, with each year raising more money than the last, the event grossed an impressive $227,000 in 2012. June 21st is already expected to break both attendance and revenue records.

2. Arrive early for the food, stay late for the dancing.

It's not a party without great fare, and the Urban Garden Party is known for its dizzying selection of bites from local eateries and breweries. Arrive early and with an appetite to sample the spread, with will feature 40 of Pittsburgh’s top restaurants and caterers, including All in Good Taste Productions, Bar Marco, E2, Enrico's Biscotti Co., Fukuda, Legume, Marty's Market, PGH Taco Truck, Tender, Verde, Wigle Whiskey, and many more.

In between noshing on local fare, exploring interactive art, party-goers will be treated to Motown-themed pop-up performances by Kierra Darshell's Divas of Drag, DJ Zimmie, El Monics, The MadHouse, and Zany Umbrella Circus. Stay on your toes and be on the look out for perfomers Diego Brazil as Marvin Gaye, Ann Fu as Teena Marie and Kierra Darshell as Diana Ross. Don your grooviest 1960s-era threads and head into the Motown photo booth to create a party keepsake.

Helping to get your groove on will be headlining act, Vancouver-based DJ The Gaff, who brings his  psychedelic soul show to the Northside for just one night. An internationally acclaimed disc jockey, producer and record collector, The Gaff is known for infusing modern-day club, hip-hop and dance music with original breakbeats, soul, funk and elements from world music. Hitting the main stage from 9 to 11 p.m., The Gaff has performed with high-profile entertainers such as DJ Shadow, Fort Knox Five, Jurassic 5, Questlove and Z-Trip.

"One thing people really love about the Garden Party is that every category of person is there--artists, businessmen, doctors, drag queens--they are all in the tent together and everyone feel comfortable. It's a great people watching event. You can be the center of attention or off to the sides watching, " says Olijnyk. "This is not your normal sit down fundraiser. It's a great fun party, and in the end, it supports some incredibly interesting work."

In 2012, more than 1,300 people flocked to the affair, so don't delay in getting tickets. Tickets will be available online until 6 p.m. on Friday, or until the event sells out, which is expected. The VIP party is already sold-out.

3. Out of this world auction

Rewriting the book on the fundraiser, the Mattress Factory's Urban Garden Party gives back in a very big way, via its highly anticipated silent auction. Each year, the event boasts a new twist on the silent auction, turning it into more of a cultural happening, by inviting artists to transform an everyday object into an original one-of-a-kind work of art. Based on a new theme every year and created lovingly by local and regional artists, featured pieces are unique handmade works that regularly end up hanging on dining room walls, sitting on studio shelves and featured in glass cases around the Burgh.

This year's object du jour is the iconic hubcap, a fitting tribute to Motor City and a nod to the Museum's fall 2013 exhibition, Detroit: Artists in Residence. More than 21 newly created pieces are expected to be auctioned at Friday's event, with average prices ranging from $100 to $200.

4. Debut of the after-party

For the first time in Urban Garden Party history, the Mattress Factory is hosting an official after-party. Following the funk fest, head over to nearby Penn Brewery to continue the merry-making. Make sure to bring your wristband for access to drink discounts, a DJ and late-night festivities at the Northside landmark, which is located near the museum on Vinial Street.

5. Commitment to community

Just 36 hours later, on Sunday, June 23rd, the museum will swing open its doors from 1 to 5 p.m. to host its annual Community Urban Garden Party, tapping into the family-friendly side of Motown. Featuring free activities, events and performances for all ages, the community celebration is attended by hundreds of Northside neighbors and families every year.

Turn old vinyl record albums into art with Assemble, add your vision to the Museum's upcoming MoTOWN art installation and construct musical instruments from recycled materials for a noise party! On the main stage, enjoy performances by Pittsburgh Heat Hip-Hop Dance Company, The Zany Umbrella Circus and DJ Andrew Edmonds' Vinyl Showcase.

Additional hands-on activities will include screen printing with Artist Image Resource (AIR); an interactive animated collage inspired by Smokey Robinson's Motown hit, "Cruisin'" led by the puppeteers from The Schmutz Company; book-related projects led by Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and Reading is FUNdamental; and a screening of Art21: New York Close Up presented by the Allegheny YMCA.

In between crafting and creating, pick up lunch from the Pittsburgh Taco Truck.

View a sneak peek video of Soul Factory: Motown at the Museum.

Purchase tickets now.

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