Pittsburgh Toonseum Show Report

August 14th, 2009 | Posted in News

I’m finally getting around to doing this report on our trip to Pittsburgh and the opening of my show at the Toonseum, located in the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

As someone said to me, it isn’t everyday your husband (or dad) get’s his artwork hung in a museum, so I dragged The Lovely Anna and all four of my kids with me to Pittsburgh to see the show and get to experience a little bit of the city. Cartoonist and Toonseum curator Joe Wos, and Pittsburgh Post Gazette/syndicated editorial cartoonist¬¨‚Ć Rob Rogers were gracious hosts, giving of their time to make sure we were taken care of. Rob hauled us about in a mini-van both from and to the airport as well as about town and treated us to several wonderful meals.

We arrived on Thursday July 30th in the afternoon and settled in to the hotel… which isn’t easy with four kids. That night Rob took us to dinner at a charming restaurant located in a converted church, where the micro brew apparatus was located where the altar once stood. It sounds sacrilegious but de-consecrated churches need to be used for something, and it was a nice place to eat. Among other things we tried perogies, a staple of local Pittsburgh cuisine, which were delicious. Later Rob brought us about town, seeing many sights and riding the “incline” up to the top of Mount Washington looking over the city. Great view.

Pittsburgh has an undeserved image of being a bleak, industrial town full of smokestacks and warehouses. It’s actually a very beautiful city located in a lush valley at the convergence of three rivers, and is a town of historic bridges, churches and art. Yes, art. Pittsburgh may have been built on the back of the steel industry, but industrial giants like the Carnegie‘s and Frick‘s created huge funds for the arts in the city which still are at work today. There is a great deal of public art and sculpture all about Pittsburgh, and in the last 20 years many of the dwindling industrial sites have been converted into entertainment and fine living areas. It’s a wonderful place to spend some time.

Joe Wos and me

The show officially opened at the Toonseum on Saturday, but there was a special reception on Friday night which was reasonably well attended. There were several fellow NCS and ISCA members there, and I also met many area cartoonists. Anna and the kids had a lot of fun, as parts of the Children’s Museum were accessible and they got to see a lot of the exhibits… particularly the Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood room. Fred Rogers was from Pittsburgh, and his children’s TV show “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” was something Anna and I grew up with.

The show’s opening area

Joe really did a great job on show itself. The original MAD spreads and pages were framed and hung in the Toonseum area (a hallway connecting two main areas of the Children’s Museum). My son Tom had painstakingly typed out all the words from every word balloon and I took the header graphics from the MAD digital files and printed them all out for Anna to paste them up on the boards… so rather than blank word balloons the art had the story as well to enjoy. Joe and I had discussed it would be a good idea to show one project from beginning to end, so as I still had all the artwork from the MAD parody of “The Dark Knight”, the show contained every original art page of the story long with the pencil roughs and prints of the final colored artwork.

Art from the show
Some of the show artwork…

Scrubs parody splash
The splash page from the parody of “Scrubs”

Some visitors at the Toonseum
Some people visiting the Toonseum, obviously nauseated

There was also some prints of work by artists I admire, which Joe decided to be the caricatures of me by Mort Drucker, Al Hirschfeld and Hermann Mejia from my Me Gallery. MAD art director Sam Viviano also wrote an intro to the show which said some very nice things and made me wonder if he owed me money or something.

Toonseum board members and me
Toonseum board members (L to R): Jim Martin,
Missy Gralish, Joe Wos and myself.

Missy asking a question...
Missy asking a question

Me explaining something about the process
Me answering

On Saturday I went to the Children’s Museum where I did a short demo for a the kids. I drew Alfred for them and did caricatures of a few of them as well.

Later that night I did a class on drawing caricatures, which went fairly well. I’ve taught many hundreds of caricaturists in my them park operations but doing something more formal like this was an interesting change of pace.

One other Pittsburgh thing we did was go to the famous Primanti Bros. restaurant for one of their famous sandwiches. A Primanti Bros. sandwich is a hamburger (or other type of grilled meat) with cole slaw, tomatoes and french fries on top all between pieces of thick sliced bread. This is a big deal in Pittsburgh and has been featured on travel shows and other media on regional foods. At the risk of angering my friends from Pittsburgh, I did not “get it”. I thought it was okay and I’m glad I experienced it but I’d much rather have almost any other kind of sandwich. When defending the Primanti Bros. fare several locals told me it’s “better when you are drunk”. Ah… it’s everything?

As a show of my appreciation I donated one of the pieces from the show to the Toonseum’s permanent collection, this splash page from the “Obama Inauguration” piece I did earlier this year.

Joe and I with the donated art
Joe and me with the donated artwork

The Toonseum is a great place and I hope they gain in success and visibility. I certainly hope that the class of the featured artists they exhibit rises immensely…. and SOON.


  1. Bernard Molek says:

    Hello Tom,
    Man….you would think that after defending twitter as a hot news media to my friends and family (most of whom still tease me about it) that I would be most excited about the Pittsburgh Toonseum news that I’m sure was tweeted many times over on twitter.

    I missed it!

    I cannot believe that as one of my favorite artists/tweeters as well as a TR follower on twitter that I could not even bring myself to at least check in once in a while (my iPhone is always on me) since loosing my office job to find out about this event that you wrote so well about here.

    If that’s not bad enough, I’m from the Pittsburgh area (about 45-50 miles SE) and could have easily attended this.

    However, I guess it is still open and I can still go and enjoy all the exhibits. I guess I will just have to leave my twitter shame award at home.

    Finally, thanks for your report on your trip there because everybody likes to hear what people think of their area of the country and sounds like you had a great time.

    Take Care,

  2. julio cesar Naranjo says:

    Hi Tom its amazing to see all your work and how they exhibit in the museum and people get involved with your art, its really great. Take care


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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