The Mattress Factory is an artist-centered museum, international residency program and renowned producer and presenter of installation art. We say “yes” to artists, offering time and space to dream and realize projects in our hometown, Pittsburgh, PA. We invite audiences from around the world and around the corner to step inside, immerse and connect with the artistic process.
Our engagements with artists and their exhibitions are the core of our mission. We celebrate the artistic process and commit entirely to our artist’s vision, whatever that vision may be. Artists do not make a specific proposal for the Mattress Factory but develop a new project through a series of site visits and conversations with our staff and other collaborators. The creative process and outcomes are completely artist-driven. Our unparalleled support of artists is and has always been our greatest strength. The pillars of our artistic engagements are:
TIME: We engage artists at least a year and half before their exhibition so that they have time to engage with the space, staff, and community and develop their work. Artists set the terms of their residency, staying in our artist housing for weeks or months if their vision demands it.
RESOURCES: We are committed to paying artists for their work, travel, and time spent away from home. This includes an artist fee, an ongoing per diem while they are in residence, and as large and flexible project budgets as possinle. We also support artists with full-time staff and collaborators to achieve their work.
CONNECTION: We contextualize, document, and archive our exhibitions through artist-led programs, publications, scholarship, and educational tours and activities.
RISK: We value and stand behind challenging work and encourage others to do the same. Here, experimentation is encouraged, and failure is acceptable.
IMPACT: We strive to support artists at the moments when our resources and support will have the greatest impact on their creative practices and careers.
We embrace an artistic selection process that engages many voices, discourses, and approaches to engaging artists. In this way, the processes of finding artists for our exhibitions program contain the same values of experimentation, collaboration, risk-taking, and community that we build our artists’ engagements around. In addition to traditional staff selected artists Mattress Factory has two open calls for artists: International Open Call, available to artists anywhere in the world, and Regional Open Call for Artists living in and around Pittsburgh.
Each year Mattress Factory asks for portfolios from artists living in and around Pittsburgh. A renowned guest curator reviews the applications and creates a short list of eight to twelve artists of interest to schedule in-person studio visits with. These studio visits facilitate meaningful discourse between the artist and the curator and are essential to connecting Pittsburgh-based artists to a broader network of curators and institutions.
From these studio visits, the guest curator selects an artist to exhibit at Mattress Factory, and they also choose one artist from anywhere in the world who reflects their own curatorial practices and interests. The selected artists are encouraged to exchange ideas with each other and the guest curator as they develop their solo exhibitions. In this way, regional artists are connected to curators and artists beyond our region, and we can present outstanding artists from Pittsburgh within national and international contexts.
Our 2024 Regional Open Call artists were selected by Monique Long, a New York City-based contemporary art curator and writer. Our 2025 Regional Open Call will be juried by Irene Campolmi, a Copenhagen-based curator and researcher, currently working on exhibitions and projects with Copenhagen Contemporary.
Artist alumni panels to select exhibiting artists through our International Open Call. Artists who have completed an exhibition with us know better than anyone what our resources and capacity can accomplish and how special our community is. To better engage our artist alumni, we developed the International Open Call. This is a free open call, available to artists anywhere in the world, with a simple application process that is juried by a panel of four Mattress Factory artist alumni from over the past decade.
The panel offers a perspective unlike any other, one that is deeply familiar with the museum, engaged in many aspects of the contemporary art field, and invested in pushing our exhibitions program in new directions. Our first International Open Call took place in late 2021 and saw over 1,400 applicants from which the 2023 and 2024 exhibiting artists were chosen. The artist alumni jurors were Vanessa German, Sohrab Kashani, Christopher Meerdo and Sarah Oppenheimer. The first two artists selected through this process, Asim Waqif and Andrea Peña, who debuted their shows in 2023. The second iteration of International Open Call will open in January of 2024 to engage artists from mid- 2025 to mid- 2026.