IFEP plans to make its home in the pressroom of what will be titled “The Press Building” when its redevelopment is complete in 2022 or 2023. Constructed in 1927 for the Pittsburgh Press, the property also came to house the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which dates back to 1786 and was one of the original newspaper publishers of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The First Amendment to the Bill of Rights enshrined the right of a free press and free expression.
The cavernous, ink-stained pressroom exudes industry and history and is uniquely equipped to create an ever-changing “Marketplace of Ideas.” Three pairs of I-beams that can bear 20 tons run along the ceiling and a rail system runs throughout the floor 40 feet below. Stage sets, art installations, food stalls, artisan booths, video screens, maker machines, modular rooms — almost anything — can be moved in and out of the space to accommodate activities or events or just to change things up.
Think of the entire Marketplace as a theater, a stage set, with new productions launching continually. People, organizations and institutions from the grassroots to the international level will be invited to install exhibits, put on performances, conduct educational activities or otherwise program spaces.
Pittsburgh has evolved from a smoky, industrial, steel-making titan of the 19th and 20th centuries into a world-class, 21st-century center of higher education, robotics, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, bioengineering, medicine and culture.
The city’s history of speaking out and being heard is storied. It’s home to the first commercial radio station in the world, KDKA; one of the most influential Black newspapers in the United States, the Pittsburgh Courier; the first community-sponsored public television station, WQED; world-renowned jazz musicians such as Billy Strayhorn; groundbreaking Black playwright August Wilson; environmental revolutionary Rachel Carson; baseball star and social activist Roberto Clemente; celebrated investigative reporter Nellie Bly; dance pioneer Martha Graham; and cultural giants such as Andy Warhol.
From Pittsburgh to Paris
Pittsburgh also has been at the forefront of free-expression rights. It is home to City of Asylum, the U.S. headquarters for the International Cities of Refuge network, which takes in exiled writers who have been persecuted in their own countries so their artistry can continue to flourish. The city also recently hosted two national First Amendment Conferences.