Journey Through “202021: A New Constellation” as Curator Tereneh Idia Designed a Sustainable Way to Experience Art from Beneath the Stars Above
By Reese Randall
February 24, 2021
As a designer and writer, the role of curator happened upon Tereneh Idia. The founder and creative director of the elegant and ethical textile label, Idia’Dega has curated her first art exhibition in collaboration with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust titled, “202021: a new constellation”, a body of work by Black, Pittsburgh-based artists. The art, the space between and the act of pedestrians moving to view the art, creates a new celestial body; a ground constellation; a space for celebration of Black creativity and people. The public art exhibition features 11 Black artists throughout nine locations in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District, downtown.
With an obsession for space travel and Star Trek, the American science fiction media franchise originating from the 1960s-television series, Idia honed her love for space and describes it as her intro to the constellation, or where the stars are. “However, when I was researching Indigenous people of America, I went to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. and learned how First Nations people were looking at the constellation,” explains Idia. “Described as the dark spaces in between the light, the darkness was the actual constellation. Only some of the communities see constellations in the dark space between the light, specifically the Incan.”
With this realization, Idia decided to curate the art installations in “202021: a new constellation” as the constellation.
“We have a base of the nine locations, but every person walking through the exhibit is interpreting their direction and creating their own experience with the art,” says Idia.
Connecting the Black Pittsburgh experience through art representing our past, present and future, Idia curated the work of artisans from traditional African American art, such as quilts and head wraps inspired by South African culture while connecting them with Pittsburgh.
“The diversity of the artisans and their medium represents every Black Pittsburgher,” says Idia.
“One of our artists (at 803 Liberty Screen), Daontay Knight has a really stunningly beautiful photo of a Black woman behind flower petals, The Girl Who Told Fortunes,” says Idia. Steven Montinar’s installation located at 707 Penn Avenue is “Flava Flav’s Digital Clock”, a live updating clock that uses 142 rap lyrics to display time. Each capitalized word refers to a unit of time and when read together they construct the day, month, date, hour, and minute. The piece transforms time into poetry. “Every installation is so amazing,” says Idia.
With a walk-through in October to look at potential spaces and to decide which art work would go where, Idia had one thing in mind.
“I wanted to find artists that have a great body of work, but include artists who don’t exhibit, like Thrift Out Loud. I know fashion and clothing is art and I wanted to include that,” says Idia.
By the end of October, Idia was contacting artists who were interested. She worked with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust through January to decide on the various exhibit locations along the cultural corridor. The public exhibit begins at Theater Square and proceeds along both sides of Penn Avenue, Ninth Street and Liberty Avenue.
Idia herself is a global eco-designer who collaborates with women artisans from around the world incorporating Indigenous adornment and traditional textile arts in sustainable design.
“Idia’Dega bases our design aesthetic on taking our different cultures and celebrating our similarities, as well as our differences. I was in Kenya at the end of 2014 and we presented our first collection of co-designed by Ooorgessailie Maasai Women Artisans of Kenya, and in 2016 I started working with Beading Wolves of the Oneida Indian Nation of New York,” says Idia. With the pandemic, Idia took her online store offline for now. “I’m looking at potentially going back online this summer.”
With her birth middle name being Idia, she was inspired to use Dega in her business name. Dega comes from Seneca and means Pittsburgh. When the pandemic began, Idia began a design project in April 2020 in honor of Pittsburgh. “Inspired by the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers I wanted to artfully show that although we are separated, we can still be connected,” says Idia. She asked people to send her fabric swatches, and she received 100 pieces. From those swatches Idia is creating a garment called the OAM dress.
She describes the body of the piece as the Ohio River and the sleeves are the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers.
“It’s a wearable piece of art.”
From the constellation to the Three Rivers, Idia is herself a bright star illuminating artistic prowess during a time of darkness.