In addition to being an artist herself, Sonja loves to promote the work of other artists. She has served as Curator for the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's 709 Penn Gallery, Visual Art Coordinator for First Night Pittsburgh, and Visual Art Consultant for the Three Rivers Arts Festival following managing the festival's Artist's Market. Over the past decade, Sonja has worked to promote and showcase the work of hundreds of artists through curated exhibits and art events with special dedication to the work of Pittsburgh artists.


Upcoming curatorial projects:

BEDTIME STORIES at Future Tenant Gallery (819 Penn Avenue), June 5-June 28, 2015 with an opening reception on June 5th at 6:00 pm

There is a time of night when we lie alone and the external clatter of our waking life is subsumed by the personal language of our dreams. Bedtime Stories explores art as an oneiric experience where fears, loneliness, memory, eroticism, and loss inhabit the liminal state between wakefulness and sleep, conscious thought and dreams. Guest curated by Sonja Sweterlitsch for Future Tenant, Bedtime Stories is a group exhibition of artists working in a variety of media including painting, photography, sculpture and sound.

Participating Artists:  Aaron Blum, Olga Brindar, Ashley Cecil, Eric S Dickson, Gary Duehr, Charles Johnson, Michael Koehler, Victoria Mills, Josh Mitchel, Wanda Spangler-Warren, David Stanger, Christopher Ruane, Sherry Rusinack

Aaron Blum is an award-winning photographer whose work has been exhibited in The Halpert Biennial, The Houston Center for Photography, the Santa Fe Center for Photography, and the Silver Eye Center for Photography.  Blum’s two photographs for Bedtime Stories are portraits of his grandparents from his Born and Raised series, a personal myth built on memories of Appalachian life in West Virginia where the artist grew up.

Olga Brindar’s work is driven by her dreams.  “My dreams have been vivid from a young age and I have been able to remember nearly all of them,” says Brindar.  Ghosts, monsters, Gods and animal totems that transform into new creatures inhabit her dreams and become fuel for her drawings. She works large-scale to capture the dynamic and sometimes overwhelming nature of her dreams and nightmares.  Her painting Bears Fighting is a metaphor for human violence and confrontation. 

Ashley Cecil is an illustrator whose clients include Oxfam America, Early Times Whiskey, and Pittsburgh Quarterly.  She earned her M.A. in art business at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art London in 2011 and studied under James Horton, President of the Royal Society of British Artists. Cecil describes Eagle Owl on Purple as an “orchestrated dream” featuring a haunting owl perched before an art nouveau inspired pattern embellished with gold leaf.

Eric S Dickson is a social scientist and installation artist, and a professor of politics and psychology at New York University.  He lives and works in New York City. His audio installation for Bedtime Stories titled It Was Like a Strike of Lightning From Within blends first-person recollections of dreams with synthetic dreams, recorded by actors and scripted using recycled parts from the "true" dream recollections.  His piece explores fantasy and experience, and blurs the distinctions between the truly experienced, the unconsciously imagined, and the consciously constructed. 

Gary Duehr’s Bedscapes is a series of photographs of a bed with shifting sheets and pillows that at once become both a topographical landscape and a portrait of the state of a relationship.  Gary Duehr has been chosen as a Best Emerging Artist in New England by the International Association of Art Critics, and he has received an Artist Grant in photography from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. His work has been featured in museums and galleries including the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA; MOMA PS 1, New York, NY; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; and Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana, Cuba, as well as exhibitions in Tokyo, Venice, London, Dublin and Barcelona. Past awards include grants from the LEF Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. 

Charles Johnson is a sculptor of narrative stacked forms made of unglazed clay that explore issues of environmental sustainability and the impact of human activities on endangered species.  Johnson says of his piece Elephant on a Sled, “Quite simply, this sculpture is about the possibility that future Bedtime Stories may include a kind of animal called an elephant, that no longer lives on our planet.”

Michael Koehler is a painter and graphic designer whose illustrative paintings feature strange dream imagery. “While visiting the astral space realm I woke to discover I had become Pizza,” says Koehler of his acrylic on wood painting titled And Then I was Pizza… Space Pizza. Brightly colored and disturbing, his second painting in the Bedtime Stories exhibit, titled Nice Night for a Knife Fight: The Addict shows the internal struggle of an addict, an “insomnia fueled by madness.”

Victoria Mills exhibits two portraits, a painting and a photograph.  Her mysterious painting Girl Holding DVDs represents “the memory of a morning after, questioning where we were, and why we were there on a particular Saturday morning,” says Mills.  Her photograph Could I be Delicate Part 1 is a self-portrait of a nineteen year old girl in her bedroom “waiting for the blue of the late day to calm her, saying, ‘Today is over, the room is yours.’”

Josh Mitchel, a former high school teacher, describes his painting Oedipus as a depiction of repressed internal struggle, and that vulnerable moment between consciousness and sleep. A figure wrestles with the feeling of suffocating under self-imposed expectations that are ultimately insatiable.

Sherry Rusinack is a mixed media artist whose work is categorized as steampunk and outsider.  She uses found objects to create imaginative and eco-friendly works of art.  Her piece Drinking Town comes from a series of assemblages constructed primarily from painted cardboard, a miniature town of crowded together houses complete with telephone poles. Windows are haunted by black-and-white visages, residents of Drinking Town.

Wanda Spangler-Warren creates what she calls “Luminescent Sculptures”, three-dimensional paper, wood, reed and fabric sculptures incorporating translucency and light.  These abstract curved forms, lit from within, express feelings of comfort, security, and beauty.

David Stanger’s pieces for Bedtime Stories are part of his ongoing body of drawings and paintings inspired by his wife and son.  Developed in and out of months, the images are as much a distillation of memories as they are objective records created through sustained observation.  Stanger’s work has been exhibited at Manifest Gallery, the Salmagundi Club, the University of North Carolina Asheville, the Mattress Factory, the Butler Institute of American Art and the Westmoreland Museum of American Art.  Stanger's workcan be found in many private collections and is most notably in the collections of the Carnegie Museum of Art.  He is an Assistant Professor of Painting and Drawing at Seton Hill University.

Christopher Ruane specializes in digital photomontages, sometimes with thousands of individual layers each photographed and created separately. Thematically, his work focuses on the spiritual and existential.  His piece for Bedtime Stories titled Lady of the Mantel depicts a child’s emotional processing of the concept of death. “For each of us in our youth, a seed is planted and in the darkest hours of the night we will either be comforted or haunted by the moment we realized our own mortality,” says Ruane.

About Future Tenant Gallery: FUTURE TENANT is a non-profit art space located in downtown Pittsburgh at 819 Penn Avenue dedicated to showcasing the work of emerging artists through exhibitions that offer a cutting edge perspective on the Pittsburgh art scene

  Christopher Ruane,   Lady of the Mantel,   digital photomontage

Christopher Ruane, Lady of the Mantel, digital photomontage


Past projects:

Memory Terrains, Special exhibit for First Night Pittsburgh, Trust Arts Education Center Gallery (January 2014) featuring: Alternate Histories by Matthew Buccholz, Memories of Grenada by Mia Tarducci Henry, Cycle Sam Robot by Don Jones, and Rhapsody of Steel, 1956 animation by John Sutherland with music by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (presented in partnership with Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, and First Night Pittsburgh)      Reviews: KDKA TV, WQED FM, Pop City Media

Neverlands: Terry Boyd, 709 Penn Gallery (January - February 2014)  Preview: Pittsburgh Magazine

Al Bright: Abstract Jazz Works (co-curated with Janis Burley-Wilson) 709 Penn Gallery, May 16, 2013 with a live performance by Sean Jones. Reviews: City Paper and Tribune Review 

Proud to be an American? Photographs by Bea Chiappelli, 709 Penn Gallery (September 2013)  Review: Point Park Globe

The Productive Machine: Chris McGinnis, 709 Penn Gallery (August 2013) Review: Tribune Review

The Painting as Object: Fabrizio Gerbino, 709 Penn Gallery (February 2013) Review: Tribune Review

Book: Seth Clark, Dana Ingham, Randie Snow & Brett Yasko, 709 Penn Gallery (November 2012) Review: Tribune Review

Derby: Rob Larson, 709 Penn Gallery (August 2012)  City Paper's Short List

New Paintings by Brian Brown, 709 Penn Gallery (August 2012)  Review: Tribune Review

Caravan: Melissa Kuntz, 709 Penn Gallery (March 2012) Review: Tribune Review

Paper Thin Theater: Kathryn Carr, 709 Penn Gallery (January 2012) Review: Tribune Review

Emerging Artist Award Winners: Ryan Woodring & Dana Rzecznik, 805/807 Liberty for First Night Pittsburgh 2011

The Painted City: Ron Donoughe & Steve Boksenbaum, 937 Liberty Gallery for First Night Pittsburgh 2011

Detritus: Thomas Norulak, 709 Penn Gallery (November 2011) Reviews: City Paper Short List, Digging Pitt (a critical art blog for Pittsburgh, Youngstown, Akron & Cleveland)

Universal Expressions: Movement in Multiple Dimensions: Thomas Bigatel & Peter Johnson, 709 Penn Gallery (October 2011) Review: Tribune Review

Paper Streets: Cut Paper Installations by Bovey Lee, 709 Penn Gallery (March 2011) Reviews & press: Expression Magazine for American Express, Design Boom, DiamondPoste Blog, Tribune Review, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Idle: Colin Noonan, 709 Penn Gallery (March 2011) Reviews: Nak You Out and Critical Hands Review

After the Sky Has Fallen: A site specific installation by Jill Larson, 709 Penn Gallery (February 2011) Review: Pitt News

The Forest Through the Trees: Deanna Mance & Maria Mangano, 709 Penn Gallery (December 2010) Review: Tribune Review

Nature in Glass: Gary Guydosh, 709 Penn Gallery (October 2010) Review: Tribune Review

Off the Page: The Comic Book & Game Art of Christopher Moeller, 709 Penn Gallery (March 2010) Reviews: Pitt News, City Paper

Tar Baby Jane and Doowop: Vanessa German, 709 Penn Gallery (August 2010) Reviews: Tribune Review, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A Few Objects on a Theme of Contradiction: Adam Welch, 709 Penn Gallery (January 2010) Reviews: Pitt News, Tribune Review

Soulpurpose: A Local Artists' Showcase (co-curated with Janis Burley-Wilson) 709 Penn Gallery, (October 2009)

Now I Am the Master: 12 Emerging Artists, 937 Gallery (June 2009) Review: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette