GASP Art Exhibit at Assemble

GASP for Clean Air! Sources, Symptoms, and Solutions is an art exhibit put on by GASP and hosted at Assemble throughout August 2017. This family-friendly exhibit focuses on the air quality issues impacting Southwestern PA and what they mean for the people who live here. Through a variety of interactive installations, the exhibit addresses how air quality interacts with environmental justice, human health, and life in an increasingly industrialized world.

Join us at the Air Fair on August 10th from 6-8 p.m., when you can explore the exhibit while meeting representatives from different organizations invested in our region’s air quality. Learn what these groups are doing to better the air we breathe and get information on how you can play a role. Along with the Air Fair, the exhibit will be open to the public August 14th and 21st from 6-8 p.m. Contact Chelsea at to learn more.


On of the more unusual events to participate in will be pollution meringues. Shelby Brewster, a theatre scholar and artist pursuing a PhD in Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, will be serving air pollution desserts. Here’s what Shelby has to say about the event:

What is an air pollution dessert?

During my studies I learned of and wrote about a contemporary artist group called the Center for Genomic Gastronomy, which examines the biotechnologies and biodiversity of human food systems. In 2011, on location in Bangalore, India, artists with the Center began “harvesting air” from the most polluted areas in the city. Because meringues are up to 90% air, by whipping up egg whites in the polluted areas, the meringues capture the air pollutants present in the air.

The Center encourages other artists, community groups, and students to make their own meringues in their own cities. They envision the cookies as powerful political statements, as they can be tested for particular pollutants or mailed to politicians as a commentary on city conditions.

The connection to GASP

This May, as part of a workshop sponsored by Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh, I came across the GASP materials held in the archive at the University of Pittsburgh Archives Services Center. I was captivated by the story of GASP, and how the women who led the organization in its early days used cooking as an activist tactic to draw attention to air quality issues in our city. After crafting cookie cutters in the shape of GASP mascot Dirty Gertie, these women enlisted dozens of chefs to bake cookies shaped like the cartoon bird, her wings covered in chocolate sprinkles to represent the smog covering the city.
GASP’s use of cookies to fight air pollution resonated with the work of the Center for Genomic Gastronomy since they too harnessed the potential of taste as a political tool in an effort to draw attention to air pollution.

Pittsburgh’s dirty desserts

For the Air Fair, I am making meringues at two outdoor locations near my house which represent air pollutants that my neighbors and I encounter every day. The first is near the McConway and Torley Plant on 48th Street in Lawrenceville where we find particulates with metals like manganese and chromium. The second location is the bus stop at South Negley and Centre Avenues. This location will result in meringues polluted by diesel emissions from the traffic and buses.

I see the Pittsburgh smog meringues I’ll be making for the Air Fair as a part of GASP’s own tradition of using cooking to both bring people together and drive political change.

About Shelby

Shelby Brewster received a 2015-16 Provost’s Humanities Predoctoral Fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh. Her current research explores how theatre and performance artists use speculative strategies, usually confined to science fiction literature, to critique the relationship between humans and their environments, as well as imagine new ways of being human.

Ready to attend? RSVP here: