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Virtual Puppet Residency

INTERESTED IN A FREE, AT-HOME PUPPETRY CLASS? I’m developing a residency project exploring the craft of puppetry that participants can do at home. The project would explore: 1. Creating toy theater for home entertainment. 2. Crafting a puppet character focusing on voice, movement and form. 3. Developing skits that explore empathy and conflict resolution. The project would be run through a combination of scheduled Zoom sessions, Youtube instruction and Email. Children and adults are welcome, but there will be separate Zoom sessions for the two groups. The residency would be free for those who can commit to the minimum of ten one-hour sessions. It will take place during the month of June. Puppets and skits created during the project will be shown in an online exhibition on my website and might be shown by the project supporters (Pittsburgh Center for Arts & Media and PA Council on the Arts). If you are interested, please contact me at by May 15th. This is just an inquiry for now. Photo credit: Larry Rippel.

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Tom Sarver Art

East Ohio Street, 24″ x 18″ Pen & Ink, 4-8-2020.

After several months of engaging in a process that involved sketching out my drawings on site, I have begun working from photographs. Photography has been part of the process all along. I’m continuously taking pictures as I research new sites. I also take photos while drawing to document people or things that move quickly through my field of view. The change will allow me to try some larger studio pieces.

East Ohio Street is a busy commercial thoroughfare in the Deutschtown (East Allegheny) neighborhood on the North Side of Pittsburgh. Aging shops are interspersed with a few new boutiques and ethnic grocery/restaurants.  The neighborhood has been home to the Pittsburgh Fringe Festival and the annual Deutschtown Music Festival

Isaly’s was a popular deli and food brand from the early 1900’s. A handful of their locations still exist, as does their Pittsburgh-famous chipped-chopped ham. 


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Pittsburgh drawings: adapting

Here are more works from my pen & ink Pittsburgh drawing series. I’ve now completed drawings in forty-three Pittsburgh neighborhoods. Like many artists, the Coronavirus pandemic has forced me to make some changes. In pre-pandemic works, like the Pittsburgh Zoo penguin piece, I was sketching in the middle of a crowd. I now draw in my car or in an isolated park area. In some cases I work from photographs. I’m hoping that a return to public interactions will come soon!


Penguins on parade at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. February 2020.




The last farmer’s market of the 2019 season, Market Square. October 2019.




In the summer and early fall at Market Square, especially during a farmer’s market day, the area is filled with people. Point Park University students, business people and tourists gather at public tables. On this day I ran into a local self-taught artist who introduced me to a homeless artist making large-scale abstract expressionist work. They had set up a makeshift exhibit of work for sale. The homeless artist told me that he was living under a nearby bridge. On another occasion I saw the pair from a distance, being dragged in the wind across and empty square while handling a large painting. October 2019.




An iconic intersection in Oakland featuring The Original Hot Dog Shop (established 1960). Once a convenient stop for Pirates fans visiting Forbes Field, “The O” has long been a favorite for college students looking for cheap beer and grease-laden sustenance. The castle-like building on the left was once a post office, later The Oakland Beehive, a coffee shop with a movie theater and bar that was popular with the bohemian crowd . Today it is a mobile phone shop. February 2020.




Twenty-fifth and Butler Street, Lawrenceville featuring the former Pittsburgh Wash House Public Baths. The structure was built in 1903, providing working class people with a place to wash clothes and bathe. February, 2020.




Sketching while waiting to get my hair cut at The Humble Barber, Brighton Heights, Pittsburgh, late 2019.




Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.




Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. February, 2020.






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Pittsburgh Drawings & Sketches

My latest project is a series of pen & ink sketches of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. I’ve made about forty-five sketches and drawings in thirty-three neighborhoods since September of 2019. The pieces range from quick six by six inch sketchbook doodles to eighteen by twenty-four inch drawings. Here are a few examples of the smaller ones. A planned exhibition of these works in Downtown Pittsburgh has been postponed until summer 2021.


Carnegie Library, Homewood, 2020.



Tom Sarver Art

Greenfield, 2020.




South Side, 2020




Squirrel Hill Cafe, 2020.



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Video – Pretty Ugly at James Gallery, Pittsburgh

Check out the video for Pretty Ugly, up at James Gallery through November 2nd, 2019.


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New Paintings, New Show!

I’ve recently completed a new body of works for a show at James Gallery, Pittsburgh, PA. Pretty Ugly, which opens Friday, September 20th, features a group of artists practicing outsider art, folk art and eclectic approaches to depicting the figure.

 Dinner Party, 10″ x 8″, acrylic on panel.


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Joe Magarac Puppet Show

It’s been a while since I’ve done regular blog posts. Here are some images from a November 2018 puppet show at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art. Mike Cuccaro and I developed a series of shows about the Pittsburgh folk legend, Joe Magarac. We wrote a script, crafted puppets and then built three shows to perform in various galleries of the museum. We adapted a variety of Magarac legends, weaving in content from the works in the Westmoreland collection. The shows were played throughout the day on the museum’s Family Day.


Legendary steel man Joe Magarac could bend hot steel with his hands.

B016 (2)

Joe Magarac and Newsie Ned. Photo by Larry Rippel.


Mike Cuccaro sings the Joe Magarac Song to open Part II of our show. Joe works 24 hours a day, doing shifts in the Homestead, Monessen and Braddock steel mills.

B019 (2)

Homestead Harry, lifting a 500 pound dolly bar. Photo by Larry Rippel.


Getting ready to start Part I of the puppet show. A wheeled stage made it easy to move the show to various galleries of the museum.


In the final act of the production, Joe Magarac falls into a vat of hot steel, and is then poured into steel beams used for the creation of a new bridge. In this scene Joe has become the bridge.


Part I, Newsie Ned comments on a contest of competing steel workers at their annual Kennywood Picnic.


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