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The Art of Steeler Fandom

Written by Dan Gigler on .

As previously mentioned in this space, the folks at the Miller Gallery at Carnegie-Mellon University have been at work since the spring putting together what quite possibly is the first art exhibit in the known universe dedicated to Steelers fans.
Whatever It Takes: Steelers Fan Collections, Rituals and Obsessions explores the passion of Steelers fans, and the mania, creativity and ritualisitic behavior it inspires.
 
Though the grand opening isn't until next month, the exhibit quietly opened to the public today (it will run through the NFL season) and I stopped to check it out ...
 
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The gentleman above greets guests in the elevator.
 
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The centerpiece of the entire gallery is undoubtedly the completely reconstructed Steeler room of Mr. Denny DeLuca of Carnegie. DeLuca, featured in a 2009 Post-Gazette article, has amassed thousands of pieces of Steelers bric-a-brac over years including a beam from Three Rivers Stadium which sits below the TV above. On that TV runs a documentary about DeLuca, his collection, creations and Steelers rituals. The pictures here do not even begin to do the thing justice.
 
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Many of the items in DeLuca's collection are things that he made himself, including this Steelers vs. Cardinals Super Bowl XLIII chess set created by DeLuca. Seats from Three Rivers Stadium sit behind it.
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DeLuca's interpretation of James Harrison's famous bodyslam of a Browns' fan.
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A map of the Steelers world. Only countries where confirmed Steelers fan clubs or bars exist are painted in, all other countries have been blacked out. The exhibit also makes a literal connection with the outer Steeler World -- there is a bar set up in front of a screen with a wall-sized live Skype feed to the Roman Steelers bar, La Botticella, so that visitors could ostensibly chat with Asciugamano Terrible wavers over there.
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A wall in ther gallery's foyer is dedicated to Steelers t-shirts, but onlt those of the organic, unlicensed variety. Many of those featured come from Commonwealth Press and Believe Merch. The PSAMP blog has had a running feature called "Great Moments in Unlicensed Pittsburgh Sports Merchandise" and in the center is a screen with a slideshow of all of the odd T-shirt based creations chronicled by the blog. 
 
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A great example of Steelers inspired creativity is Jim Shearer's weekly web show, Yinz Luv Da Stillers. What you're looking at is a 10-foot mock up of the Heinz Field scoreboard, as imagined by Shearer. He made the drawings, and the gallery staff constructed the piece. In the center, Shearer's show will run in a loop.
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Another featured exhibit is the 9x8x2 foot replica of Heinz Field created by John and Shawna Evans of Forest Hills. Its based on the old Miggle Toys Electric Football game -- the center of the field is a game board -- and the thing is built to scale around it.
They've created an incredibly detailed setup that includes the entire Steelers team, fans in the stands, and even the Art Rooney statue outside. This thing is like the Steelers equivilent to the miniature railroad village at the Carnegie Science Center.
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Steelers fans in the Heinz Field in miniature display. You'll notice the First Couple in the bottom left corner.
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The curators took and catalogued hundreds of photos of folks with Steelers-themed tattoos. Pictured above is "Steeler Ron" Vergerio whose Steelers Sistine Chapel of a tattoo was done by American Tattoo in Verona. There are scores more on display, a few of which are below.
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Again, these are only a sampling of the ornate ink on display.
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Mean Joe helmet.
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Ben Roethlis-poodle, poodle design by Justine Cosley. A photo is on display, not the actual dog.
 
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Steelers Hair Helmet, design by Little Willie, photograph by David Yellen from the book Hair Wars, 2006.
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The Black & Golden Calf and Lem Apperson's SuperFan costume.
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Finally, there is an elaborate set up rigged with a pulley system that allows visitors to re-enact the Immaculate Reception. Each participant will be videotaped and shown in a loop on a video screen in the gallery.
The Miller Gallery is open noon to 6 p.m., Tuesdays through Sundays. Whatever It Takes will run through January 2011.

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