When Pittsburgh Filmmakers was founded, its primary mission was to serve non-commercial filmmakers and photographers in the Pittsburgh area by providing low-cost access to the expensive tools of their art forms. Pittsburgh Filmmakers' membership program allowed community artists to gain equipment access, initially to filmmaking and photography equipment and later to video cameras, computers, digital editing suites, digital still cameras and digital printing facilities. The organization's first home was in the basement of the Selma Burke Art Center in Pittsburgh's East Liberty neighborhood. We started an exhibitions program in order to educate the public about the kinds of art members of this new organization were producing. We established an education program, offering short courses and workshops to the public in order to train aspiring artists.
By 1972 Pittsburgh Filmmakers had expanded the scope of its small group of courses and established a relationship with the University of Pittsburgh whereby students from the University could register for classes at Pittsburgh Filmmakers while receiving credit from the University. In 1974 we made a similar arrangement with Point Park College, establishing collaborative majors in “Cinema” and “Photography.” Pittsburgh Filmmakers designed the discipline-specific aspects of these majors and Point Park supplemented those curricular designs with academic courses.
In 1974, on the strength of its relationship with the University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Filmmakers renovated and moved into a 4,000 square foot home in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood. The University of Pittsburgh owned the space, located two blocks from their campus, and provided it virtually rent-free for the next 21 years.
In 1980 Pittsburgh Filmmakers and Carlow College entered into a partnership whereby Carlow students would be able to take Filmmakers’ courses for credit. In 1985 we established a formal relationship with Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Fine Arts, enabling their students to take our courses for credit. Carnegie Mellon students had, as far back as 1974, been taking our classes for credit at CMU by cross-registering through the University of Pittsburgh. Due to the growth of the School, Pittsburgh Filmmakers began renting commercial real estate across the street from the main space provided by the University of Pittsburgh.
As technologies evolved throughout the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, we repeatedly redesigned our majors and curricula, incorporating video at first and then all aspects of digital photography and digital media while maintaining many aspects of traditional filmmaking and photography as well. In 1992, again because of the School's growth, Pittsburgh Filmmakers rented additional commercial real estate in yet another adjacent building.
In 1995 Pittsburgh Filmmakers moved from the three buildings it occupied near the University of Pittsburgh's campus. After a two-year search, done in conjunction with a major capital campaign, we rented our current home at 477 Melwood Avenue. We hired an architect and a contractor, completely gutted 20,000 square feet of space, roughly half the building, and rebuilt it to specifically suit our needs. We purchased the entire building in1998 and had renovated the other half of it by 2002.
Filmmakers established formal relationships with Duquesne University in 1991, with LaRoche College in 1996, with Robert Morris College in 1997 and with Seton Hill College in 1999. Pittsburgh Filmmakers’ School of Film, Photography and Digital Media became a non-degree granting member of NASAD in 1999.
Pittsburgh Filmmakers and the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts merged in 2006. Founded in 1945, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts is a non-profit community arts campus that offers arts education programs and contemporary art exhibitions, providing services and resources for individual artists throughout Western Pennsylvania. The Center is where the community can create, see, support and learn about visual arts. The Center offers a wide range of courses and workshops for children and adults in disciplines that include ceramics, painting, drawing, sculpture and media arts. The Pittsburgh FIlmmakers Youth Media Program program focuses on film, video and photography classes for young people.