Workshop Highlight: The Firefly Tunnel Project and You

By Zachary Adams, TRCF Intern

“What is this thing, this… artwork in front of me?  What does it mean?  Why is it this way, not that way?  I just don’t get it!”

If this sounds like a familiar thought, Tavia LaFollette is here to clear the air for you during her workshop on Friday, October 14th from 1:15 – 2:45 pm, as part of the Building Change Convergence.

Tavia is the Executive Director of ArtUp.  Through her organization, she is gunning for a world as creative and cooperative as the Firefly Tunnel Project exhibition, titled Sites of Passage, currently on display at the Mattress Factory located at 500 Sampsonia Way.  There, you’ll find established creators and newbies fresh off the street.    This collision between the known and the inexperienced develops her goal to create a foundation of experimental artists here in Pittsburgh who communicate globally.  This international vision means she is definitely not afraid to push her own boundaries, and she will push yours as well during her workshop with a creative writing and performance exercise related to her ongoing work, The Firefly Tunnel Project.

Using the tunnel as a metaphor, the Project unites the Steel City with the ancient city of Cairo in Egypt.  The motivation for this tunnel is to cross physical, emotional, geographical and psychological borders.  Tavia believes that breaking down barriers established by our preconceptions can be achieved primarily through language – a creative language of aesthetics that we call Art.  We must first, however, tear down the wall of intimidation and mystery that permeates these “Arts,” by pursuing our own creativity.  In this way, Tavia feels we can better understand the artworks in our everyday and our extraordinary lives.

For participants in the Firefly Tunnel Project, this means they attend a 10-day workshop to explore prejudices between Muslim and Christian communities, as well as to address the problems of xenophobia, gender roles, and class issues.  These artists are then able to install works virtually on  In uploading artwork to the site, the artist can make it available for other artists to manipulate, and so respond to the work, or the artist can protect the work so that it is only visible as inspiration.  This makes the projects collaborative, accessible, and hopefully, understandable.

The October 14th workshop hopes to enlighten you in just the same way as Tunnel participants.  It will expose you to the interactive website of the Firefly Tunnel, have you explore your unrealized creative contributions to society, survey metaphor and symbolism, and wrap up with the aforementioned creative writing of an autobiographical performance piece that you can take home to develop further, if you so chose.