Memories of Barbara Luderowski

Written by Jean Thomas

Memorial tributes to Barbara Luderowski continue to come from many sources–locally, nationally and internationally.

“Barbara was an artist—unique, highly perceptive and intelligent, feisty,—and always on the advance. May her creative, pioneering spirit continue to guide the Mattress Factory.” Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

In a 2002 interview with a Post-Gazette writer, Barbara said, “Art deals with the spiritual side, the gentler side of life.” The reporter went on to write:
“The woman who is totally devoted to the gentler side of life is a complicated mix of gruffness and compassion, anger and humor. Her gruffness is so pronounced that she’s been likened to a military commander.
“She’s like Patton,” said Thomas Sokolowski, then director of The Andy Warhol Museum. “We wouldn’t say that Patton was a sweet charming guy, ‘Father Knows Best.’ But he was a wonderful general, and he knew how to do it. Barbara’s the same way.

I first met Barbara in the 1970s when I was exploring Pittsburgh’s Northside thanks to Pittsburgh History and Landmarks.  Someone in their office mentioned that an old mattress factory had been purchased recently.  To find it I first had to locate the alley, Sampsonia Way (this was before Mayor Sophie Masloff made sure all streets AND alleys were signed.)  At that time the building had a loading dock, and as I approached there was this rather stern looking woman in jeans was standing on the loading dock eyeing me.  When I told her I was curious about the building and had heard rumors it was to be an art gallery of sorts, she welcomed me, gave me a hand up the dock and proceeded to take me on a mini tour of the place via the elevator.  The elevator was an open sided freight elevator, not for the faint hearted.  After the Mattress Factory obtained their non profit status, one of the stipulations was that there must be a Board of Directors.  I was one of the early Board members.   We mostly listened while Barbara laid out her plans, some of which seemed quite   audacious.  Many of us never dreamed that the Mattress Factory would achieve national and international fame.  Barbara made it happen!

Barbara’s vision, tenacity and vast experience will be sorely missed by many, including those of us involved in Fiberart International 2019 who had looked forward eagerly to her participation as juror.

Jean Thomas

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