Thursday, January 5, 2017

Downtown Pittsburgh’s Strawberry Way named favorite 'Street Transformation'

Posted By on Thu, Jan 5, 2017 at 11:14 AM

Strawberry Way before (left) and after (right) - PHOTO COURTESY OF ENVISION DOWNTOWN
  • Photo courtesy of Envision Downtown
  • Strawberry Way before (left) and after (right)
The alley known as Strawberry Way that slices through the northern section of Downtown, from Liberty to Grant streets, has always been a shortcut for some Pittsburgh pedestrians, but not always a desirable one. Trash was usually strewn across its asphalt and the blank, high walls of skyscrapers hurried walkers through as fast as their feet could carry them.

Then this summer, thanks to the work of public-private partnership Envision Downtown and others, the alley was transformed. Colorful designs were painted on the blacktop by local artist Deanna Mance, roadblocks were put up to stop cars from driving through, and picnic tables and planter boxes were placed on the street to encourage people to enjoy their new Downtown oasis.

Last week, the national transit and urban planning news site Streetsblog USA awarded Strawberry Way its Best Street Transformation, People’s Choice. The Pittsburgh alley beat out five other projects in cities including San Francisco, Chicago and Atlanta.

“Strawberry Way is the latest example of partnerships at work to promote a people-first Downtown Pittsburgh,” wrote Sean Luther of Envision Downtown in an email to City Paper. “In this case, Envision Downtown relied heavily on a coalition of the PDP, the City’s Department of Public Works, the Office of Public Art, the Colcom Foundation and PPG Paints to drive this transformative project forward.”

The Strawberry Way transformation won the honor by receiving the most votes on the Streetsblog USA website.

In addition to being more aesthetically pleasing than before, Luther says the the project has resulted in a 43 percent increase in pedestrian traffic through the alley, according to a study completed by Envision Downtown. Also, there has been an outstanding 462 percent increase in people spending time in Strawberry Way.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is proud of Strawberry Way’s transformation too. “Strawberry Way is a great example of our community-driven vision for making Pittsburgh a sustainable and efficient 21st Century city for all,” wrote Peduto in an email to CP.

Check out the CP video below to see the transformation in progress.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A conversation with this week’s Pittsburgh City Paper cover artist Nathan Mazur

Posted By on Wed, Nov 2, 2016 at 10:17 AM

Artist Nathan Mazur with his Bus Issue cover illustration
  • Artist Nathan Mazur with his Bus Issue cover illustration

It's hard to look through Nathan Mazur’s portfolio without smiling. This local artist’s website is full of lovable creatures he’s designed for CD covers, T-shirts and posters. He’s also skilled at giving life to inanimate objects, putting happy faces on objects like flowers and foods — you can check out a cartoon waffle dancing in an animated music video he collaborated on with Santa Barbara musician Parry Gripp here.

This is Nathan’s second City Paper cover. The first was an illustration of tots lugging oversized instruments for a story on young musicians being kept from playing bars. This week, it’s a cartoon of a Pittsburgh Port Authority bus, complete with Nathan’s signature cartoon bee on the front, for our Bus Issue. We checked in with Nathan over email after he competed this week’s illustration.

What neighborhood do you current live in?
I hail from the east suburbs to ensure that Pittsburgh’s garbage traffic keeps me at least an hour from anything I need or want to do.

Are you freelancing full time, or do you have a separate day job as well?
I am far too anxious of a person for the feast and famine that accompanies full-time freelance, so I push pixels around at a think tank throughout the day.

What’s your favorite thing about being an artist in Pittsburgh?
There are lots of places in Pittsburgh to get your stuff displayed or peddle your wares, and the arts community in general is fairly accessible, helpful and friendly.

What’s your work space look like?
My work space is a messy, finished room in the basement with a couple desks: one for the computer and the other for painting. I share the room with a pair of Australian lizards and a 12-year-old Mexican Red-Knee tarantula. The python was moved to the laundry room because of his size. There’s some taxidermy specimens and various musical instruments in there as well. I’ve been working at the dining room table a lot lately, though.

Your online bio claims that you’re a “cereal enthusiast.” That warrants an explanation!
I’ve tried just about every commercially available cereal at some point. The sugary stuff is my vice. My favorites are Reese’s Puffs and Basic 4.

Tony the Tiger, Count Chocula ... There are so many great cartoon characters on cereal boxes. As a “cereal enthusiast,” what’s the best one?
I’m really liking the newly redesigned Lucky from Lucky Charms, though those weird, little cannibal squares they often use for Cinnamon Toast Crunch are endearing.

You’ve done work for books, record albums and television. What was your favorite assignment ever?
I don’t have a favorite assignment, really. I love the stuff I do for Parry Gripp because it’s always super fun. I also really like seeing my art get made into a tangible good, like a book, sticker, T-shirt or stuffed animal.

What’s the worst possible thing you can think of that someone could ask you to draw?
I dislike drawing classrooms with a lot of people in them or crowded bus interiors. It only reveals how shoddy my perspective skills are!

Your portfolio is full of adorable creatures and feels so happy. Have you intentionally avoided drawing anything too dark?
I haven’t purposely avoided anything dark, it’s just never really been asked of me. A lot of the garish colors and forced expressions I choose for my characters often have a manic undercurrent. Beneath the aposematic colors lurks implied danger, I suppose.

Where does the name of your website “Scared of Bees” come from?
Scared of Bees was a name for a band that never became fully realized. I had the web domain already purchased and needed a portfolio site, and since my actual name was already taken, I just used that. It’s worked out well as it’s kinda funny, more memorable than my given name, and is a good conversation starter. I’m not really scared of bees, though. We need more bees!

Your cover illustration for us this week is for our Bus Issue. Do you have any good stories about riding buses in Pittsburgh?
I was once taking a bus from Downtown to the South Side. It was late afternoon. Around 18th Street, some grizzled old dude walked on with a case of American. A couple minutes later, I heard him crack one open and enjoy a cold, frosty chug. And why wouldn’t he?

Do you have any upcoming projects we should be on the lookout for?
I’ve got a couple animated videos in the coming weeks I worked on for Parry Gripp. I’ve also recently undertaken something I’ve dubbed the #jartproject on Instagram where I draw something inside of a mason-jar stamp I bought at Michaels. I’m not happy with most of them, but it’s been a good exercise to create things without the benefit of ctrl+Z.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A conversation with this week’s Pittsburgh City Paper cover artist Amy Garbark of Garbella Design

Posted By on Wed, Sep 14, 2016 at 12:23 PM

Amy Garbark and her Fall Arts Preview cover - PHOTO COURTESY OF MATT DAYAK
  • Photo courtesy of Matt Dayak
  • Amy Garbark and her Fall Arts Preview cover

Amy Garbark is the solo force behind garbella, a popular local shop of goods and gear that she draws, designs and screenprints herself. Her “I [bike] PGH” and “P is for pierogi” shirts have been on Pittsburgh gift lists for years: She was crowned “Best Pittsburgh Crafter” in City Paper’s 2012 Best of Pittsburgh Issue and we featured her “Dear Pittsburgh, I love you” T-shirts as one of our personal must-haves in our Stuff We Like [] column in 2015.

Amy grew up in Pittsburgh and lives in Lawrenceville’s 6th Ward with her husband, Steevo, and their newly adopted dog, Cinder. In addition to working in her shop and exhibiting her designs at retail shows across the United States, she also plays drums and sings for local band Reign Check and has mentored young artists at Girls Rock! Pittsburgh, a local rock camp empowering girls through music. We caught up with her over email after she was finished with this week’s Fall Arts cover illustrations to get her thoughts on Pittsburgh’s art scene and owning her own business.

You seem to travel a lot for work. What's your favorite thing about Pittsburgh’s art scene that tops other cities you’ve been to?
I love the sense of community and camaraderie among artists, makers and designers in Pittsburgh. I have had lots of people in other cities tell me that they are envious of our Pittsburgh scene because there seems to be more collaboration than competition.

When did you figure out you wanted to be an artist?
Hmmmm … I can’t pinpoint one specific moment that I decided to be an artist. I have always liked making art, as far back as I can remember. I had fantastic art teachers in high school who encouraged me to pursue it. I went to school for art at Alfred University, but it was a bit of a journey to get where I am today. Shoe store, office job, back to school to get art-teacher certification, arts-based youth programming nonprofit, to quitting my full-time job six years ago to pursue garbella full time.

What’s it like being your own boss?
It’s the best! It’s great to be able to determine the structure of your day and environment of your workspace. However, with this awesomeness, also come some challenges. That being said, I’ll take the challenges of being my own boss over any other option.

What’s your biggest selling item in your shop?
Hands down: the “P is for pierogi” baby one-piece.

What’s your personal favorite?
The Always Be Snackin’ design is probably my favorite because it’s pretty much been my motto since I was a tiny kid.

You introduce new designs pretty frequently. Is it hard coming up with new ideas?
Sometimes! I prefer to just create and release new designs when I have an idea and feel like putting it out there. However, when I feel pressure to release a new collection, then it can sometimes be a little challenging for me.

I saw you recently were one of the featured sellers in Etsy’s Open Call event where you got to pitch your products to big-name buyers like Macy’s and Whole Foods. That’s so cool! Was it super intimidating?
Thanks! Yeah, I’m really grateful and honored to have been chosen as a finalist and really appreciate the opportunity. At first, the thought of pitching to the huge retailers felt a bit overwhelming and intimidating. However, when you really get down to it, they’re human and relatable, and I know my business and products better than anyone, so who better to pitch to them, right?

We featured garbella's "Dear Pittsburgh, I love you" t-shirt in our Stuff We Like section in 2015 - PHOTO COURTESY OF MATT DAYAK
  • Photo courtesy of Matt Dayak
  • We featured garbella's "Dear Pittsburgh, I love you" t-shirt in our Stuff We Like section in 2015

Where can folks buy your merchandise in Pittsburgh?

Wildcard, Brambler Boutique, The Picket Fence, Robin’s Nest, West Elm, and So Me in Glenshaw. Also, you can order from my online shop [] and pick up at my studio, or come to one of our studio open-house sales, or at various craft shows and markets each year, like Handmade Arcade, I Made It! For the Holidays and Three Rivers Arts Festival.

In addition to art, you’re involved in the local music scene too, from drumming in a local band to mentoring young female artists in the Girls Rock band camp. What kind of music do you listen to when you work?
I listen to lots of different music and podcasts and sometimes audiobooks too. For music, I am always listening to a variety of genres and like to check out some new stuff, but ’90s indie rock still gets played in pretty heavy rotation.

I love the support and courage that Girls Rock provides young girls looking for female role models.
I agree. The Girls Rock PIttsburgh! Camp is one of my favorite times of the year! It’s completely volunteer run by an incredible group of women with diverse talents and skill sets, and the campers are incredible.

Did you have any female artists or musicians you looked up to when you were a kid?

Yes! The first album I remember really, really connecting with was Sinead O’Connor’s I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, which came out on my 11th birthday. I have two older siblings, so they both also introduced me to a lot of new music from there. My brother played in bands and went to a lot of shows and let me start tagging along to shows when I was 12 and 13. Seeing women play in bands like Jawbox, Superchunk, Velocity Girl and Tsunami had a lasting effect on me and was an important part of my formative early-teenage years.

Your cover illustrations this week include lots of cute fall icons. What’s your favorite season?

Is it a cop-out to say I love all of the seasons? I really do! I love the variety of four seasons: the long days of summer, the cooler crunchy-leaf days of fall, the hopefulness of spring and the crisp air of winter with a side of cozy. However, if I have to rank them, then: summer, fall, spring and winter.

Do you have any projects coming up people should look out for?
I’ll be participating in the Lawrenceville Artist Studio Tour on Nov. 19, so stop by if you want to check out my workspace and pull a print!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A conversation with this week’s Pittsburgh City Paper cover artist Jonathan Trueblood

Posted By on Wed, Sep 7, 2016 at 11:45 AM

Artist Jonathan Trueblood and his cover illustration of Bernie Sanders - PHOTO COURTESY OF HEATHER WILLS
  • Photo courtesy of Heather Wills
  • Artist Jonathan Trueblood and his cover illustration of Bernie Sanders

Pittsburgh-based artist Jonathan Trueblood first reached out to me through City Paper’s Instagram account in March, letting me know he’d love to illustrate a future cover. After I saw his great caricatures of famous faces like David Bowie and Mario Lemieux on his account, I knew I wanted to keep him in mind the next time I needed a portrait.

After finding out this week’s cover story was going to be on Bernie Sanders’ supporters uniting behind down-ballot candidates, I pitched the idea of Bernie Sanders as Uncle Sam, portraying him as this year’s new face of American politics. Editor Charlie Deitch signed off on the idea, and Jonathan came on board as soon as I emailed him.

Originally from Baldwin, Jonathan is a graduate of Edinboro University and has his master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University. In addition to illustrating, he’s also a graphic designer, animator and an assistant professor at Point Park University, teaching classes like Storyboarding and Fundamentals of Motion Graphics and Visual Effects. He also used to work in New York City making commercials.
We caught up with Jonathan over email after he was finished with this week’s illustration and got his thoughts on Pittsburgh’s art scene, cartoons and the best advice he gives his students.

What’s your favorite thing about being an artist in Pittsburgh?
I think the artist scene in Pittsburgh is a very tightly knit group. Everyone knows everyone, and they definitely look to encourage work and exposure for each other. I think the more the art scene in Pittsburgh grows, like it seems to be, it will be great for all. A rising tide lifts all boats!

What’s your work space look like?
Haha! My work space is my living-room couch. I have my laptop and my Wacom Cintiq each on a TV tray, and Netflix playing in the background. I have a room that is supposed to be my “office/workspace,” but I’ve been too busy or lazy to get it cleaned up and ready.

Tell me about your process behind this week’s cover illustration of Bernie Sanders.
I always start by finding the best reference photo or photos of the subject. It’s weird to say, but not every picture looks like the person you are trying to draw, or the picture doesn’t capture their personality. Once I grab several photos, I do some quick sketches to get an idea of how I want to exaggerate the features. Some people are much easier than others. Once the sketch is done, I start “painting” in Photoshop. Then it’s a lot of trial and error moving features around, painting and re-painting, and praying that it will look right when it’s all done. I also always send my work to a couple of my friends from college who always give me good advice and criticism. I know they’ll always be honest with me and really tell me if I need to fix the image to make it look more like the person.

One with Bernie Sanders doing the classic Uncle Sam point, and a second option, giving Sanders the point he often uses in his speeches. We thought the Bernie Sanders’ point was a perfect fit for this week’s story.
  • One with Bernie Sanders doing the classic Uncle Sam point, and a second option, giving Sanders the point he often uses in his speeches. We thought the Bernie Sanders’ point was a perfect fit for this week’s story.

In addition to illustrating, you also teach animation at Point Park. That basically means you get paid to make cartoons all day, right?
I joke about that all that time … that I get paid to make cartoons. It’s true, though. I’m very lucky to do something I love. When I’m not teaching animation, I’m also making animations for various clients, drawing storyboards, illustrating and doing graphic design.

Speaking of cartoons, do you have a favorite?
My favorite animated movie is The Lion King. If I had to pick another cartoon, I would say “Rejected,” by Don Hertzfeldt.

What’s the best advice you give your students who are just starting to figure out what they want to be when they grow up?
I have a friend that used to work out all the time at the gym. He used to wear a shirt that said, “Everyday you don't lift, somebody else does.” I think that applies to working at getting into the field of animation. It’s a very competitive industry. I tell my students that every day you aren’t working on your portfolio, animating, drawing, learning or getting better, somebody else is, and they are the ones that will get the job at the studio you want. Work hard and love what you do, and you’ll be fine.

Your celebrity caricatures are spot on. Is there one in particular who’s the most fun to draw?
Wow! There are so many! I’ll say this ... the funnier-looking the person is, the more fun it is to draw them. It’s also easier too.

I discovered your work after you contacted me through City Paper’s Instagram account. Do you think social media is changing the art world in any way?
Absolutely! Social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Dribbble have been fantastic avenues for me to reach out to new people to work for and collaborate with. I think the trick for any artist is to be unique. Develop your own personal style.

You mentioned that you used to work in New York City making commercials. Have you done anything we’d recognize?
I’ve been back from NYC since 2006, so it’s been a long time since I’ve done anything on TV. If you used to watch TV shows like Viva La Bam, Jackass, The Tom Green Show, Pimp My Ride and any of those MTV shows, you would have seen some of my projects. My favorite one I ever did was to promote a new band every other week. We would do eight 10-second long animations for each band. Like mini music videos. They would play in and out from commercial breaks. I think in a year we did about 100 or so of those little animations.

Where can we follow your work?,, and on Instagram, it’s @blackpowderdesign.

What question do you wish I had asked you?

I wish you would have asked me about my family. I’m married to my best friend and beautiful wife, April. We have two ridiculously cute and amazing little boys, Cash (3) and Tig (1). I’m a very, very lucky guy!

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Japanese folk tales take center stage at Pittsburgh's City of Asylum on Saturday

Posted By on Wed, Aug 17, 2016 at 2:25 PM

  • Photo courtesy of City of Asylum
  • Kuniko Yamamoto

Visiting storyteller Kuniko Yamamoto will take families on a journey to Japan this Saturday at City of Asylum’s Alphabet City tent. Her Origami Tales continues a new series, Summer on Sampsonia, named after the North Side street that the nonprofit literary center calls home.

Combining origami, masks, musical instruments and mime to tell traditional tales, Yamamoto gives audiences a chance to experience firsthand the culture of Japan.

Yamamato is a native of Japan currently based in Florida. Trained by renowned mime/actor Tony Montanaro, Yamamoto has performed extensively at venues throughout the U.S., including Disney’s Epcot Center and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Thanks to her magician husband, she also incorporates subtle illusions into her ancient stories.

As City of Asylum preps for the upcoming opening of its new Alphabet City cultural center, in the former Masonic Building, near the Garden Theater, it continues using a large tent adjacent to its headquarters to host literary, jazz and cultural events.

Origami Tales takes place on Sat., Aug. 20, from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at 318 Sampsonia Way, on the North Side. The event is free to the public, but reservations are encouraged.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Wigle Whiskey starting crowdfund to create a new whiskey museum in Pittsburgh

Posted By on Tue, Aug 16, 2016 at 2:22 PM

Chris Moehle of Robotics Hub (left) and Meredith Meyer Grelli of Wigle Whiskey (second from left) at the Wigle Whiskey Barrelhouse in the North Side. - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Chris Moehle of Robotics Hub (left) and Meredith Meyer Grelli of Wigle Whiskey (second from left) at the Wigle Whiskey Barrelhouse in the North Side.
The company that brought back whiskey pride to the birthplace of the Whiskey Rebellion is taking another step toward spreading the traditions of Pennsylvania distilling. Wigle Whiskey is seeking to start an interactive whiskey museum here in Pittsburgh, adding to their mission of reigniting interest in the rye whiskey heritage of Western Pennsylvania.

“It’s time to reclaim our place in whiskey history,” Wigle co-owner Meredith Meyer Grelli said to a small crowd at the Wigle Whiskey Barrelhouse in the North Side yesterday. 

Grelli said that while Kentucky and the Bourbon Trail get most of the attention when it comes to whiskey heritage in the U.S., Western Pennsylvania actually deserves most of the credit for popularizing the spirit in America. After all, following George Washington’s quashing of the Whiskey Rebellion in Pennsylvania in the late 1700s, many distillers moved to Kentucky, where they created Bourbon shortly after.

The Whiskey of America Museum, or WAM!, will include exhibits on whiskey’s history in America, cultural displays detailing the spirit’s rise in popularity, do-it-yourself cocktail stations, and interactive exhibits that engage visitors in the science behind distilling. Grelli says that the Pittsburgh community will be an integral part of the process, and local artists, scientists and makers will contribute to the museum. Chris Moehle, of the Robotics Hub, a Carnegie Mellon University-General Electric collaboration, says the group has plans to create and showcase a robot for the museum that will automate the malting process of making whiskey.

“It’s going to be like a kids museum for adults, with alcohol,” says Grelli.

A bottle shop and tasting room will accompany the museum and will feature local spirits, beer, ciders and wine for sale. The museum site will also serve as the trailhead for the new Rye Whiskey Trail, which will stretch from Pittsburgh to George Washington's historic estate Mount Vernon, just south of Washington, D.C., following the Great Allegheny Passage and C & O Canal Towpath bike paths.

Many regional and national groups have already signed on to help create the museum, which Grelli emphasizes isn’t a Wigle museum, but a whiskey museum. A 16-member committee has formed and includes representatives from the Smithsonian Institute of American History, Heinz History Center, George Washington's Mount Vernon, Allegheny County Economic Development and Pittsburgh City Councilor Dan Gilman.

Wigle is contributing $250,000 to the project and is hoping to raise an additional $35,000 via a Kickstarter campaign. Pledges to WAM!’s crowdfunding campaign come with prizes like t-shirts, party invites and even engraved mini oak barrels. Grelli says the museum will start as a pop-up at a to-be-determined location in Downtown this November. Then they hope to find a permanent location somewhere in Pittsburgh that could open sometime in 2018. 

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

House-sized artwork premieres at Pittsburgh’s Mattress Factory tomorrow

Posted By on Thu, Aug 11, 2016 at 11:02 AM

Detail of Dennis Maher's "A Second Home" - IMAGE COURTESY OF THE MATTRESS FACTORY
  • Image courtesy of the Mattress Factory
  • Detail of Dennis Maher's "A Second Home"
Buffalo-based artist Dennis Maher premieres A Second Home, his new work that that fills all three floors of the Mattress Factory’s galleries at 516 Sampsonia Way.

As City Paper glimpsed in a walk-through while the site-specific installation was in progress, Second Home packs the building with an array of architectural elements — from wooden archways to miniature curving staircases.

That was about two months ago, which suggests how extensive a process this is for Maher, an artist, architect and educator whose recent projects “have focused on processes of disassembly and reconstitution through drawing, photography, collage and constructions,” according to press materials.

Maher is a professor in the Department of Architecture at Buffalo-SUNY whose works have been exhibited across the U.S. and as far afield as Spain. His award-winning work has been featured in publications from the The New York Times to Architectural Review.

Second Home will be on view “for an undetermined amount of time.”

An opening reception is 6-8 p.m. tomorrow, in the museum’s lobby at 500 Sampsonia Way, on the North Side. Guided tours of Second Home will be given throughout the evening.

Admission is free.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Pittsburgh's inaugural Re:NEW Festival to celebrate sustainability and reuse through art

Posted By on Tue, Aug 9, 2016 at 4:27 PM

Artist and Pittsburgh resident Bill Miller's "Three Sisters" was made from vintage linoleum flooring. Miller has exhibited with Drap-Art for four years. - IMAGE COURTESY OF THE GREATER PITTSBURGH ARTS COUNCIL
  • Image courtesy of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council
  • Artist and Pittsburgh resident Bill Miller's "Three Sisters" was made from vintage linoleum flooring. Miller has exhibited with Drap-Art for four years.
Local officials today announced the inaugural Re:NEW Festival, which unites more than 20 organizations and dozens of artists to celebrate the themes of sustainability, transformation and creative reuse citywide.

Re:NEW, taking place Sept. 9 to Oct. 9, will be highlighted by the North American premiere of Drap-Art, the international festival of recycling art from Spain, at the Wintergarden at PPG Place. Drap-Art will feature about 80 works of art all constructed from discarded materials.

Other art installations will go up at Gateway Center, U.S. Steel Tower Plaza and in the North Side's Deutschtown neighborhood. Exhibits are scheduled at 709 Gallery and the Big Room at the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, in Downtown; Sweetwater Center for the Arts, in Swickley; and Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, in Shadyside.

The festival will also feature walking and biking tours to explore green community initiatives, study native trees Downtown with artist Ann Rosenthal, and discover green spaces throughout the Hill District.

Leadership behind the new festival includes the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, Sustainable Pittsburgh, the Pennsylvania Resources Council, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.
The festival also includes the latest installment of Art Olympics, on Sept. 17 at 613 Smithfield St., with teams of artists putting their creativity to the test with items donated by Goodwill.

Other events include bestselling author Sebastian Junger discussing his latest book, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, on Sept. 15 at the Carnegie Lecture Hall.

In addition, music and dance performances, workshops for families, film screenings, TEDx speakers, school visits and even a dinner cooked using "rescued" grocery-store produce will color the month-long festival. Prepare to start looking at "garbage" in a whole new light.

To learn more about the Re:NEW Festival and its lengthy list of events, visit

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Pittsburgh’s Inaugural Homewood-Brushton Self-Guided Arts and Culture Tour this Saturday

Posted By on Thu, Jul 14, 2016 at 11:42 AM


Cultural treasures past and present are the focus of this free neighborhood tour, which takes place in conjunction with this year’s Harambee Black Arts Festival.

After picking up your tour map at the festival’s registration table (located on Kelly Street between North Lang and North Homewood avenues), head out to see sites associated with pianist and composer Billy Strayhorn, photographer Charles “Teenie” Harris, pioneering black supermodel Naomi Sims, jazz musician Erroll Garner and more. All these luminaries lived, worked or played in Homewood.

Architectural landmarks include Mystery Manor, home to the National Negro Opera Company (the nation’s first African-American opera troupe), and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh — Homewood.

The tour is presented by Operation Better Block, Inc., and the Homewood-Brushton Business Association and Homewood Artist Residency. Organizers include historian and author John Brewer, Jr., Operation Better Block’s Demi Kolke, art historian Kilolo Luckett, and the HBBA’s Diane Turner.

Free transportation is available for seniors and those with physical disabilities. For more information, see here.

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Monday, July 11, 2016

Exhibits at Wood Street Galleries and SPACE Gallery are a highlight for attendees of Downtown Pittsburgh’s Gallery Crawl in the Cultural District

Posted By on Mon, Jul 11, 2016 at 12:55 PM

Attendees of Friday’s Gallery Crawl Downtown had to be prepared to be engulfed when they entered Wood Street Galleries’ second floor.

On display was Pêle-Mêle, a work by visual artist Olivier Ratsi, which aims to “simulate immaterial three-dimension space.” To do this, red light is projected in patterns onto structures strewn around the room. A low buzzing sound also filled the air. The end result is a trance like sensation as the room envelops the viewer.

Matthew Spangler, a Wilkinsburg resident, stood contemplative in the back of the room, taking in the whole experience.

“You just have to come with an open mind and see where it takes you,” Spangler said.

Such an open mind was key for the many participants in Friday’s crawl, organized by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. Gallery goers could find painting, printing, video games, live music and improv comedy — along with food and beer — scattered along Penn and Liberty avenues at 27 different stops, and all for free.

The most popular exhibit, John Riegert, was located at SPACE Gallery. Curated by Brett Yasko, the exhibit gave 250 Pittsburgh artists an assignment — make a portrait, in whatever medium they chose, of the eponymous man.

The artists’ originality was on full display, as audio visual displays, an impressionistic bust, even a wooden chair all worked together in harmony presenting their image of Riegert — sometimes with one of his two dogs, Jack and Zoe.

Riegert, himself an artist, wandered the exhibit as a living docent, to create, in his words, a “mind boggling” experience.

The long-white-haired subject managed to escape many people’s attention — perhaps the lack of the equally long white beard that appeared in most of the portraits can be blamed. But Riegert wasn’t there for attention.

“I’m not a very big egomaniac,” he said. “All I need is a clipboard and a sharpie marker, and I’m happy.”

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