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Friday, October 21, 2016

Memorial bike ride scheduled today for Susan Hicks

Posted By on Fri, Oct 21, 2016 at 1:19 PM

Susan Hicks ghost bike on Forbes Avenue in Oakland - CP PHOTO BY THEO SCHWARZ
  • CP photo by Theo Schwarz
  • Susan Hicks ghost bike on Forbes Avenue in Oakland
When Susan Hicks was bicycling in Oakland on Oct. 23, 2015, she was riding the exact way Pennsylvania law told her to: as if she were driving a car.

Unfortunately for the University of Pittsburgh educator, and for those who loved her, a car collided into a car behind her and caused a chain reaction that squeezed Hicks in between two vehicles and ultimately resulted in her death. Now, on the near anniversary of that tragic day, advocates and friends are organizing a group ride to honor Hicks and to bring awareness to bike-safety issues.

"Remembering Susan helps us remember her legacy of making the world a better place to live, which include the safety improvements that are so necessary in Oakland," Eric Boerer of Bike Pittsburgh wrote in an email to Pittsburgh City Paper. He is helping organize the event with Hicks' close friends.

Hicks' death, as well as the death of cyclist Dennis Flanagan in the West End, was the last straw for many bike advocates in Pittsburgh. On Aug. 31, hundreds of advocates packed a room at Carnegie Mellon University, demanding that PennDOT start to create more bike-friendly infrastructure, starting with Forbes Avenue in Oakland, were Hicks was killed.  

Dawn Seckler, a close friend of Hicks, says that Hicks was a very passionate academic adviser to her students who helped them get grants and scholarships.

"Susan was really that kind of adviser that would get students really excited about getting opportunities," says Seckler. "And she would work hard to make those possibilities become realities."

To celebrate Hicks' life as a cyclist and educator, her close friends started a scholarship fund last year in her honor. Seckler says that Hicks had such a positive effect on people, that the fund raised more than $20,000 in less than a year, and a Pitt student has already received money from the scholarship.

"This was a really tangible way that we could create a legacy to Susan's energy," says Seckler.

Seckler adds that the cycling community has also been instrumental in advocating for Hicks.

"Susan was a multifaceted person," says Seckler. "She had more than one community, and these communities have been engaging with one another. The biking community has been able to mobilize her advocacy and get to know this really unique woman. We all have so many communities, and they don't always come together, and it has been wonderful seeing these communities come together."

For those wishing to participate, a memorial event starts at 4:30 p.m. today (Oct. 21) at the Hicks ghost bike, near the corner of Forbes and South Bellefield avenues, near the Carnegie Music Hall. A memorial group ride then starts at 5:30 p.m. from the ghost bike to Brillobox in Bloomfield, where a fundraiser happy hour will be held from 5 to 8 p.m.

Those interested in donating to The Susan M. Hicks Memorial Fund can do so on Pitt's donating website.  

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Public officials calling for removing law enforcement from schools at panel tonight in Pittsburgh

Posted By on Thu, Oct 20, 2016 at 12:26 PM

Dignity in Schools campaign poster - COURTESY OF DIGNITY IN SCHOOLS CAMPAIGN
  • Courtesy of Dignity in Schools Campaign
  • Dignity in Schools campaign poster
According to a 2014 report from the U.S. Department of Education for Civil Rights, students of color are disproportionately more likely to be referred to law enforcement and be subject to school-related arrests.

This is why a group of local, state and national policy-makers is calling for law enforcement to be removed from public school campuses, instead replaced by additional counselors and social workers. The group is part of the Dignity in Schools Campaign and will be discussing these school-arrest issues at a dinner and panel discussion tonight in the Hill District.

The message of the event is written in a press release put forth by the campaign: "Instead of hiring school police, schools should invest in hiring more counselors and training school personnel in these positive approaches, which research shows can significantly improve behavior, decrease suspensions and expulsions and improve academic outcomes."

Speakers include Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet, state rep. Ed Gainey (D-East Liberty) and Tanya Clay House of the U.S. Department of Education. Also local rapper and activist Jasiri X will be performing. 

The group is demanding that schools across the nation stop arresting minority students; shift funding from police to counselors and “peace builders”; fund measures like positive interventions; enforce the Every Student Succeeds Act; and abolish paddling in schools. The group will also be focusing on decreasing school suspensions, since data from the Department of Education shows that once suspended, students are more likely to drop out.

The event is free and starts at 5 p.m. at the Jeron X. Grayson Community Center
(1852 Enoch Street, Hill District). It's open to public and those interested can register at the group’s Eventbrite page.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Young Preservationists Association to highlight top 10 historic Pittsburgh structures in need of help

Posted By on Wed, Oct 19, 2016 at 2:26 PM

St. John Vianney Church in Allentown (formerly St. George's) - PHOTO COURTESY OF JULIE COLLINS
  • Photo courtesy of Julie Collins
  • St. John Vianney Church in Allentown (formerly St. George's)
Pittsburgh has a dilemma when addressing its aging building stock. The city is chock full of historic buildings, but Pittsburgh is also loaded with blighted and abandoned properties. Sometimes those two intersect, and the city is stuck with a tough decision: Spend the money to rehab a historic property, or tear it down after it falls into disarray.

The Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh is bringing awareness to those historic buildings that are in need of some help.

“Every year we are looking to highlight the top 10 buildings that need a bit more attention and have opportunities to be preserved,” says Julie Collins of YPA. “We have a diverse mix of buildings, not just in the city and county, but also outside the county.”

The full list of top 10 buildings will be released at a party at the Frick Art & Historical Center in Point Breeze on Oct. 20, but Collins says that one of the properties on the list is the St. John Vianney Church in Allentown (formerly St. George's).

“St. Vianney is particularly important because it is in a transition,” says Collins. “We are trying to get the building to be on historic-designation lists, and trying to re-purpose it back to a church or some other community asset.”

In the past YPA has been successful in preserving the Cork Factory in the Strip District, which is now a luxury-apartment complex, and maintaining a historic facade in East Liberty. In addition to buildings, Collins says the list, which the group has put out since 2013, always includes an issue important to historic preservation, and this year the issue is “preservation-friendly ordinances.” She says that old city and county rules, like parking requirements and mandatory set-backs, make it very difficult to keep historic buildings fully intact, which is important to the character of Pittsburgh.

“It's our history. We are not going to get them back once the wrecking ball comes,” says Collins. “Pittsburgh has so many historic and unique buildings. There are interesting landscape challenges, and they have given us a unique style. Without them, our [architecture] would not be what it is.”

VIP doors open at 5 p.m. (regular admission at 6 p.m.) at the Frick on Oct. 20. Tickets can be purchased in advance online at www.youngpreservationists.org up until noon on Oct. 20 and can also be purchased at the door.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

As Pennsylvania’s voter-registration deadline approaches, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald calls for Election Day volunteers

Posted By on Tue, Sep 27, 2016 at 2:08 PM

  • Image courtesy of www.votespa.com
It’s National Voter Registration Day, and there are just two weeks before Pennsylvania's voter-registration deadline on Oct. 11. (For those not registered and interested in voting in this year’s general election on Nov. 8, visit the state’s voter-registration website by Oct. 11.)

Many pundits, politicians, bar-goers, bus riders and just about everyone has said this is one of the most important presidential elections ever. The two presidential nominees, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, squared off last night in New York state for their first debate, and portrayed two starkly different assessments of the state of the U.S and the world beyond.

Clinton portrayed mostly positivity and said the country needs to follow in the steps of President Barack Obama; she advocated for increasing taxes on the very wealthy and providing debt-free college for students. She also attacked Trump directly quite a bit. Trump painted a bleaker picture, saying the U.S. had many problems that required a strong leader to tackle, including mentioning at least a dozen times that many cities needed more “law and order.”  

Pennsylvania voters also have some big statewide decisions to cast votes for, including who will be the next state Attorney General and U.S. Senator. Heck, there's even an opportunity for a new state Speaker of the House, for anyone upset with current Speaker Mike Turzai. Not to mention a bunch other state legislators up for election.

With all this commotion over the 2016 election, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald is requesting volunteers to staff county election booths on the big day. “The heaviest-trafficked election is always the presidential election,” said Fitzgerald in a sit-down with City Paper last week.

Fitzgerald expects popular polling spots to have very long lines, and he doesn’t want wait times to deter anyone from voting.

“We want everybody to vote,” said Fitzgerald. “Participation in democracy is a very positive thing, and hopefully if we have enough workers at all the different polling places, then lines [shouldn’t] back up. Presidential years, that is when everyone shows up.”

Those interested in volunteering can visit the county’s website at alleghenycounty.us. Volunteers are paid about $100 for their day of service.

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Camp classic inspires Pittsburgh duo’s musical on Saturday

Posted By on Thu, Aug 18, 2016 at 5:37 PM

Missy Moreno (left) and Connor McCanlus in "Whatever Happened to babyGRAND?" - PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHAEL RUBINO
  • Photo courtesy of Michael Rubino
  • Missy Moreno (left) and Connor McCanlus in "Whatever Happened to babyGRAND?"
Talented local duo babyGRAND, known for improvising whole musical comedies, perform a new but still largely improvised work, What Ever Happened to babyGRAND?

The show, which debuted at Arcade Comedy Theater during PrideFest 2016, adapts Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, the famed 1962 drama starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Davis plays a former child star who keeps her more successful sister, played by Crawford, a prisoner in their home after having run her over with a car decades earlier.

The show preserves the characters and iconic moments and costumes, but weaves them together “with improvised music crafted around a single audience suggestion.”

babyGRAND is composed of veteran locally based singers and actors Missy Moreno and Connor McCanlus. Moreno has toured with CLO’s Gallery of Heroes and worked with Chicago’s famed Second City comedy troupe. McCanlus has performed with Bricolage Productions, CLO Cabaret and Kinetic Theatre, and he runs the Pittsburgh Improv Jam.

What Ever Happened to babyGRAND? will be performed at 10 p.m. this Saturday at the CLO Cabaret Theater. The show runs 50 minutes.

Tickets are $10 at the door.

The CLO Cabaret Theater is located at 655 Penn Ave., Downtown.

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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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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 www.renewfestival.com.

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Friday, August 5, 2016

Pittsburgh's Bricolage seeks holidays-themed radio plays

Posted By on Fri, Aug 5, 2016 at 11:35 AM

If you'd like to see your work staged for radio (and no, that's not an oxymoron), Bricolage Production Company has an opportunity for you.

The company, known for its Midnight Radio shows, is accepting submissions of original 15-minute radio plays to be produced as part of its holiday variety hour this December, at Bricolage's Downtown theater space.

No prior radio writing experience is necessary. The scripts should be family-friendly, related to the winter holidays (from Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa to Festivus) and include dynamic sound effects. (Midnight Radio shows are staged for live audiences and not necessarily broadcast; part of the fun is watching performers come up with the appropriate sound effects live on stage.)

The scripts should be 15 to 20 pages long and be a single episode (not a cliffhanger) written for four actors. Also, Bricolage notes, "funny is a plus" and "relevance to Pittsburgh is a plus." One possible model is the company's 2015 show Yinz'r Scrooged.

The deadline is Sept. 1. Submit to submissions@webbricolage.org.

Two plays will be selected for production, and each writer will receive a stipend of $200.

The complete call for submissions follows the jump.

Continue reading »

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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Revamped Pittsburgh park re-opens Saturday as August Wilson Park

Posted By on Thu, Aug 4, 2016 at 11:27 AM

Teenie Harris photos displayed along the fence by the park's half basketball court - PHOTO COURTESY OF SCOTT ROLLER/PITTSBURGH PARKS CONSERVANCY
  • Photo courtesy of Scott Roller/Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy
  • Teenie Harris photos displayed along the fence by the park's half basketball court

Among Pittsburgh's neighborhood parks, there won't be one with a better view (to name just one amenity) than the brand-new August Wilson Park. The extensively renovated former Cliffside Park, with its spectacular view of the Allegheny River and the North Side, opens with a community celebration this Saturday.

The view north from August Wilson Park (North Side visible in the background) - PHOTO COURTESY OF SCOTT ROLLER/PITTSBURGH PARKS CONSERVANCY
  • Photo courtesy of Scott Roller/Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy
  • The view north from August Wilson Park (North Side visible in the background)
The park is named, of course, for Wilson, the two-time Pulitzer-winning playwright who grew up literally right around the corner. And in fact, that building on Bedford Street, now known as the August Wilson house is itself under renovation, and for the month is the venue for a production of Wilson's Seven Guitars.

The new park, which is fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, includes a multi-age playground, a half basketball court, a performance space and more.

Special features include installations honoring the work of Wilson himself and banners with photos by famed Pittsburgh-based photographer Charles "Teenie" Harris. (Featured quotes from Wilson's plays include this one, from Ma Rainey's Black Bottom: "You don't sing to feel better. You sing 'cause that's a way of understanding life.")

Quotes from August Wilson plays adorn a wall in his namesake park. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SCOTT ROLLER/PITTSBURGH PARKS CONSERVANCY
  • Photo courtesy of Scott Roller/Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy
  • Quotes from August Wilson plays adorn a wall in his namesake park.
Partners on the park's renovation included Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, the city's Parks and Recreation and Public Works departments, Hill House Association and the Daisy Wilson Artist Community (which is renovating the Wilson House), all with input from the community, according to a Parks Conservancy press release.

Saturday's events run from 2-4 p.m. and include a ribbon-cutting, "a festive all-ages procession along the park's winding entry path," music, activities for kids, and treats from Hill District food vendors.

August Wilson Park is located at 1801 Cliff St., a block off Bedford.

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