Friday, May 27, 2016

Underwear Bike Ride returns to Pittsburgh

Posted By on Fri, May 27, 2016 at 2:32 PM

A big crowd gathered in Lawrenceville last night for late spring’s most anticipated sport. Wait, if you thought we were going to say the Pens playoff game, you should probably check out this photo essay from earlier today instead. No, we’re talking about the first Pittsburgh Underwear Bike Ride of the year!

Men and women, dressed in bras, boxer shorts and tighty whities, met at the corner of 46th and Butler streets in Lawrenceville and rode their bikes through the city to Penn Brewery on the North Side. The event is about “having fun and promoting a positive self-body image,” according to the Facebook event page. Miss the fun and want to join the next one? A new ride happens on the last Thursday of every month through October, with the next one scheduled for June 30.

Underwear Bike Ride
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Underwear Bike Ride

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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Pittsburgh to celebrate bicentennial with events year-round

Posted By on Wed, Jan 6, 2016 at 3:12 PM

On March 18, 1816, Pittsburgh officially became a city when it received notice of incorporation, granting its citizens the right to local elections and self-governance. 

Today, the city announced it would be celebrating the 200th anniversary of that milestone with a series of events throughout the year.

"We now today want to begin a year long celebration of Pittsburgh's 200th birthday," said Andrew Masich, president and CEO of the Senator John Heinz History Center and chair of the Bicentennial Commission. "And toward that end, the mayor has assembled a volunteer commission and 300 community organizations have rallied around the Pittsburgh bicentennial." 

Mayor Bill Peduto with members of the Pittsburgh - Bicentennial Commission - PHOTO BY AARON WARNICK
  • Photo by Aaron Warnick
  • Mayor Bill Peduto with members of the Pittsburgh Bicentennial Commission

When Pittsburgh turned 100, then mayor Joseph Armstrong commissioned the building of the City-County Building where today's press conference was held.

"That was the legacy of our first 100 years: this beautiful building," said Mayor Bill Peduto. "Well we don't have money, so we have to find more creative ways to celebrate." 

The bicentennial celebration this year will begin with a kickoff celebration on March 18, the day of Pittsburgh's incorporation. Commemoration events will continue in July with an event at the John Heinz History Center, a Bicentennial Parade, a festival at Point State Park, and recognition of descendants of Pittsburgh's former mayors. There will also be smaller events in different city neighborhoods.

"We're going to give every city resident and those that come to visit the city a passport to see it. We often say we don't cross rivers, we don't go to other neighborhoods," said Peduto. "It will be a year of celebrating the greatness that is this city and that's its people."

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

#TBT: A photographic comparison of Chris Ivey and East Liberty's gentrification

Posted By on Thu, Dec 10, 2015 at 4:10 PM

News spread quickly over social media yesterday that East Liberty's "Lend Me Your Ears," a Sprout Fund mural created by Jordan Monahan in 2004, was being painted over to make way for new development.

City Paper photographer Heather Mull photographed local filmmaker Chris Ivey in front of the mural in 2007 for a feature highlighting his documentary East of Liberty: A Story of Good Intentions. "The documentary explores the past, present and uncertain future of a long-suffering Pittsburgh neighborhood now facing gentrification." 

  • Photo by Heather Mull

Coincidentally, Ivey was also  photographed in East Liberty for our main news story in this week's issue , where reporter Ryan Deto questions whether Pittsburgh's future growth includes the city's African-American community.

  • Photo by Heather Mull

With the recent developments about the mural unfolding online, we thought it interesting to post the photos together, as a throwback comparison to how much things change over the years, and perhaps, how much they stay the same.

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

To be a true Pittsburgher, you need a Thanksgiving-themed pierogie ornament

Posted By on Thu, Nov 26, 2015 at 9:29 AM

  • Photo courtesy of Jenna Johnston

Happy Thanksgiving!

We took the day off, but not before finding you this adorable Thanksgiving-themed turkey pierogie Christmas-tree ornament, made locally by Etsy shop ArrayOfHappiness

Jenna Johnston, the Beaver County native and brains behind the decorated pierogie ornaments, says she started playing around with clay and this is what she came up with.

"I still have my original pierogi ornament on my Christmas tree. It doesn’t look anything like they do now," Johnston says. "I’ve come a long way with the design."

And, she's not just selling pierogies disguised as turkeys for the Thanksgiving holiday. "Mainly, the Santa and the Pittsburgh [-themed] ones are the most popular." There are also little leprechaun pierogies for  St. Patrick's Day and pierogies donning hearts for Valentine's Day.

Johnston says she loves having an Etsy shop because it allows her to get to know people.

"You actually have a relationship with customers, as opposed to selling on something like eBay," she says. "I don’t really look at money aspect of it. I love meeting people. It is exciting to sell a pierogie though."

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Photo Essay: Pittsburgh's Light Up Night shines throughout the city

A photo essay from Light Up Night in Downtown Pittsburgh

Posted By on Mon, Nov 23, 2015 at 1:15 PM

The holiday season officially kicked off in Pittsburgh on Friday night as people filled the Downtown streets for the city's 55th Annual Light Up Night festivities.

Light Up Night in Downtown Pittsburgh
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Light Up Night in Downtown Pittsburgh

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Friday, October 30, 2015

Mystery bookstore celebrates 25 years with free event tomorrow

Posted By on Fri, Oct 30, 2015 at 12:00 PM

By many accounts, independent bookstores are a dying breed. But some are bucking trend. And in Oakmont, Mystery Lovers Bookshop celebrates 25 years this weekend — a testament to the fact that, more than just where you buy your books, bookstores can also be staples of a community.

Mystery Lovers Bookshop opened in 1990, and was honored by the Mystery Writers of America with a Raven award in 2010. The store carries new copies of a wide variety of crime, thrillers and espionage fiction, and hosts an annual Festival of Mystery.

The store celebrates its longevity with a free event tomorrow from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. The event includes a special edition of its Coffee & Crime series, with local mystery author Nancy Martin, at 11 a.m. Martin will speak about her newest book, Miss Ruffles Inherits Everything (Minotaur Books), which will be available for purchase before its official Nov. 3 release.

Founders Mary Alice Gorman and Richard Goldman then arrive for a meet-and-greet, and to make a  special announcement. (The store's current owners, married couple Natalie Sacco and Trevor Thomas, took the place over this past May.)

The annual $0.10 book sale follows. Proceeds will be donated to a local charity that has yet to be announced.

Mystery Lovers Bookshop is located at 514 Allegheny River Blvd., in Oakmont. Light refreshments will be provided, and costumes are encouraged.

Click here for more info.

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Crowdfunding campaign for Pittsburgh Playwrights' theater artist Mark Clayton Southers

Posted By on Thu, Oct 22, 2015 at 8:42 AM

For more than a decade, Mark Clayton Southers has been a big part of the local theater scene, most notably as a playwright and as founder and artistic director of Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Co.

Playwrights has produced work by numerous local talents living and dead, but would be worthy of acclaim if only for its regular stagings of plays by August Wilson, which have been arguably the best such productions in town.

In fact, Southers himself was only days past premiering a production of Wilson’s Fences that he had directed when he was seriously injured in a car accident.

That was May 11. Southers would spend the next five weeks unconscious and nearly five months hospitalized while he underwent numerous surgeries, including efforts to save one of his legs from amputation. (Southers is pictured in the hospital with one of his young sons.)

Those efforts succeeded, and Southers finally returned home, to the Hill District, where he grew up. He is even back in the director’s chair, helming a new production of Wilson’s The Piano Lesson, set to debut next month, at Downtown’s August Wilson Center.

However, Southers' household’s finances were slammed. A new gofundme campaign is looking to help.

The campaign’s goal is $25,000, and it culminates with a Nov. 23 benefit and tribute for Southers, to be held, appropriately enough, at the Wilson Center.

A $25 donation to the gofundme campaign gets you a ticket to the event.

More details are here.

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

ModernFormations Gallery to hold final show in November

Posted By on Thu, Oct 15, 2015 at 8:00 AM

In 2005, Andy Kehoe had his first art exhibition in his hometown. Kehoe was a recent graduate of New York’s Parsons School of Design, and the venue was ModernFormations Gallery, a four-year-old storefront on a blighted, largely vacant stretch of Penn Avenue, in Garfield.

  • Photo courtesy of Jennifer Quinio
The exhibition, which Kehoe shared with his twin brother, Ben, “was the first big show I had,” recalls Kehoe.

By the time Kehoe showed in ModernFormations’ 10th-anniversary show, in 2011, things were a lot different for him. The year following the 2005 exhibit, Kehoe had placed three paintings in a group show in Brooklyn. An exhibit at Jonathan LeVine Gallery, in Chelsea, followed in 2008.

“My whole career as an exhibiting artist really took off from there,” writes Kehoe today, via email. “I think I was pretty much able to make a living off my work a couple years later.”

While Modern Formations in 2005 didn’t get nearly the foot traffic a gallery in, say, Shadyside might have, Kehoe says that making his dozen paintings for that first show — wryly dreamlike scenes of imaginary forest-dwelling beings, done in a distinctive graphic style — was a turning point. “It really did kinda push me to think what I wanted to do with my work,” he says. That more mature work led, eventually, to Chelsea — and the $5,000 price tags his paintings command today.

“ModernFormations was there at the beginning when I really started to figure things out,” he adds. “It’ll always have a special place in my heart for giving me one of my first real opportunities to showcase my work.”

While Kehoe is unusually successful for a Pittsburgh-based painter, his story exemplifies what’s notable about ModernFormations, which after 14 years will close in November after one last show. As the oldest surviving gallery on what’s now known as the Penn Avenue Arts Corridor, ModernFormations has been an anchor of the local scene and a launching pad for emerging Pittsburgh talent.

Gallery owner Jennifer Quinio tells CP she is selling the building. “I love the place, but I just can’t afford it any more,” she says. “I’m also ready to move on,” adds Quinio, who plans to focus on her career in senior health and fitness.

Continue reading »

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

City and coders partnered to launch Pittsburgh trash-day app

Posted By on Thu, Oct 1, 2015 at 9:03 AM

  • PGH.ST
Can't remember when recycling day is? There's an app for that. Gone are the days of searching the city's website for the trash-collection schedule. Now, it comes to you.

Thanks to the winners of 2014's annual Steel City Codefest competition, you can now get email and text reminders the evening before your neighborhood's garbage day. (Full disclosure: I've already signed up.)

Users can search their address and zip code at PGH.ST and then enter an email address and phone number. From there, the app automatically remembers a user's address when re-visiting the page, displaying that neighborhood's trash calendar. Email and text alerts are sent out at approximately 6 p.m. 

"My philosophy about PGH.ST, and other things, is that I’m interested in making Pittsburgh a cooler place," says David Walker, an academic-writing consultant, who was a member of the team that created the winning app. Other team members included Ady Ngom, Tricia Handke, Matt Marriotti and Quintin Lovicks.

PGH.ST's interface is visually appealing and user-friendly; it's colored-coded according to the type of trash the city plans to collect from each street that week. Also, there are no Central-Eastern, Northern-Southern maps to navigate, as is the case currently on the city's website.

"The idea of something that can be used by a lot of people, and can improve their daily lives even in a small way, is very appealing, and I also like the fact that it was something I could use myself," Walker says, who codes as a hobby and is interested in pursuing it professionally. "It really is easier to develop something that you’re going to use yourself, because you know exactly how it should work."

The City of Pittsburgh proposed the challenge to the participants of Steel City Codefest, an annual competition that began in 2013, in which teams have 24-hours to develop a useful app. Teams can bring their own ideas or take on a challenge from a local organizations, businesses or government.

"We do heavily push the nonprofit applications because we just found they have a wider diversity of interesting issues to deal with," says Jennifer Wilhelm, of the city's Urban Redevelopment Authority, which coordinates the competition. Google is a founding partner, and the event is sponsored by The Forbes Fund and the BNY Mellon Foundation, among others. Sponsors also offer grants for teams to finalize their projects once the 24-hour competition is finished — which is how Walker and his team finished their app.

The 2015 winner was 412 Food Rescue, which connects restaurants, caterers and large businesses to food banks and other organizations that can utilize unused food that would otherwise go to waste.

"It allows nonprofits to be able to get technology that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to. We’re very careful to source challenges that don’t already have obvious solutions," Wilhelm says. "They’re [participants] creating something new that’s filling a void."

Ironically, the end result of Walker and his team's efforts is not exactly what the original challenge from the city entailed: The city wanted an app to alert people, not only about trash and recycling pick-up, but also of when street sweeping would occur in their neighborhoods.

Walker says that "motivated" him "more than trash reminders," but he says the city couldn't give him and his team a database of street-by-street cleaning schedules. He says that some day he hopes he and his team will have a chance to develop that app but that they "can't make any promises."

He says: "I think that would be a really cool if my phone could tell me you better move your car because the street is being swept tomorrow."

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Friday, August 28, 2015

Local organization to launch drive for two million pencils

Posted By on Fri, Aug 28, 2015 at 9:30 AM

It seems like everyday another scholar, journalist or parent comes up with a new way to "fix public education." See examples here, here and here.

 But what if a local school district could be helped by something as simple as pencils?

That's the idea behind #2MillPencils, a fundraising drive to collect two million pencils for students in the Wilkinsburg School District. The effort, spearheaded by local nonprofit Internationally Smart Is Cool, would provide enough pencils for 2,000 Wilkinsburg students to have 200 each for the next five years. 

"I hope that it shows that something very small can make a difference," says Jamillia Kamara, the organization's founder. "One pencil can write 45,000 words. You don’t need millions of dollars to help communities, you can give 10 cents."


According to anecdotal evidence and the results of a small survey, Kamara, a former teacher who taught first and fifth grades, says pencils are one of the main school supplies teachers say they lack.

"Students don’t have pencils ever," says Kamara. "It was identified that pencils were the number-one item that students didn’t have by teachers." 

The Wilkinsburg School School district has long struggled with poor student achievement. In 2014, the state Department of Education ranked all four Wilkinsburg schools among the lowest-performing in the state.

"We were looking for schools to partner with, and Wilkinsburg schools were really receptive," says Kamara. "There’s a great sense of community there and collaboration that I found attractive."

The pencil drive will run from Sept. 7 to Dec. 3, but right now Kamara is calling on businesses and organizations to serve as drop-off sites. Each drop-off site will also need two storage bins. Those interested in helping can donate a bin or funds to buy one. Donors can also contribute to a Go Fund Me campaign. Later, Kamara will need volunteers to help count and box the pencils and transport them.

"Right now, to get us up and running, the biggest source of help we need is funding and sponsorships," Kamara says. "The barrier to entry is low. It’s something that everyone can grab on to."

Beyond this effort, Internationally Smart is Cool is focused on serving middle-school students, a group Kamara says receives the least attention. 

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