Thursday, May 15, 2014

Inaugural Pittsburgh Fringe Fest Breaks Even

Posted By on Thu, May 15, 2014 at 1:13 PM

The organizer of Pittsburgh’s first showcase for under-the-radar performance says that while attendance at the May 2-11 event fell short of his expectations, “We’re not in the red. … We pretty much broke even this year.”

Dan Stiker says he’d hoped for 2,500 attendees and got an estimated 1,200. (He hasn’t yet tallied official figures.)

While 90 percent of the box office went directly to the performance companies, funding and other support from backers like The Sprout Fund kept the two-weekend fest financially solvent, he says.

Moreover, Stiker and his team of volunteers pulled off the remarkable logistical feat of staging some 70 performances by 26 acts in four different Shadyside venues. (I attended three of the shows, and they all started on time, with no serious tech glitches.)

So Stiker’s primary goal was achieved, with positive feedback from both attendees and performers. “Everyone who came to see the fest really enjoyed themselves and started understanding what fringe really means,” he says.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Point Park-produced doc series to air on STARZ

Posted By on Tue, Apr 15, 2014 at 3:21 PM

The new documentary series produced by Point Park University has found a home. The Chair will air on STARZ this fall.

The Chair is a 10-episode series, shot in Pittsburgh, that follows two first-time feature-film directors making their films based on the same source material. More details are here.

Filming — of both the dueling features and the documentary series — took place in February and March at various locations around town.

Locations for the film directed by YouTube star Shane Dawson included places like Garfield’s Most Wanted Fine Art gallery (disguised as a used-record store). Writer, actress and producer Anna Martemucci shot in locations including a private home in Upper St. Clair.

The two films are both based on a coming-of-age comedy script by Dan Schoffer about former high school classmates who return home from college for Thanksgiving. However, said the films’ producer, Josh Shader, both directors had leeway to adapt the script, and Dawson’s is pitched more as a raucous comedy while Martemucci’s is more bittersweet.

The Chair will document the making, marketing and theatrical release of the two films, which themselves will also air on STARZ. (The project was launched before producers Chris Moore and Before the Door Pictures — whose principals include Pittsburgh native and film star Zachary Quinto — had an outlet for it.)

After the films air, audience voting will determine which filmmaker wins the $250,000 prize.

Point Park says that “more than 100 Point Park Students and alumni .. supported the TV series and two feature films as interns, employees and through class projects.”

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Council Passes Resolution on Antibiotics in Livestock

Posted By on Thu, Mar 27, 2014 at 8:53 AM

Pittsburgh City Council is among the first in the country to pass a resolution calling for federal legislation to rein in antibiotics use on factory farms.

On Tuesday, council adopted the resolution, which “supports a statewide and national ban on nontherapeutic uses of antibiotics in livestock production.”

As detailed in CP in February, nationally based group Food & Water Watch had asked council to approve the measure as part of its campaign to pass the Protection of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) and the Prevention of Antibiotic Resistance Act (PARA), in the U.S. House and Senate, respectively. The resolution says Council “will send letters to our Congressional Representatives and U.S. Senators” urging them to co-sponsor the bills.

In particular, the group is targeting U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, who sits on the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Bans on nontherapeutic uses of antibiotics on cattle, pigs and chicken, for instance, are controversial, though much of the opposition seems to originate in the pharmaceutical industry. Similar bans in European countries, including the Netherlands, are generally regarded as successful.

“We applaud Pittsburgh, PA for passing one of the first city-council resolutions in the country, calling on federal legislators rein in the rampant use of antibiotics on factory farms,” Food & Water Watch volunteer Nicole Kubiczki, a Pittsburgh resident, said in a press release.

“Factory farms feed low doses of antibiotics to livestock to promote unnatural growth and compensate for filthy, crowded living conditions,” said Kubiczki. “As a result, we’re entering an age in which these life-saving medicines are no longer working to treat infections in humans. We need to change course in our handling of antibiotics in this country, and Pittsburgh took action to stand in support of public health this morning.”

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Day of Giving Nets Record Number of Donors, Less Cash

Posted By on Wed, Oct 16, 2013 at 9:00 AM

More donors than ever participated in the Pittsburgh Foundation’s fifth annual 24-hour race for matching funds for local nonprofits. But fewer overall dollars were given — something that might have more to do with a PittsburghGives rule change than with locals’ generosity.

Nearly 18,200 donors participated on Oct. 3, contributing $6.4 million to more than 720 groups, according to a statement from the Pittsburgh Foundation. That's up from 17,719 donors last year.

Combined with $750,000 in matching funds administered by the Pittsburgh Foundation, the donations placed about $7.15 million into the groups’ coffers. (A Day of Giving for Westmoreland County channeled a total of $575,000 to groups based there.)

However, despite the increase in people giving, the $6.4 million in public donations was a drop of nearly 10 percent from last year’s record of $7 million.

Given the regular growth in donations to PittsburghGives over the years, that drop likely had to do with the initiative's new rules for matching funds. This year, for the first time, only the first $1,000 given by each individual to any group would be matched. The previous cap was $10,000.

Pittsburgh Foundation spokesperson Christopher Whitlach said the lowered cap was meant to spread donations around more and increase the match percentage, measured in cents per dollar.

In Allegheny County, every donor dollar given this year became $1.13 for a favored group, up from $1.09 last year. And gifts of under $1,000, which last year totaled $4.1 million, this year totaled $6.8 million.

The group with the most donors was the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, with 1,245 donors. Next was the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (1,010), followed by 90.5 WESA (769), Animal Friends Inc. (757), WQED Multimedia (743) and the Animal Rescue League of Western PA (742).

In terms of funds donated by the public (not counting matching funds), the biggest recipients were the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (($191,547), the Food Bank ($176,137), Central Catholic High School ($122,640), Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh ($118,141), the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust ($115,544), Rodef Shalom Congregation ($98,652) and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh ($95,538).

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Cultural Trust, Artist Reach Rubber-Duck Detente

Posted By on Wed, Oct 2, 2013 at 1:10 PM

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and cartoonist Joe Wos have reached an agreement over Wos’ use of the image of the giant rubber duck that’s part of the Trust’s Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts.

The gist is that the Trust won’t object to Wos’ “Quack N’ At” T-shirts as long as all of the proceeds benefit The Toonseum, the nonprofit museum of cartoon art he runs Downtown.

Wos had previously said that only a portion of the proceeds from T-shirt sales would benefit the Toonseum.

A few weeks back, Wos had upset the Trust by announcing he was taking orders for T-shirts bearing an image of artist Florentijn Hofman’s Rubber Duck Project, plus the motto “Quack N’ At.” The Trust wrote Wos to ask him to stop selling the shirts because he was infringing on the festival and its own merchandise sales.

Wos refused, and in fact last Friday was selling “Quack N’ At” shirts at the Trust’s Rubber Duck Bridge Party, from a booth perhaps 100 yards from the Trust’s own official merchandise booth, featuring duck buttons, hats and T-shirts.

The party drew thousands who filled the Clemente Bridge and lined both sides of the river to witness the arrival by river of the 40-foot-tall inflatable yellow duck. Both booths seemed to be doing brisk business, though the line at the Trust booth was considerably longer.

But bygones appear to be bygones. Here’s the statement the Trust issued about 11 a.m. today:

“The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and Toonseum have come to a positive resolution regarding Quack N'at T-shirts with 100% of the proceeds now benefiting the non-profit Toonseum. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is an ardent supporter of Toonseum and independent artists. Both organizations share a common goal of getting people to flock to Pittsburgh's Cultural District for outstanding arts and entertainment. We look forward to focusing on the incredibly favorable attention the Rubber Duck Project is bringing our city.”

The Trust was not taking additional questions. Wos could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The corpse flower is blooming!

Posted By on Tue, Aug 20, 2013 at 9:56 PM

Remember when we warned you that the corpse flower was about to bloom? Guess what? IT IS NOW BLOOMING. AS WE SPEAK. IF YOU ARE ANYWHERE IN OAKLAND OR SQUIRREL HILL, YOU CAN PROBABLY SMELL IT FROM YOUR HOUSE. OK, that's an exaggeration. But still.

Phipps Conservatory announced via email just after 7 p.m. tonight that the flower was in bloom, and that tonight and tomorrow, the conservatory will be open late — we mean super late. 'Til 2 a.m. So that you can come and experience the worst-smelling plant on the planet. More info on Phipps' website, here. It could be in bloom for as little as 24 hours, so get there ASAP if you want to smell it!

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Thunderbird Cafe "very pleased" with expansion approval

Posted By on Tue, Jul 23, 2013 at 12:00 PM

As we noted yesterday, the city's Zoning Board of Adjustment has approved the expansion plans of Lawrenceville's Thunderbird Cafe.

In its ruling, the ZBA ruled that there would be no detrimental impact on the neighborhood — as some opponents of the plan fear.

The board granted the adjustments and variances sought by Lawrenceville Holdings VI LP as long as the city's zoning administrator reviews the final site plans and that developers provide a plan for valet parking within 30 days.

In response to the ruling, community groups Lawrenceville United and Lawrenceville Corporation sent out a statement yesterday saying they would appeal the decision.

Thunderbird owners and developers say they are pleased with the ruling and are flummoxed by the LC/LU response. Chris Lasky, Vice President of Massaro CM Services LLC and designer/consultant on the plan, sent us this statement:

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Zoning Board approves expansion of Thunderbird Cafe

Posted By on Mon, Jul 22, 2013 at 3:45 PM

The city's Zoning Board of Adjustment has approved the expansion of Lawrenceville's Thunderbird Cafe.

In the ruling issued July 11, the ZBA approved the variances and special exceptions requested by Lawrenceville Holdings VI LP as long as the city's zoning administrator reviews the final site plans and that developers provide a plan for valet parking within 30 days.

As City Paper reported in April, club owner John Pergal is pursuing a $3 million project that would consolidate several properties in the block between 41st Street and Almond Way along Butler Street. The plan would create a new two-story building that will house an expanded Thunderbird, raising the venue's capacity from 246 to 600, and a new three-story building that would hold a restaurant kitchen and residential units above. Pergal wants to expand his concert venue to have more of a "supper club" feel.

But residents, community groups and former city councilor Patrick Dowd raised questions about the plan and its impact on the neighborhood.

After an April 11 hearing before the ZBA, at attorney representing community groups Lawrenceville United and Lawrenceville Corporation filed a "Findings of Fact" detailing concerns with the plan. In it's ruling, the ZBA said the expansion would not be a detriment to the neighborhood and wrote that "an unnecessary hardship would result if the variance is denied, and that the proposed use would not be contrary to public interest — it would, in fact, enhance the public interest."

In a statement emailed to the Lawrenceville community this afternoon, the LU and LC wrote that the decision was disappointing, and that "It is clear that the proposed project will have an detrimental impact the neighborhood. LU and LC are working with legal counsel to appeal the ZBA decision."

I've emailed Chris Lasky, vice president of Massaro CM Services LLC and designer/consultant on the plan, for comment on the ruling and we'll post that as it becomes available.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Nakama out in Garden Theatre block project

Posted By on Tue, Mar 19, 2013 at 4:59 PM

Nakama Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar is no longer part of the redevelopment of the Central North Side block home to a now-defunct adult-movie house.

Wayne Zukin, the project’s developer, confirmed Nakama’s withdrawal this afternoon in an email to City Paper.

In January 2012, the steakhouse chain with a flagship location on the South Side had signed a lease to take over the former Masonic Temple Building on West North Avenue, right next to the old Garden.

Phone messages left yesterday and today for Nakama’s owners were not returned. Nakama has satellite locations in Heinz Field, PNC Park and CONSOL Energy Center. There is also a Nakama in Long Island, N.Y.

The lease signing for Nakama’s space at the Garden project last January was marked by a press conference featuring Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. It was the first lease signed at the site since the Garden Theatre closed in 2007, and was hailed as a big step in the neighborhood’s revitalization.

Messages to Zukin were prompted after yesterday’s announcement that nonprofit arts and human-rights group City of Asylum/Pittsburgh would locate its new literary center in the three storefronts on the first floor of the Masonic Temple — the space formerly to be occupied by Nakama. But until today it was unclear publicly whether Nakama was still involved in the redevelopment project.

COAP president Henry Reese says he’d heard in November that the space might be available and contacted the developer. At the time, Reese says, COAP was preparing to resubmit plans for the center, called Alphabet City, to the city after a court ruling upheld a zoning appeal by neighbors objecting to the project.

But Reese says the West North Street location is in many ways a better fit for Alphabet City, which itself will include a small restaurant along with a bookstore and performance space. It is more centrally located and more visible to street traffic than the original location.

Other announced projects on the Garden block appear to be proceeding, including apartment units and a new restaurant in the old theater space run by the owners of Lawrenceville’s Piccolo Forno.

Barbara Talerico, president of the Allegheny City Central Association, says the loss of Nakama wouldn't hinder the redevelopment project. "Things change over time," she says. "We think that the whole block itself is really very exciting. There'll be a good mix of all the neighbors and all the visitors to the area."

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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Pittsburgh Public Market to move to larger building on Penn Avenue

Posted By on Wed, Mar 6, 2013 at 1:25 PM

The Pittsburgh Public Market will move to 2401 Penn Avenue this summer, its managers and city officials announced this morning.

The one-story, 31,816-square-foot building owned by the Horton Corporation is across the street from Mullaney's Harp and Fiddle Irish Pub, less than a mile from the market's current location in the historic Produce Terminal on Smallman Street.

The market will move into the full space, according to market manager Tiffani Emig, under a three-year lease that includes options to renew for up to six more years.

The lease is contingent on raising the funding needed for infrastructure improvements, such as building out cooking facilities for vendors and adding an entryway on Penn Avenue. Emig declined to discuss the amount needed to be raised in order for the deal to go forward.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority awarded a $40,000 grant earlier this year for market's relocation.

She says the market will remain in its current spot until 2401 Penn Avenue is secured and renovations completed.

The Pittsburgh Public Market has called the Terminal home since 2010, although the idea was that it would be a temporary location, according to Becky Rodgers, executive director of Neighbors in the Strip.

The market is a nonprofit subsidiary of the neighborhood group.

The Buncher Company has plans to demolish the part of the Terminal where the market is now to make way for a development that would include a hotel, retail and office spaces between the Veterans Bridge and 21st Street, connecting the Strip District properties to the river. The timeline for the project is unclear. The company backed out of a plan to put together a tax financing deal with the city after City Councilor Patrick Dowd stalled the legislation needed to move it forward earlier this year.

The market's lease expired Dec. 31. It has been operating on a month-to-month rental agreement since then. The Buncher Company had not set a deadline for when it would need to move, Rodgers said.

As City Paper reported in January, when news first broke that a new building had been located, vendors said they were looking forward to the changes, and hoping a move would offer a chance to re-brand the market.

Emig says one decision already made is that the market will be open five days a week in the new location.

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