Friday, August 26, 2016

What you need to know about Pittsburgh news this week

Posted By on Fri, Aug 26, 2016 at 2:45 PM

What's happening in Pittsburgh and around the region:

Video by Ashley Murray

1. Bocce is how the last week in Pittsburgh ended and this week began (if you consider Sunday the first day of the week). Bloomfield's Little Italy Days took over Liberty Avenue, and a two-day double-elimination bocce tournament ensued on Cedarville Street, just off the main drag. The Italian pride shone and wine flowed. Read about it on City Paper's new sports page.

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PHOTO COURTESY OF GAIL MANKER
  • Photo courtesy of Gail Manker
2. The final performances of August Wilson's Seven Guitars, staged in the backyard of Wilson's original Hill District house by Pittsburgh Playwrights, are this weekend. "Seeing Seven Guitars performed in the very Hill District backyard in which it was set should give anyone chills, but also a sense of an artistic birthright restored," writes CP's arts editor Bill O'Driscoll.

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PHOTO COURTESY OF GAIL MANKER
  • Photo courtesy of Gail Manker
3. Incumbent U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), and his Democratic challenger Katie McGinty both picked up endorsements from gun-control advocacy groups this week. Toomey received one from the PAC Americans for Responsible Solutions, and McGinty from CeaseFirePa. Americans for Responsible Solutions was started by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who in 2011 was shot in the head during a mass shooting in Tuscon in which six people were killed. The PAC's executive director Peter Ambler cited Toomey's sponsorship on a (failed) 2013 background-check bill that was in reaction to the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre as a reason for their endorsement. Meanwhile McGinty maintains that Toomey has done little on gun-reform since.

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4. Allegheny County Council
is proposing changes to the county's minority, women and disadvantaged business enterprise rules (MWDBE), which guarantee a certain percentage — 13 percent for minority-owned businesses and 2 percent for those owned by women  — of county contracts to businesses owned by the aforementioned. The new rules would exclude companies that bring in more than roughly $56 million per year. Some have taken issue with the change, including Councilor Sue Means (R-Bethel Park), who says the vote is happening too hastily, and Maggie Hardy Magerko, owner of 84 Lumber (which brought in $2.5 billion in revenue in 2014), whose legal counsel says the rules changes would exclude the construction giant.

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On our podcast:

CP PHOTO BY LINDSEY THOMPSON
  • CP photo by Lindsey Thompson
Using City Paper's Alex Gordon's sports commentary on local rivalries as a jumping-off point, editor Charlie Deitch and staff writer Ryan Deto got behind the mics to discuss the "biggest" sports rivalries in all of sports, and came to the conclusion that, well, the local ones are kind of weak.

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From the pages of our print edition:

PHOTO COURTESY OF JAY ZUKERKORN
  • Photo courtesy of Jay Zukerkorn
This week in City Paper's arts section, contributor Natalie Spanner reviews the exhibit Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe at The Frick Art & Historical Center in Pittsburgh. The show includes six thematic sections of high heels: Revival and Reinterpretation, Rising in the East, Glamor and Fetish, Architecture, Metamorphosis, and Spacewalk. But if you want to see it, do it soon, as the show closes on Sept. 4. "Killer Heels honestly offers something for everyone, whether you wear sneakers, flats or Audrey Hepburn stilettos," Spanner writes. Read the full review and watch our video on the exhibit.

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Allegheny County Council proposing changes to MWDBE rules; local woman-owned company objects

Posted By on Thu, Aug 25, 2016 at 3:03 PM

Allegheny County seal - IMAGE COURTESY COUNTY.ALLEGHENY.PA.US
  • Image courtesy county.allegheny.pa.us
  • Allegheny County seal
Allegheny County is altering its minority-, women- and disadvantaged-owned business enterprise rules, and at least one major Western Pennsylvania woman-owned business isn’t happy about it. The rules were established in 1981 to ensure minorities, women and other economically hampered groups receive more county contracts than they had historically received. Changes to the bill are currently being considered by Allegheny County Council, after being positively recommended in committee.

Cheri Bomar, corporate counsel for 84 Lumber, spoke in opposition to the changes at this week's council meeting, specially pointing to eligibility requirements in the “Small Business Concerns” section. Under these guidelines, only companies that have averaged gross receipts (money received before subtracting costs) of up to $56.42 million are eligible for inclusion into the program.

“We believe there should not be a cap,” Bomar says. “These programs are about inclusion, and this business and others should not be excluded.”

Bomar also says 84 Lumber has a commitment to helping disadvantaged people through its workforce-development programs, which provide construction-job training to minorities and other economically disadvantaged groups.

84 Lumber has been owned and run by Maggie Hardy Magerko since 1992 (Magerko is the daughter of founder Joe Hardy). The home- and commercial-construction giant, based in the Washington County town of Eighty Four, owns and operates more than 250 stores, including four in Allegheny County. The company brought in around $2.5 billion in revenue last year.

Certification in the MWDBE program means that qualified companies are factored into allocated percentages of county contracts. The county will make a “good faith effort” to give at least 13 percent of contracts to minority business owners, and 2 percent to women-owned and “socially and economic disadvantaged” businesses.

But Ruth Byrd-Smith, county director of the Department of Minority, Women and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, says the changes aren’t instituting a cap, they are merely updating the bill to ensure the county is adhering to updated forms of its own government and to federal small-business guidelines.

“Recognizing that it was out of date, this legislation was proposed by the MWDBE Advisory Committee to update its provisions,” Byrd-Smith wrote in an email to Pittsburgh City Paper. “Included in those updates are changing things like references to County Commissioner to County Executive, [and] properly defining MWDBE with contemporary terms and terminology. … There is no proposed cap in the legislation. When certain federal or state dollars are being used for a project, we must follow federal or state regulations.”

Byrd-Smith points to language in the bill defining “socially and economically disadvantaged” businesses to emphasize the companies that the bill is targeted toward.

But Allegheny County Councilor Sue Means (R-Bethel Park), who spoke about the legislation at the meeting, was more upset at the process by which the MWDBE bill came to committee. Means said the last time council attempted to alter MWDBE legislation, a public hearing was held. Means claimed the legislation was being pushed through too fast and said she would want to see another hearing.

“There are problems if the legislature writes a bill that affects certain people and those people are not notified,” said Means, who notified companies in her district that might be affected.

Councilor Michael Finnerty (D-Scott Township) disagreed with Means, however, and claimed she was “grandstanding” and unnecessarily criticizing council. “I think we have transparency. I don’t think a council person should call out council like this,” said Finnerty.

Byrd-Ruth acknowledged the first public hearing (after which the bill stalled in committee and did not receive a vote) and said that language in the bill hasn’t been changed since. “The bill proposes the exact process that the MWDBE Department has been using and will continue to use,” she wrote.

Council President John DeFazio (D-Shaler) postponed the vote until next week because the economic development and housing committee chair, DeWitt Walton (D-Hill District), was not present at the Aug. 23 meeting. Council will reconvene at 5 p.m. in the Gold Room of the Allegheny County Courthouse on Aug. 30, and the bill could be put to vote then. 

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Bike Pittsburgh hosting Pokémon Go midnight ride tonight

Posted By on Wed, Aug 24, 2016 at 5:22 PM

A Psyduck found near Three Rivers Heritage Trail in the Strip District. - NIANTIC
  • Niantic
  • A Psyduck found near Three Rivers Heritage Trail in the Strip District.
Bike advocates know the best way to get around a city is by pedaling. And local bike-advocacy group Bike Pittsburgh figures it can use pedal power to catch as many Pokémon as possible. 

As part of the ten-day BikeFest, the group hosts tonight's Pokémon Go midnight ride, in hopes of getting Pokémon players to explore different parts of the city by bike.

The game uses your smartphone’s GPS to place you on a map and indicate where nearby Pokémon sites are. When a Pokémon is near, your camera activates for an augmented-reality battle sequence. You look around with your phone until the Pokemon comes on screen, and then you toss a Pokéball toward it and attempt to catch it.

The request for a Pokémon event came from the community, says Mike Carroll, of Bike Pittsburgh. 

"With BikeFest, it is a collaboration of what the community wants to do," says Carroll. "This was a community-led initiative. We are in the business of saying yes."

Due to stories about some Poké-goers being hit by vehicles, and other injuries, Carroll says safety will be the top priority on the ride. Lights are required, and anyone riding phone in hand will be asked to leave the ride. Bike Pittsburgh encourages people to purchase handlebar mounts or make a functional DIY mount. Keeping phones in pockets while riding is also encouraged.

And once safety is taken care of, riders can enjoy the many monuments and historical markers that typically stand as Pokémon gyms and Pokéstops.

"Pokémon Go really helps to explore the city as it is, and being on a bike gets you even farther," says Carroll. "Riding really increases the range. They've got stations everywhere. Hopefully it will strike some interest in the history of our city."

Bike Pittsburgh is asking riders to meet at Friendship Park, in Bloomfield, tonight (Aug. 24) at 11:45 p.m. The ride will commence 30 minutes later. Pokémon-hunting should last about two hours, and everyone ends the night at Ritter's Diner, in Bloomfield. 

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Final week for "Seven Guitars" at Pittsburgh Playwrights, staged at August Wilson House

Posted By on Tue, Aug 23, 2016 at 3:31 PM

Jonathan Berry (left) and Leslie "Ezra" Smith in "Seven Guitars." - PHOTO COURTESY OF GAIL MANKER
  • Photo courtesy of Gail Manker
  • Jonathan Berry (left) and Leslie "Ezra" Smith in "Seven Guitars."
Seeing August Wilson’s Seven Guitars performed in the very Hill District backyard in which it was set should give anyone chills, but also a sense of an artistic birthright restored: Wilson was raised on the Hill, and grew up in the house in front of that Bedford Avenue backyard, but who knows how long it’s been since one of his plays was actually staged in the neighborhood?

It’s not too much to call this fine Playwrights production “historic.” But if you want to see it, you’d better hurry: There are just five more performances through Sunday, and one of them (Saturday night’s) is already sold out. Fortunately, bowing to popular demand (all six performances the first two weeks sold out), Playwrights added weekend matinees this week, which has effectively doubled your chances of getting a seat.

With straw blanketing the yard’s bare dirt, and live chickens pecking away, the outdoor production takes you back to 1948, with seven characters (the “guitars” of the title) attached to the mystery of who killed bluesman Floyd “Schoolboy” Barton (though Barton, played by Jonathan Berry, is alive for most of the play, in extended flashback).

Director Mark Clayton Southers’ staging of the 1996 play runs about three and a half hours, including an intermission; it’s probably Wilson’s most discursive work. But it takes time to create a world on stage, and Seven Guitars features some of Wilson’s most pungent dialogue: As one character says, “You get a hit record and the white folks call you ‘Mister.’”

Here’s Michelle Pilecki’s review of the show for City Paper.

Bonus: The house is the under-construction arts center known as August Wilson House, so you can get a sneak peak at that, too. And you’ll be sitting within blocks of the real-life settings for several other Wilson plays, including Fences and Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.

Seven Guitars takes place at 1727 Bedford Ave.

Tickets are $35 and are available here.

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Friday, August 19, 2016

What you need to know about Pittsburgh news this week

Posted By on Fri, Aug 19, 2016 at 3:59 PM

What's happening in Pittsburgh and beyond:

kane-h.jpg

1. Pa. AG Kathleen Kane
resigned this week after she was found guilty on perjury and obstruction charges. CP reports on its Politicrap blog about other attorneys general who were convicted of crimes while in office.

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CP PHOTO BY LUKE THOR TRAVIS
  • CP photo by Luke Thor Travis
2. Drake and Future — along with Canadian artists Roy Woods and DVSN — brought their Summer Sixteen Tour to Pittsburgh's Consol Energy Center. Did you see our photo slideshow? (Drake even donned a Pens jersey.)

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CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
3. Wigle Whiskey is crowdfunding the establishment of the Whiskey of America Museum (abbreviated as WAM!). “It’s time to reclaim our place in whiskey history,” Wigle co-owner Meredith Meyer Grelli said, citing the Whiskey Rebellion in Western Pennsylvania in the 1700s. Carnegie Mellon University is even jumping in on the action by creating a robot for the museum that automates the malting process of making whiskey. 

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CP PHOTO OF KATIE MCGINTY BY RYAN DETO; IMAGE OF PAT TOOMEY PROVIDED BY CANDIDATE
  • CP photo of Katie McGinty by Ryan Deto; image of Pat Toomey provided by candidate
4. Democratic nominee Katie McGinty and incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey have agreed to two debate dates, but the Toomey campaign is pushing for more. “We certainly support having debates in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, but why is Katie McGinty stopping at two?" said Toomey's campaign spokesperson Ted Kwong in a press release this week.

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PHOTO COURTESY OF MOMS CLEAN AIR FORCE
  • Photo courtesy of Moms Clean Air Force
5. Moms Clean Air Force held a "Play-In for Pollution Control" in Beaver this week to protest the possible air pollution that could be produced by the coming Shell ethane cracker plant to be built in Potter Township. “Southwestern Pennsylvania consistently has poor air quality year after year according to the American Lung Association. Adding additional heavy industry like the Shell petrochemical facility would greatly impact the air quality by releasing tons of pollution that can cause serious health issues,” said Patrice Tomcik, of Moms Clean Air Force, in a press release.

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6. GTECH's Two Wheels Lots of Green
bike ride is happening this weekend on Sat., Aug. 20. The ride aims to build awareness about urban greenspace throughout Pittsburgh's neighborhoods. “Our greenspaces are really unique,” says GTECH's Katherine Chamberlain. “They take many different shapes, and they’ve all been designed by neighborhood residents.”

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7. As Dick Dale prepares to take the stage at the Rex Theater this Saturday, CP editor Charlie Deitch takes a look back at his 2015 story that revealed Dale's chronic health problems. “When I’m on stage, the pain can be excruciating. Someone has to help me up on stage because I can’t do it alone," Dale said last year.

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On our music blog:

Listen up because every week on our FFW music blog, we feature artists that we're covering on our Spotify playlist!


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On the pages of our print edition:


CP PHOTO BY BILLY LUDT
  • CP photo by Billy Ludt
City Paper news intern Billy Ludt explores the Stonewall Sports Pittsburgh chapter and Steel City Sports, two recreational leagues for the LGBT community. The leagues comprises several sports, including softball, volleyball and bowling. “To find a sense of community was really important to me, and to also get back to a sport that I played since I was little,” says Ashley Durham, who plays for the Steel City Softball league.


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Looking back at Pittsburgh City Paper's 2015 Dick Dale story as he prepares to play the Rex Theater on Saturday

Posted By on Fri, Aug 19, 2016 at 2:58 PM

Dick Dale
  • Dick Dale
Last year around this time, I wrote a story about now-79-year-old surf-rock pioneer Dick Dale. At the time, I was a casual fan of Dick's music, and when I saw he was coming through town, music editor Margaret Welsh told me to try and set something up.

At the scheduled time, I called Dick's home and spoke to his wife, Lana Dale, and she said an emergency had come up and we'd need to reschedule. But schedules wouldn't allow another date before Dick left on tour, so she asked me if I could do it in five minutes and I agreed, but apparently Dick didn't: We talked for more than a half hour.

I don't want to recount the entire conversation here — you can read it at the link above. But as Dick gets ready to come back into town Saturday night, I've been thinking back on that piece and the attention it generated. The story had little to do with Dick's music and his significance in the shaping of modern music. Instead we talked about his scores of health issues, the constant pain he lives with, and that he had to keep touring to pay for the crucial medical supplies he needs. 

His story was heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. He explained:

“When I’m on stage, the pain can be excruciating. Someone has to help me up on stage because I can’t do it alone," Dale said last year. "“You tell the people, ‘Don’t be scared of dying,’ When your mind leaves this body, it is a beautiful thing and it is not to be feared. Don’t let that fear of dying affect the way you live.

“You take that fear and you use it as a driving force to keep moving forward, no matter how much pain you have. That’s how I do what I do on stage. I’m not afraid to die because it all gets beautiful from here.”


Dick's attitude toward his situation, I think, is what made this story resonate; that and the outrage that he must keep touring just to pay for supplies. Whatever it was, the story went viral within a few hours and spread over the next several weeks. It's become the most-read story on www.pghcitypaper.com. To this day, I still get emails asking about Dick and if he ever got help for his medical costs. I passed a lot of emails on to Dick and Lana in the past year, and although I wasn't able to get a follow-up interview, Lana has told me her husband is still chugging along despite the pain.

Dick plays the Rex Theater this Saturday night. I can't stress enough that if you're a fan of Dick Dale, surf rock or even just great guitar-playing, you need to see his show. Last year's was a jaw-dropping spectacle as the septuagenarian moved around the stage and played every instrument. It would be a disservice to say that he plays well for a 79-year-old; he shreds that guitar like an ageless beast. It's something that has to be experienced. 

And really, after reading our piece from last year and seeing what Dick is going through to be there, it's hard to come up for a reason not to go. I am currently not planning to go because of four busted ribs I suffered in a recent accident. But several times a day, I remember what Dick goes through and start to wonder if broken ribs are really a valid reason not to be there. If he can push through his pain, I'm thinking I probably can too.

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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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GTECH's bike tours combine green transportation with greenspaces

Posted By on Thu, Aug 18, 2016 at 3:55 PM

new_image.jpg

At the cross section of alternative mobility and urban greenspaces comes an event that’s gathering serious and casual cyclists for a trip to one of Pittsburgh’s community-created greenspaces.


GTECH, a nonprofit that focuses on greenspace initiatives, is organizing its fifth annual neighborhood biking event, Two Wheels Lots of Green. This guided biking event takes riders on tours of Pittsburgh neighborhoods, stopping at local greenspaces along the way. This year’s Two Wheels Lots of Green tour will be in Pittsburgh's southern Hill Top neighborhoods.   


“Our greenspaces are really unique,” says GTECH relationship manager Katherine Chamberlain. “They take many different shapes, and they’ve all been designed by neighborhood residents.”


The event gives participants the choice to take a rigorous, hilly seven-mile ride or a leisurely four-mile ride, both through the Hill Top's Allentown and Beltzhoover neighborhoods. While stopped at greenspaces, riders will meet neighborhood residents who have dedicated time to creating a green space. The event is also attempting to raise awareness about the amount of underutilized or vacant land in Pittsburgh.

“We want the ride to be accessible to people who are familiar with biking in the city,” says Chamberlain.


“It’s also a great way for residents of the neighborhood to show ownership of their green space,”

says CEO and co-founder of GTECH, Andrew Butcher. “It can be difficult to find time to be exposed to all the amazing things that are happening in these neighborhoods.”  


The idea for Two Wheels Lots of Green came from the Social Capital Council, GTECH’s social outreach committee. One committee member, who happened to be an avid cyclist, wanted to create more interest in greenspaces.


“We said, ‘Boy, I really wish there was a way that I could experience these spaces and meet the people who made them,’” says Chamberlain.


Two Wheels Lots of Green started at a time when the German Marshall Fund, a grant-making organization, was seeking initiatives that dealt with alternative mobility (like biking) and urban green space. The event received the fund's support in 2012 and has occurred yearly since. The ride aligns with GTECH’s mission to make use of vacant and underutilized land in the city.

“It was a perfect time for us,” says Butcher. “‘Shine the light and share the love’ has become a sentiment for Two Wheels Lots of Green.”

Butcher said that crowds for Two Wheels Lots of Green have grown over the past several years; composed of a mix of serious bicyclists and people simply serious about greenspace.

“We’re very excited about aligning this event with Bike Fest,” says Butcher. “This is one of my favorite GTECH events.”


“We always enjoy seeing the connection between the riders,” says Chamberlain. "There’s a developed camaraderie in the groups through a shared interest in greenspaces.”


Two Wheels Lots of Green’s rides start and end at Garden on Gearing, running from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday. The bike tours are followed by a garden party back at Gearing, with live music, food and a pop-up playground provided by City of Play.


Participants can partake in “bike-powered” smoothies from Green Mountain Energy and iced coffee from Black Forge Coffee during the bike tours.


Tickets for Two Wheels Lots of Green are available for purchase on GTECH’s website.


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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

Kuniko Yamamoto - PHOTO COURTESY OF CITY OF ASYLUM
  • 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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