Crowdfunding | BLOGH: City Paper's Blog |


Friday, March 16, 2018

Posted By on Fri, Mar 16, 2018 at 4:32 PM

Pittsburgh activist Blak Rapp Madusa starts crowdfund for legal fees following North Versailles arrest while filming police
Blak Rapp Madusa, (right) on the cover of the Aug. 9, 2017 issue of City Paper
Wilkinsburg activist and hip-hop artist Blak Rapp Madusa (real name Melanie Carter) has been a key player in Pittsburgh's Black Lives Matter movement. She has participated in many protests, rallies and artistic fundraisers to uplift the region's black community. In 2017, Madusa performed at 1Hood Day, a festival to honor the city's hip-hop talent and to give a platform to the region's performer/activists.

Now the activist is getting a different form of attention.

Widely circulated online videos show Madusa being arrested on Feb. 24 in North Versailles after she defended some children who were being kicked out of North Versailles Stadium 18 Theater.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Posted By on Wed, Oct 11, 2017 at 5:06 PM

click to enlarge New Mexican restaurant in Beechview seeking crowd-sourced loan funds
Photo courtesy of Demtrio Aragon
Demetrio Aragon (right) and his family inside the La Catrina kitchen
In May 2016, City Paper reported about the economic revitalization of Pittsburgh’s Beechview neighborhood and the role Latino residents were playing. The South Hills neighborhood had been marked by several vacancies in its business district for decades, but over the last few years, Latino entrepreneurs have been opening up restaurants and other businesses, bringing vitality back to the neighborhood.

Recently, La Catrina, a new Mexican restaurant joined the ranks, and the owners are looking for a little help so they can improve their operations and offerings. Demetrio Aragon and his family have lived in the Pittsburgh area since 2000. Aragon worked in Japanese restaurants until one day his wife convinced him that the family should open up a restaurant to serve the traditional Mexican dishes they had trouble finding in Pittsburgh.

“My wife, it was her idea,” says Aragon. “She saw the Hispanic population growing, and that there was a need for real food. We serve sopes, and tamales, but not like some I see here that are served unwrapped. We wrap ours up [in a corn husk]. That is the way it is supposed to be done.”

Aragon says the restaurant, which occupies a space across the street from the IGA/Las Palmas grocery store on Broadway Avenue, has been open for more than three months, but the place still needs a griddle, refrigerator and mixer to become fully functional. Aragon, with help from the Beechview-based Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation, is trying to secure a crowd-sourced loan through As of print, La Catrina’s loan is 94 percent funded with only $550 left to reach its $10,000 goal, with only three days remaining to contribute.

“We just need some equipment,” says Aragon. “It’s just me and my wife and daughters. We don’t have investors.”

Ashleigh Deemer, chief of staff to Pittsburgh City Councilor Natalia Rudiak, wrote in an email to CP that La Catrina deserves a little support, so that Beechview can continue to grow economically. "Beechview has been a hidden gem for years, but Broadway Avenue's small-business culture is really taking off, and La Catrina is a perfect destination for anyone who wants to visit and see all Beechview has to offer," she wrote.

Aragon and his family live in Dormont, but choose Beechview to cater to the neighborhood’s growing Latino population. Aragon is from the Álvaro Obregón district of Mexico City (the same district as deported immigrant-rights activist Martín Esquivel-Hernandez), and he says there is a big opportunity in Pittsburgh for ultra-authentic Mexican food because there aren’t many authentic Mexican restaurants.

La Catrina specializes in many hard-to-find Mexican recipes, all crafted by Aragon’s wife, Angelica. La Catrina offers chilaquiles (deep-fried tortillas bathed in chili sauce), lamb barbacoa (and a soup made from all the lamb’s juices), and sopes (a corn masa dumpling typically topped with slow-cooked meats, lettuce and avocado).

Aragon says that all of La Catrina's traditional Mexican recipes are made from scratch, including all of the chili sauces that covers most dishes. La Catrina offers Tex-Mex food as well, but not all of those items are scratch-made.

Aragon says that La Catrina's clientele has mostly been Latinos looking for a taste of home, but many native-born Americans have also eaten there. He hopes that La Catrina will be a restaurant welcoming to everyone.

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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Posted By on Tue, Sep 5, 2017 at 5:13 PM

click to enlarge Pittsburgh-area artist starting crowdfunding campaign for “Captain Freedom: Combat Hate” comic
Image courtesy of D.J. Coffman
Remember the good old days when Americans unequivocally hated Nazis? Well, a new independent comic is hoping to rekindle those feelings. “Captain Freedom: Combat Hate” is the tale of Captain Freedom, a superhero who fights Nazi villains and Axis powers, and a recent effort is trying to bring his stories of taking down racist villains.

Captain Freedom will be written by California-based Dan Taylor and drawn by Westmoreland County resident and occasional Pittsburgh City Paper cover artist, D.J. Coffman. Captain Freedom isn’t an original character. His first appearance was in Speed Comics No. 13 in 1941 and is credited as being created by “Franklin Flagg.” The character is in public domain, and Coffman says now is the perfect opportunity to revive Captain Freedom, given the public emergence of neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., and other places.

“The comic-book fans, they need a hero to step up and fight this stuff,” says Coffman.

So, Taylor, Coffman and several other comic-book-industry veterans are throwing their support behind the creation of a pilot issue of the new Captain Freedom. To get the project off the ground, they need some cash, so they started a Kickstarter campaign to raise at least $2,500. The comic will be part of the independent comic-book label Keep Left, which was created by Coffman and Taylor. Coffman says the more money they raise, the more pages the comic book will have.

Taylor says as some groups attempt to make racism and other hate-filled ideologies more normal, there needs to be an even stronger push to condemn it.

“In today’s tumultuous climate fueled by racism and supremacists, our country, our world, needs heroes to step up and denounce hate when our political leaders will not,” says Taylor in a press release. “While I do not condone violence, I feel that a war against hatred needs to be fought by those who stand against bigotry and racism. And the weapon we’ve chosen is resurrecting a comic-book superhero that fought the good fight in the Golden Age — a defender of democracy and foe of tyranny.”

Coffman says the comic will be all-ages friendly, and that heroes and villains will be easy to distinguish (guy with American flag-like costume is good, and the people with swastikas are bad). Coffman says he was motivated to join this project because he was frustrated with seeing people he knows feel like they have to be silent on issues regarding race and hate.

“I want to punch back at it the best way I know how ... and that's drawing some friggin' comics” says Coffman in a press release. “My heroes are guys like Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, who taught me through their works that the pen and pencils are always mightier than swords."

Coffman also says that Captain Freedom’s sidekicks, the Young Defenders, will be updated to represent a more diverse America and will include minority characters. He says that Captain Freedom is about spreading the American values of liberty to anyone who wants follow them. “Captain Freedom’s one main star can represent many things, not just the U.S.,” says Coffman. “The star can also be seen as the one star guiding African-American slaves to freedom.”

Kickstarter donations come with prizes like signed copies and other memorabilia. The last day to donate is Fri., Oct. 6.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

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

click to enlarge Wigle Whiskey starting crowdfund to create a new whiskey museum in Pittsburgh
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, July 14, 2016

Posted By on Thu, Jul 14, 2016 at 1:56 PM

click to enlarge Faced with steep renovation costs, Pittsburgh's James Street Gastropub launches #SaveJamesStreet campaign
Photo by Luke Thor Travis
The Nox Boys perform in the upstairs ballroom of the James Street Gastropub as part of the Deutschtown Music Festival
James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy has hit a bit of a rough spot in recent days. The popular venue/restaurant has a long history of hosting live jazz, going back decades to when it was the James Street Tavern. The multi-floor venue hosts around 300 musical events a year, and it was a key venue for last weekend's Deutschtown Music Festival. But the show there, which featured a lineup of ten bands, was cut short by a noise complaint — odd, some attendees say, considering that there were no complaints about noise being generated at the main stage just a few blocks away. 

Now, general manager Kevin Saftner writes in press release, extensive renovations need to be made to meet Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board noise requirements. "The law does not allow for the sound of amplified music to be heard beyond the licensed premises’ property line," he writes. "Step off the sidewalk, hear music, and we’re in violation. Penalties include stiff fines, suspension of the liquor license, business closure due to being a 'nuisance bar,' even jail time."

An IndieGoGo campaign has been launched, with a flexible goal of $5,000.

The LCB doesn't seek out establishments violating the noise ordinance but according to its statutes will investigate neighbors' complaints of "loud music or entertainment by amplification or noise from entertainment emanating from the establishment." Saftner tells CP that the LCB was "not wrong" in issuing the citation, but "it's just disappointing that it happened to us." 

Shawn Kelly, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board called CP Friday morning, to clarify that despite the statement from James Street, LCB did not cite the bar. Kelly said the noise statute is part of the state’s liquor laws and enforcing those laws falls to the Liquor Control Enforcement arm of the Pa. state police. The only action the LCB could take agaisnt any establishment would be not to renew the bar’s liquor license or to renew it with conditions. “I think a lot of people think we wnforce liquor laws, but it’s not us,” Kelly said.

As the fundraising webpage says, "With your help you will not only help us keep our 30 employees and their families fed, but you will help Pittsburgh musicians, artists & many others too. James Street is honored to host the Legendary Roger Humphries' weekly Jam Session. It would be terrible to have this tradition end because of the issues we are facing. We are also honored to work with young up and coming musicians such as the Bleil Brothers, Anton DeFade, George Heid III & countless others. Again, nothing would be worse than having these aspiring artists lose yet another venue to perform at. James Street is not merely a music venue though. We host Drag Brunch, Burlesque shows, Private events, Swing Dances, Church Groups & so much more. There would be nothing worse than closing our doors to all of these amazing people.

"...In order to #SaveJamesStreet we need to raise approximately $30,000. This money will go to sound proof the Ballroom as well as to install air conditioning and new electrical work. We are asking you who to help us with just a small percent of the total cost."

The venue also plans to host a series of fundraising concerts. Keep an eye on the James Street website and/or Facebook for further updates. 

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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Posted By on Tue, Jun 7, 2016 at 2:33 PM

Pittsburgh artist Vince Dorse hopes Kickstarter will bring his award-winning comic to print
A panel from Vince Dorse’s Untold Tales of Bigfoot

Pittsburgh artist Vince Dorse is hoping a Kickstarter campaign will turn his award-winning online comic Untold Tales of Bigfoot into a graphic novel by this December — just in time for holiday gifts for your favorite kid or your favorite kid-at-heart.

The all-ages story, which follows the adventures of a lost dog named Scout and a lonesome Bigfoot, won Dorse an esteemed Reuben comics-arts award for Best Online Comic, Long-Form. In just two weeks, Dorse has raised over 80 percent of his Kickstarter goal. “I’ve never had more fun or felt more connected to any other project I’ve ever worked on,” he tells CP. “And getting it into print, getting a chance to bring the story to more people, means maybe I get to keep doing this thing that I’ve really come to love.”

The story is super cute and sweet, and the Kickstarter awards are pretty awesome: At the $55 pledge level, Dorse will provide a digital file of you — or someone you love — drawn cartoon style, hanging out with Scout and Bigfoot. Print it out and stick it in a signed book and you have the perfect gift. As of today, more than 30 people have chosen pledges at that amount or higher. I asked Dorse if he was nervous to draw that many caricatures.

“I’m actually excited about drawing the people who back the book. In my head, I’m wandering around in the woods with Bigfoot and Scout all the time, so I’m hoping anyone who’s a fan of the story would enjoy a little piece of that experience. Bigfoot wouldn’t mind a few more friends.”

We first brought you the news about Untold Tales of Bigfoot’s upcoming Kickstarter in our interview with Dorse earlier this year. Revisit it here for more background on Dorse’s work and his collaborations with City Paper.

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Thursday, June 2, 2016

Posted By on Thu, Jun 2, 2016 at 4:14 PM

While openness toward the LGBT community has improved in Allegheny County over the years, urban Pennsylvanians sometimes forget there are many other places throughout the state that don’t share Pittsburgh’s pride. (Only Erie and Allegheny counties provide legal protections for LGBT job- and home-seekers in Western Pennsylvania, after all.)

click to enlarge New zine aims to share the voices of the LGBT community living beyond Pittsburgh's borders
Photo by Ryan Deto
Copies of the AMPLIFY zine
To that end, advocate and blogger Sue Kerr has chosen to amplify unheard voices in hopes that those LGBT people living in less-friendly communities don’t feel marginalized. Started in 2015 as part of her artist-in-residency with Garfield’s Most Wanted Fine Art, AMPLIFY blog documents the experiences of LGBT people with ties to 18 Western Pennsylvania counties and has already told the stories of about 150 individuals.

Now Kerr is hoping to spread awareness of her project with a print zine that has been distributed regionally . “The zine was part of the plan all along,” says Kerr. “We wanted to provide something tangible. Then when people have safe access to the internet, they can explore [the blog] further.”

The first issue of AMPLIFY includes 11 stories, taken from her blog, that cover a wide range of different LGBT experiences. Kerr plans to print four issues a year and hopes to focus on certain groups, like pansexuals or bisexuals, in upcoming editions. She also hopes to eventually distribute the zine to all 26 Western Pennsylvania counties.

So far, the project has proved popular. According to Kerr, the first 500 copies of the zine were distributed in 12 days, and the Pittsburgh Youth Pride Prom has requested an additional 350 copies. A grant from the Pittsburgh Foundation helped Kerr expand her AMPLIFY project, but she says that additionally funding must be sought to print more copies of the zine. (Those interesting in donating can visit the crowdfunding page here.)

Kerr says that some LGBT residents in rural counties are a bit more hesitant of online technology, and so she hopes the zine will provide another avenue for those in the community to tell their stories.

“There is a thirst for print,” says Kerr. “Many people would rather fill out [their story forms] on paper.” 

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Posted By on Wed, Jun 1, 2016 at 2:58 PM

Altar Bar is the site of tomorrow’s fundraiser for hip-hop promoter and manager Elizabeth Kivovitz and her family, who lost their home and most of their possessions in a May 14 fire.

click to enlarge Fundraising concert tomorrow for Pittsburgh music promoter, victim of house fire
Art by Danielle Robinson
The concert, hosted by Drusky Entertainment and Pittsburgh Artists for Social Change, features musical and burlesque performers including Miguel Sague, Deryck Tines, Machete Kisumontao, Sosa, Zeeppo The Clown and The Steel City Clown Brigade, Lita D’Vargas, Liz Berlin, Moemaw Naedon, HollyHood, Billy Pilgrim, Guaracha Latin Dance Band and many more. A complete line-up is here.

Kivovitz, her husband, Oliver Blackstock III, and their three children and a housemate were not at home when the fire happened. (Kivovitz's sister is performer Phat Man Dee; the house belongs to their mother.) However, the family was underinsured, and tonight’s concert is meant to supplement an ongoing gofundme campaign for the family.

The Kivowitz-Blackstock Fire Recovery Benefit and Thank You Concert begins at 7 p.m. tomorrow (doors at 6 p.m.). The suggested donation is $10. Contributors to the gofundme campaign are welcome to attend.

Tickets are available here.

Altar Bar is located at 1620 Penn Ave., in the Strip District. 

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Posted By on Wed, Jun 1, 2016 at 12:00 PM

Pittsburgh’s own nationally touring performance-art rock band is set to debut its latest spectacle, Cycle Sonic, next week at the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival. The six performances are sure to be a highlight of the 57th annual fest, but the group is still fundraising to complete this pedal-powered project, and bring it to its fullest realization in the community.

click to enlarge Kickstarter deadline approaching for Pittsburgh’s Squonk Opera
Photo illustration courtesy of Squonk Opera
Artist's rendering of "Cycle Sonic"
As of this morning, the Kickstarter campaign to raise $5,000 for this “pageant of bike stages” had 10 days to go and needed about another $1,900.

Cycle Sonic , another in Squonk’s line of free, musical, prop-filled spectacles in public settings, consists of four double-decker bikes, each with a pedaler/driver underneath and a musician on top. (A fifth musician will be on foot.)

From the Kickstarter Project Description: “Combining elements of circus parades, bike formations and marching bands, these bicycle floats will sprout bulb-horns and banners, whirligigs and whistles, the swirl and thump of wheel and pedal. A pageant of double-deckers and giant puppet bikers will circle the audience, with backdrops of undulating flags and 20-foot legs pumping with the rhythm of sustainable power. With no carbon footprint, this traveling event will combine the thrill of live performance with the uncelebrated world of the everyday.”

Squonk has been a staple on the local arts scene since its debut a quarter-century ago, combining adventuresome art-rock with surrealist stagecraft; the critically acclaimed group has played Broadway, performed internationally, and even survived a stint on TV's America’s Got Talent.

Squonk premieres, meanwhile, are a familiar sight at the Three Rivers Arts Festival, including 2012’s Pneumatica and 2012’s Go Roadshow  (mounted on a flatbed truck). Both shows were aided by Kickstarter campaigns, and both went on to tour nationally, just as Cycle Sonic is set to do.

Cycle Sonic is unique in that through the cycling component it promotes public health and green energy, and Squonk plans to create “hands-on physics demonstrations for free workshops for public schools and community groups.”

The Kickstarter campaign runs for Cycle Sonic runs until about 10 a.m. Sat., June 11, just hours before the show's first performance.

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Posted By on Mon, May 2, 2016 at 11:00 AM

As usual, it’s your chance to support area nonprofits in fields like the arts, education and human services.

While the pool of participating groups still numbers in the hundreds, this year there’s a big change: The Pittsburgh Foundation, which organizes this donationfest, is no longer providing matching funds. After six previous Days of Giving (all but annually since 2009), the event got so big that the matching funds were stretched too thin to do much good, says the organization.

So why bother to give tomorrow, as opposed to any other day? Well, Allegheny County organizations this year had to option to raise their own match pools. Check each group’s profile for the amount the group will match dollar-for-dollar until the match pool is empty.

"In Allegheny County, 887 nonprofits will participate, and 164 of them have raised their own match pools for a county-wide total of $2.2 million," according to a Pittsburgh Foundation release.

Donations made through the PittsburghGives site will go to the participating groups minus a 5.99 percent credit-card and technology fee. While match pools are capped at $10,000 per organization, there’s no limit on the amount an Allegheny County nonprofit is allowed to receive.

In addition, Allegheny County organizations serving the county are eligible for $100,000 in incentives from the Pittsburgh Foundation.

Donors to groups in Butler and Westmoreland counties operate under separate models. Details are here.

Donations will be accepted from 8 a.m. to midnight tomorrow.

You can donate by Visa, MasterCard or American Express.

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