At Home With: Matt Galluzzo, president and CEO of Riverlife | At Home With ... | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

At Home With: Matt Galluzzo, president and CEO of Riverlife

click to enlarge Matt Galluzzo - PHOTO: RENEE ROSENSTEEL
Photo: Renee Rosensteel
Matt Galluzzo

Everybody is dealing with the COVID-19 quarantines and restrictions in different ways. While there's no single right way to cope — social distancing and staying TF home aside — connecting with friends, family, and neighbors is a good place to start. You can contact your loved ones on your own, but you might also be curious how your favorite strangers in Pittsburgh are coping, so Pittsburgh City Paper is reaching out once a day to artists, activists, workers, and makers to see how they're doing.

Today, it's Riverlife President and CEO Matt Galluzzo.



What is your day-to-day routine like now?
I read somewhere that maintaining routine is important during periods of crisis, so I have begun every day like I am preparing to go to work. Today I fed Stella — our 8-year-old pup. Showered. Prepared coffee. Grabbed a quick breakfast and ventured upstairs to my makeshift home office at about 8:15 a.m. Our staff has pledged to undertake some activity of self-care as part of our work-from-home, and I committed to journaling. So, I began my “work day” with a pen in my hand for 15 minutes, and then began answering emails and corresponding with our team through Google Hangouts.


At 10 a.m., I hosted a teleconference with the Mayor’s office and Kelsey Ripper, Executive Director at our sister organization, Friends of the Riverfront, to discuss riverfront communications in the age of COVID-19. I then took a break to make a quick lunch and assist our daughter with her school work. Sixth grade critical-thinking exercises are my favorite. I returned to my desk at about 12:15 p.m. and worked on an updated development framework for the organization, and then reviewed a brief from our counsel.

After more emails and a check-in with a staff member, I intentionally stepped away from my desk and walked Stella around the block at 4 p.m. — socially distant and sporting a sweet locally-made plaid mask. At 4:15 p.m. we hosted a voluntary virtual staff happy hour to put a bow on the week.

What is your favorite food to eat at the moment?
Clif Bar. It’s been my on-the-go comfort food for over two decades. The packaging and branding convince me that I’m not actually eating a candy bar.

What piece of art/film/comic/book/TV/music is bringing you comfort/inspiration at this time?
Music has always been a pretty healthy outlet for me. My love affair with the band Pearl Jam extends nearly three decades — serving as a soundtrack for many benchmark moments in my life. It would seem quite fitting that the band released their 11th studio album, Gigaton, on March 27. The album explores — among other important heady topics — our relationship to this planet. It’s a good investment for me right now. I’ve also been working through the John Prine catalog, for obvious reasons.



What’s an object in your house that has particular significance to you these days?

I have played stringed instruments since I was a teenager. Mostly guitars. A few years ago, I picked up a Harmony Stella guitar at a vintage/junk sale for $25. It’s the same guitar Elvis played in 1957’s "Jailhouse Rock." Other than missing a tuning peg, I found it in incredible shape. Right now it offers me a particular kind of comfort, refuge, and tactile familiarity. It’s a weird bond — like a good hug or a dog’s snuggle.

What are the logistics of operating Riverlife during stay-at-home orders?
Riverlife is a nimble and very merry band of rebels. We benefited from really smart early planning in February that enabled us to transition to work-from-home with relative ease. Working from home has forced us to be creative in how we approach our work. For example, we had been planning an in-person board and staff retreat in April. COVID-19 has made that impossible. In response, we have moved to a virtual setting, truncated the agenda, and will employ a host of tools we’ve never used before — like breakout rooms, whiteboards, and online polls. I’m actually really excited about seeing this experiment.

That does not mean that work-from-home has been or will be perfect. The challenges we are experiencing are not dissimilar to those experienced by other peer organizations: considerable uncertainty about the future, cumbersome and sometimes unreliable tech tools, and balancing work/life when balance is not an option. That said, I am grateful that we are able to continue our important work from home. It is a privilege not shared by many in our community and one that our team does not take for granted.

What message do you have for Pittsburghers who still want to use the city’s riverfront parks and trails at this time?

Pittsburghers’ connection to water is a key to our community’s wellness and resilience. Since 1999, Riverlife has worked with community partners to transform the city’s riverfronts — turning the proverbial backdoor into the front yard — by creating signature open spaces for everyone to enjoy. That includes 15 miles of downtown riverfront trail and over 880 acres of public open space. These are spaces that we cherish because they help make Pittsburgh, PITTSBURGH. At Riverlife, we love seeing how the riverfronts have provided relief and wellness for many people during this time of isolation. We just encourage all riverfront users to follow local and federal guidelines for outdoor activity and social distancing. Avoid parks and trails that look crowded, wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose if possible, and stay home if you’re not feeling well.

Besides Riverlife, what’s an organization you’d recommend giving to or supporting at this time?
This crisis lacks modern precedent. In response, The Pittsburgh Foundation recently established the Emergency Action Fund to get emergency help — as quickly as possible — to the most vulnerable in our community. Think: food insecurity, shelter, health services, senior citizen services. Five years ago, our family and friends established the Owen Galluzzo Memorial Fund in honor of our son. We provided a grant to the Emergency Action Fund late last month because we feel so strongly about the Pittsburgh Foundation’s efforts to meet our community’s challenges at this most desperate hour. More information can be found here.


For more information on Riverlife, visit its website.

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