Friday, April 22, 2016

Pittsburgh's 7th Annual Geek Art/Green Innovator's on May 6th!

On May 6, 2016, Passports: The Art Diversity Project produces the city's only interactive, multidisciplinary showcase of art, technology, ecology and performance: The Geek Art/ Green Innovators Festival (GA/GI). GA/GI is now in its 7th year as part of the "Unblurred First Fridays," series managed by the Bloomfield/Garfield Corporation.

During the festival event, galleries, restaurants and other businesses theme their events around GA/GI's eco/tech mission, allowing for the spectrum of Unblurred arts and exhibitions to expand. The festival invites organizations, companies and eco/tech stakeholders who might not otherwise meet to network into a community arts setting where they are provided with an opportunity to do outreach and gain new perspectives as they test and experiment with their projects and programs within a vibrant public venue.

Proof of the event's impact is far reaching. One of the festival's first participants, the University of Pittsburgh's Mobile Science Lab, discovered they could reach a younger demographic than they had originally thought, and learned they were well suited for doing festivals, which up to that point they had never done. Another year, CMU's science department took up the entire top floor of the Glass Lofts, demonstrating how to make nitro ice cream and a virgin bloody Mary, they called "a bloody shame." Other universities such as Chatam and Duquesne have benefited from the GA/GI format as well. Penn Avenue galleries, like Most Wanted Fine Art, have brought in internationally known artists.

" We have been fortunate to have nearly every college in the city involved with GA/GI in the last seven years. We've had artists who have gone on to wonderful careers, and businesses who have expanded their horizons. We make it simple to participate in the event. We'd just as soon have an unfinished project, as a finished one," said Team GA/GI Director, Christine Bethea. "It's amazing what can happen when ordinary people get to weigh-in before something is fully developed. And it's all happening with the support of the Bloomfield Garfield business community."

This year GA/GI is a key community-lead event in Pittsburgh's bicentennial, and visitors will enjoy some very unique programming. There's a collaborative installation of eco/tech and art being hosted at the Pittsburgh Glass Center by Adam Keene of Speak Life Storytellers with dance coordinated by the Kelly Strayhorn Theater. This will also be the grand opening of the first Garfield Night Market of the season with the Pittsburgh Bonsai Society doing a pop-up event nearby. In addition, Daniel McCloskey, creator of Free Money, has done a distribution of 35,000 comics in the East End to support literacy. He will be available to show his work and his discuss his journey. Another venue, The Irma Freeman Center, continues its exhibition of sights and sounds from pre-war Syria, collected by a heavy metal rock musician.

"Every year, we find more amazing people," said Bethea. "This city just keeps getting better."

GA/GI Festival @ Unblurred on Penn is on May 6 from 6-ll pm, located at venues between 4800-5500 Penn Avenue (Mathilda to Negley), and is produced by the Passports Art Diversity Project in partnership with the Bloomfield Garfield Corporation, The Kelly Strayhorn Theater, Pittsburgh Glass Center, Pittsburgh Technology Council and others. For more info visit

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Snow Storms Expose Inherent Weakness of Suburban Design

Hopefully, It's self evident that road systems with many redundancies are inherently safer, and less exposed to catastrophic traffic backups.

A Washington D.C. based blog did a short post on how the region's beltway designs made the recent huge snow storm much worse.

"Urban street grids are more resilient than road systems focused around large highways, because of how they're laid out.

The great thing about interconnected grids is that if one street becomes blocked, there's another perfectly good street one block over. And another one block down.
If a wrecked car or fallen tree or whatever blocks the street you're on, you just take a different street. There might be some additional turns involved; it might not be quite as direct. But for the most part 28th Street isn't all the different from 29th Street.

Contrast that with suburban-style systems where all traffic in a particular area funnels onto one big highway. If that one highway becomes impassible, everyone in the area is stuck. Or, at best, they have to drive miles out of their way to find the next big highway."
Amazingly, our "expert" engineers and central planners have spent the last 70 years replacing, naturally rational and resilient street grids with designs prone to massive failure.

That's part of what happened last night. There were a lot of accidents crashes. If they happened on arterial highways with no parallel roads, which a lot of them did, that road would succumb to gridlock.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Pittsburgh Firm That Helped Create The South's Jim-Crow Era Racial Zoning Maps

Most urbanists are painfully aware how today's zoning laws tend to segregate people by race, class and age. Families with kids in large houses live here; Students here; Poor renters here etc....

But, this story I discovered unlocks the not so secret intent of laws which have remained surprisingly unchanged over many decades. They were designed to do exactly that! The first zoning codes were developed in Southern Cities to explicitly segregate blacks from whites, followed by California laws to restrict Asian's

After The Supreme Court struck down those codes, Northern engineering and consulting firms helped create maps that would create these results, legally. Often nothing more was done, other than replace racial designations with letters and numbers. Similar laws soon were adopted across the country, including Pittsburgh's in 1923.

The Pittsburgh based firm of Morris Knowles was instrumental in creating Jim-Crow Era maps for cities like Birmingham and Charleston, South Carolina. It also was a key player in the design of Pittsburgh's first major zoning law.

"The meaning of those diagonal lines isn't stated on the map's key, but what was plainly understood then, in Jim Crow-era Birmingham, is that they represented areas where blacks, by a local law, were allowed to live."

Still learning more about the origin of the laws that still shape our city. Will try to follow up with more several more posts.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Act Shocked: Pittsburgh Leaders Surprised Again by the Loss of Downtown Retail

Guess I'll be back posting some. This topic is obviously worthy of a longer take, but honestly, could the reasons for this decline be more self evident?

Almost every action of city government has placed tourists, visitors and above all parking before residential development and livability in and near the downtown. Not surprisingly, retail has died.

Compare Downtown Pittsburgh to the booming emerging/reviving East Liberty district. The difference is the intricate, dense, connected neighborhoods around East Liberty- Shadyside, Squirrel Hill, Friendship, Bloomfield, Oakland that support retail.

Government thugs destroyed and removed residents from the Hill District, gutted the heart of Allegheny City and removed housing from the Strip. What did they think would happen?

Here we go again!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Art and Urbanism Link Roundup

Haven't been able to keep up weekly link posts.

Anyway, here are a bunch of recent Art and Urbanism links I found interesting.


The next must-live Cleveland neighborhood is... (Freshwater Cleveland)

One of Cleveland's critical, loved artist studio buildings to become office space (Freshwater Cleveland)

Mountain Bike Pump Track coming to South Euclid (Freshwater Cleveland)

Huffington Post names Cleveland number one "Beercation Destination". (Huffington Post)

Jetsetter names Cleveland one of the top 10 new food cities ( 

Cleveland Performance Art Festival archives moves to Case Western Reserve University (

Cleveland Warehouse District Festival brings acrobats, music, art, cute dogs to downtown (

Anish Kapoor's shiny C curve sculpture outside of The Cleveland Museum scorches grass (

Bike Sharing grows in Cleveland, with art museum, library, other new locations (Cleveland,com)

Stylish new Cleveland School of the Arts building opens in University Circle (Cleveland,com)


Want to turn Pittsburgh into a power player? Make flying to and from easier. (Pop City)

My response here

Time for a long overdue talk about Pittsburgh's waterfront stadiums (Diggingpitt)

With parking on North Shore in flux, developer gets extension on apartments  (Stadium owners have to allow apartments under deal that guarantees parking) (Pittsburgh Post Gazette_

Recent Penn Plaza evictions highlight East Liberty's severe lack of affordable housing. (Pittsburgh City Paper)

Pittsburgh task force on affordable housing to convene Thursday (Pittsburgh Post Gazette)

City affordable housing task force convenes for the first time (Essential Pittsburgh)

Why blacks are not part of the vision of a Pittsburgh "comeback". (Pittsburgh Courier)

Is East End renewal really "black removal?" (Pittsburgh Courier)

Free Jazz pops ups in unexpected hot spots (Pop City)

As bicycle commuting rises, so does the danger of  pedaling by trucks (Public Source)

Pittsburgh rated a favorite food city by 

Find unforgettable art in a most unlikely place: A Pittsburgh Mattress Factory (NPR- National Public Radio)

Fuerza! event celebrates Latinos making a difference in Pittsburgh  (Pop City)

What happens in Pittsburgh stays in Pittsburgh (An  honest post about the isolation of Pittsburgh's art scene) (Pittsburgh Articulate)

Other Urbanism and Architecture News

How conservative pundits have become the most vocal champions of smart urban planning (Pacific Standard)

Is this how to keep Indy's gentrifying neighborhoods affordable to homeowners?  (IndyStar)

Ferguson: The black iron fences of St. Louis (Belt Magazine)

10 years of change: The evolution of Detrot's non motorized transportation network (Model D)

Hypergentrification and the dissapearance of local businesses   (Governing)

America's biggest problem is concentrated poverty, not inequality. (Citylab)

Do outdoor smoking bans mostly punish the homeless? (Citylab)

Coming soon to America, one fare card for all transit (Citylab)

Florida's privately funded passenger rail plan chugs forward amid opposition (Citylab)

Should Tampa Bay embrace new urbanism? (Tampa Bay Times)

When sports fans fight, Why violence in the stands, online rage are spreading (The Seattle Times)

Pentagon orders Ferguson to return Humvees amid concerns about police militarization (Rawstory)

Art, Archaeology and Design news

Wind powered sculptures designed to outlive us all (Hyperallergic)

A new museum is a beacon for lighthouse history (Hyperallergic)

Cannabis discovered in pipes in William Shakespeare's gardern (The Telegraph)

Have humans evolved to love art? (Artnet)

New York's Hasted Kreutler Gallery closes amid accusations of financial misdeeds (Artnet)

Honolulu Museum sues art collector for nearly $1 million over donation of allegedly smuggled artwork (Artnet)

Sotheby's misses estimates in "bumpy" second quarter (Artnet)

Queen Nefertiti's burial chamber could lie behind Tutankhamun's tomb (The Art Newspaper)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

"What happens in Pittsburgh stays in Pittsburgh" An honest post about our isolated visual art scene on Pittsburgh Articulate

Another Pittsburgh native and CMU grad, Cy Gavin may be on his way to art world glory.
A writer on Pittsburgh Articulate has noticed how his history here has been erased from his NYC gallery bio to make it seem they were the first ones to ever show his work.
"Why would Sargent’s Daughters make a claim that is so clearly false? Could it be an honest mistake? Unlikely. For an older, better-known artist these types of “firsts” tend to slide into obscurity, but for a young artist like Gavin with a short exhibition history, a glance at his CV should have revealed the truth.
Maybe the artist himself hoped to re-write his CV to have his debut sparkle with the light of New York City. If so, that would be dishonest and rude. But either way, writing press releases is not the artist’s job. Gallery press officers are responsible for doing the research and getting it right. 
This latest episode with Cy Gavin seems to reaffirm the sad fact that what happens in Pittsburgh, however awesome, stays in Pittsburgh. Revision Space is just too small and too far to see from New York City."
  The post also mentions the disappearance of Pittsburgh's pioneering, Outlines Gallery from the conventional narrative. 

I left a few thoughts in the comment section. Glad that some people see this isolation as a problem. 

The author hits on a huge point, so depressing, I try not to dwell on it. 
A show of Keith Haring sketchbooks from 1979 @ Barbara Gladstone Gallery made no mention of his time here- in spite of sketch titles, like drawing at The Carnegie,;drawing on Atwood St & Steel City drawing. Who knows his first solo was at the Pittsburgh Center For The Arts? His “real life” began in NYC. 
Likewise, Teenie Harris still draws blank stares among far too many outside our city.
But, what role does Pittsburgh itself play in this? If most galleries, foundations and media only support local artists why should anyone outside the city take notice or care. Artists sooner or later are left with the choice of accepting the joy of life in a bubble or leaving. 
Would the Mattress Factory be a nationally known venue if it refused to show a range of national and international artists? 
This website, of for and about art in Pittsburgh and only Pittsburgh is a good example of the problem. However awesome, its probably of little interest to anyone outside a 100 mile radius.
A further comment by me

Pittsburgh galleries, foundations and art centers help create this isolation.
How often, do local galleries show artists from Cleveland, Columbus, D.C., Baltimore or anywhere outside a very small local area? One of the main ways to gain regional and national press or collectors is to mix local and national artists. 
Almost nobody I know in NYC, has heard of The Pittsburgh Center For The Arts, because it rarely shows non local artists. FE Gallery did that and got reviews in national publications. Spaces like Bunker Projects are inviting artists from outside the city. 
Sites like ArtHopper and Belt Magazine that link stories and reviews across a wider region tend to get a broader audience..Both are centered in Cleveland. 
Someone from Revision Space pointed out that they do regularly show both local and national artists and... they will be included in a major Art Fair!

My final thought:

This goes back to talks I had with one of the early creators of this site.
I told them, what Pittsburgh needed above all, was a website that reviewed across a wider region, like the Texas art site, Glasstire. I also pointed out that an image rich site w\as critical to since many may never see these shows in person.
This site is awesome, but why would anyone outside the area be interested in a site without lots of images, that only covered Pittsburgh art?
This is not brain surgery.

Pittsburgh needs- more galleries that link local and national artists.

More art sites like Arthopper that connect art in a wider region  

More local critics and writers on Arthopper and national sites like Hyperallergic

More residency programs open to artists from outside of Pittsburgh

More juried shows and events open to artists outside the region

Projects that create collaborations between local and global artists

Programs that invite national curators into the city

Inclusion of local galleries in national and global art fairs.

More symposiums that include national and local artists.

Projects that bring national critics and art bloggers to tour the city.

Please share your thoughts on here or in the Articulate comment thread. I'm sure I just scratched the surface- In a high tech connected world, interaction is not hard to create if its really a goal.