OK, Pittsburgh is finally having a few moments in the sun- or at least the camera glare. As much as Luke and others might want to take credit for this, the biggest factor is that the city, itself, it's hills, it's vistas, it's colleges, cultural institutions and diverse and often quirky art scene have been worthy of press for sometime. Um the Steelers don't hurt.
But why now? Are there factors at work that make us more interesting now than before? IMHO- Yes.
Here's my little theory.
Factor One: Costs Matter
As awake from the Dot Com bubble and then the bigger housing/consumer debt bubble that replaced it, individuals and small and large businesses are seeing that a new bubble is not coming to fill our wallets. "The New Normal" is about finding prudent rational ways to make the most of what you have. Of course, I've known this was coming for some time-- which is why I invested in an Indian mutual fund riding the outsourcing trend in 1998 and also why I decided to move to Pittsburgh to start a gallery. The world needs places like Pittsburgh and it's looking for them.
This cost push factor, I think also inspired Karen Lillis and many other creative folks to move here or stay after college. Many, sincere hardcore artists like Swoon's crew see that low costs and cheap buildings can offer a freedom they can't have otherwise. Cheap is the secret behind the startups in Youngstown and the major variable that puts the region high on lists of livable places.Even Detroit is finding a price range ($100 for a house) at which it looks good.
Factor Two: Connections Matter
If costs are such a big deal, why has it taken so long for things to catch on?(and they are barely starting)
Great cities are about trade, in skills, in goods and in ideas and that means they can be measured best by the ease at which they are connected internaly and to the world. When I opened my gallery, I quickly realised something big was missing. It was just too hard to make connections here-to link to new people to get news out and especially to get make any links to the outside world. Of course, geography pleyed it's part but something weird and toxic was going on. The Internet wasn't new and Pittsburgh was where a chunk of it's technology was born, so why did so few galleries and institutions like the cultural trust have good websites? Why didn't the tourism bureau or someone- anyone try to at least provide small bare links to the tiny broke galleries and institutions. Why was there no comprehensive online culture guides? Why was there no printed gallery and Museum Guide? A lot of money was being spent, so that wasn't the reason. It had to be something cultural.
Since then, a rapid and significant bursting of blogs, guides, wiki-pages and web magazines has taken place that has helped Pittsburgh artists, writers and filmmakers tell their story to the wider world and link better to each other.
So now things are starting to pay off. Thanks to Blogs like I Heart Pittsburgh, This blog and Bittersweet Harvest as well as great online newsletters like POP City, it's now much easier to find out what's going on where which is helping generate more out of town press coverage that goes beyond a few major events and attractions.
May's New York Magazine arts travel story, mentioned both POP City, this blog and The Original (which I hadn't heard of!) as sources of info.
Factor Three: Diaspora's can help
I won't go into it but the fact that Yinzer nation is so huge and spread across the globe hasn't hurt too much. A lot of people- are secretly pulling for or at least curious about their old hometown. Not all will move back but that dosn't mean that are not usefull. Any inventory of Pittsburgh's assets has to account for them.
Will get back with more thoughts and stuff about recent Burgh Buzz.