Friday, December 30, 2011

Street Art Project In Cleveland Plays On Local History

From a distance, the main focus of the Art Collective, known as Cleveland SGS has been to document historic signs, and the unrecognised locals that make the city unique.

A recent project, took things a step further by covering a large building's windows with cryptic signs that reference a forgotten part of Cleveland's past.

From Vandalog: Cleveland SGS pays tribute to a neighborhood icon

The widely held belief is that this area, didn't have much of a past, or any prospects, until the Cleveland Foundation and The Cleveland Clinic, came along. The signs bring back the much more complex story of a highly successful local entrepreneur and a decades long fight to save his property.

From the Wikipedia

Winston Earl Willis (b. October 21, 1939) is a formerly successful American real estate developer who first came to local prominence in Cleveland, Ohio during the early 1960s. At the time, one of the most successful business owner/operators in the country, he created and controlled a corporation, University Circle Properties Development, Inc. (UCPD, Inc.) that owned one of the most strategic and valuable real estate parcels in Cleveland and was the largest employer of blacks in that part of the country. Under his solely-owned UCPD corporation at East 105th and Euclid, upwards of 23 successful businesses were running simultaneously and exhibiting tremendous success.

Winston was quick to see the opportunity to create businesses in the area near University Circle.

The acquired experience of having operated several successful small businesses led to a quick assessment of the local college community that would prove to have been very shrewd. After securing a lease on a building that was previously an automobile dealership showroom, 19-year-old Willis opened The Jazz Temple, a liquor-less coffeehouse/night club, to immediate success. Situated on a small triangular lot on Mayfield Road near Euclid Avenue and adjacent to the Western Reserve University campus, his institutional neighbors were the Cleveland Museum of Art, University Hospital, and Severance Hall, home of the Cleveland Orchestra. The club also bordered the ethnic enclave known as Murray Hill/Little Italy.

Willis approached such legendary jazz artists as Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Dizzie Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Cannonball Adderley, The Ramsey Lewis Trio, and Dinah Washington and convinced them to come to Cleveland to appear at his club. Not only did they appear and perform before standing-room-only crowds, but such notable acts at the trendy establishment also attracted visits from Malcolm X, and Stokely Carmichael, and booked performances from other notables such as comedians Red Foxx, Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor and Dick Gregory. The popular night spot, frequently referred to as “the Jazz Mecca”, was hugely successful and became a regular hang-out for college students from throughout and around the State of Ohio. But that success was short lived. As is typical of jazz establishments – there was much race-mixing and numerous interracial couples in attendance. This triggered community wide resentment in the racially polarized community, and after months of threats and intimidation, a vanguard of vengeful racists planted a bomb in the club, thereby ending the brief history of one of the most successful jazz spots of the region.

So anyway, as you might guess, the major power players like the universities, foundations and The Cleveland Clinic conspired to take his properties away.

Having found no support in the courts from a campaign of fines and other harassment. Winston turned desperately to putting up billboards.

I like the way, this project subtly brings up this injustice without being just angry and bombastic. It's a tribute to the man.

More about the project on Cleveland SGS


Blogging the Pittsburgh Literary Scene

Zine writer Artnoose reads to a crowd at Belvedere's, July 2011.

Over at my literary blog, Karen the Small Press Librarian, I am posting year-end Best of the Small Press lists (as I have for the past few years) from small press authors, editors, reading series hosts, and other indie lit movers and shakers. This year I did something different and chose participants from the many small press folks who visited or read in Pittsburgh in 2011. This gives me a chance to highlight the Pittsburgh literary scene along the way (on my normally-not-Pittsburgh-focused small press blog).

I am sometimes surprised by how little is known (outside of the literary scene) about Pittsburgh readings. I get the impression that some people think the sum total of Pittsburgh's literature is a number of colleges bringing in national writers, and maybe a few local poets scribbling things in isolation, plus Michael Chabon. But the city has a flourishing, supportive scene of small presses, reading series, literary magazines, bookstores, homegrown poets, transplanted writers, and visiting authors, unconnected to/in addition to the universities.

So check out the December posts at my blog to see just a small fraction of what went on in Pittsburgh letters in 2011. I may extend a few days into January, too, so check back if it interests you.

Poet Nick Demske reads at Lili Coffee Shop in Polish Hill, September.

Poet Bob Pajich reads at ModernFormations with The New Yinzer Presents reading series, March.

Fiction author Gary Lutz reads at Awesome Books on Penn Avenue, August.

Writer Lori Jakiela (R) and teammate won the Literary Death Match at Brillobox in November.

Fleeting Pages pop-up bookstore brought small press books to a former Borders space in East Liberty, May 2011.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

ArtPrize Still Sparking Debate On Twitter

Sorry, I have a ton of posts I need to do.

Paddy Johnson of Art Fag city is getting feedback about listing ArtPrize as on her top shows list.

"Over at WNYC, Carolina Miranda takes issue with my naming of ArtPrize as one of the year’s best exhibitions. Frankly, I’m surprised it took this long for someone to say something. The contest doesn’t exactly meet the standard criteria us Chelsea folk use to evaluate art; experts (and collectors) do not determine the worth of a work but two rounds of public voting will. You can imagine the quality of these results. Plus, ArtPrize promotion is the hokiest of hokey. Using a formula that exalts the power of democracy by invoking both American-Idol and Internet 2.0 euphoria, the “radically open” contest rhetoric couldn’t be more grating."

Follow the talk on twitter by looking for the #Artprize hashtag. Likely that more than 80% of the commenters, including myself have never experienced the event.

Detritus - Tom Norulak solo at 709 Penn


I love those unanticipated hours, where you aren't committed to being somewhere or doing something. Last week, I happened to have one of those little schedule gaps while I was downtown. Putting the time to good use, I swung by 709 Penn Gallery, and I'm so glad that I did.

I very much admire Tom Norulak's work, and his solo, Detritus, provides an overview of his etchings over the last several years. The images are predominantly of industrial and consumer waste, abandoned and overtaken by nature. Not just the softly decayed and greyed flotsam of paper wrappers, though. This series concentrates on larger pieces of waste, like old tires and abandoned oil rigs, and sawblades.

Without exception, the images are in black and white. While the works are grounded in objective imagery, the prints have abstract qualities that show a sense of exploration beyond the immediate. The lighter textures seem gritty and grainy, but on closer examination have an almost crystalline structure. The very deep blacks seem to come away from the surface, or in some instances appear calligraphic. The prints bear up to close examination, providing a complex experience of subject and aesthetics.

I think you can bring your own thoughts to this exhibit; Mr. Norulak has provided the viewer with the information to draw their own conclusions without the condescension of an arts-based "teaching moment" and without brazenly dictating an agenda.

Etchings by Tom Norulak
November 25, 2011 - January 8, 2012
709 Penn Gallery
The Trust’s Education & Community Engagement department

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Back In Youngstown For The Holidays? Tour The Thriving Tech Incubators!

The holidays can be a strange bittersweet time in cities in which so many have left.In both Cleveland and Pittsburgh,the diaspora swells The Warhol,Carnegie and Cleveland Museum after Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Recently, cities like Cleveland and Youngstown have made efforts to reach out, make connections and counter some of the negative opinions many who left may have had. Not an easy task, in a few short free days, most people are spending with their family.

Youngstown is providing tours of it's hot and rapidly growing, downtown technology incubators.

From I Will Shout Youngstown

Thursday, Dec 22
Tours from 9am to 5pm leave at the top of the hour, led by YBI Chief Evangelist Jim Cossler. RSVP needed.

Friday, Dec 23

Tours from 7am to 10am leave at the top of the hour, led by YBI Chief Evangelist Jim Cossler. RSVP needed.

Monday, Dec 26

Two tours at 11am and 1pm leave at the top of the hour, led by YBI staff.
Meet Dean Abraham of YSU's STEM College!
Check out the new OH WOW! Technology Museum!
Discounts for downtown eateries!

call 330-599-4583 to reserve a spot

Friday, December 23, 2011

City Of Asylum's Bookstore/Cultural Center Approved In Spite Of Insane Car Oriented Zoning

Sometimes, I think all the posts I do about urbanism and design are a boring distraction on a blog originally started to cover the exciting cultural scene in Pittsburgh. But I'm constantly reminded how important they can be.

You may have been really excited to hear about plans to create a small bookstore/cultural center a few steps away from The Mattress Factory.

After years of complaints from residents about criminal behavior surrounding the bar, the Manteca closed voluntarily in April 2008 under threat of action by the Allegheny County district attorney a month after two patrons were shot, one fatally, upon leaving the bar.

At the time, Mr. Reese had an option to buy the bar as one of three adjacent parcels he wanted for an expansion of City of Asylum's presence and mission.

As Literary Ventures LLC, he bought a house two addresses from the bar in 2006. In October 2008, he bought the vacant lot beside it and the Manteca beside the lot. The two buildings will be razed to accommodate a nearly 4,000-square-foot building with an interior, glassed-in courtyard. The center will house a bookstore, a cafe, a public gathering space for readings, performances and other events, and two upstairs apartments.

What's not to love? A dangerous, poorly kept up bar and small empty lot in a still struggling but improving part the city is replaced by a small cultural center, run by a respected non profit. People can come and listen to poetry and music, thumb through a diverse selection of books, perhaps attend a workshop or class?

Oooops--wait--how many people? WHAT ABOUT PARKING??!!!

From today's Post Gazette

Zoning requirements for the integrated uses -- a cafe, bookstore and two apartments -- required eight spaces.

Thankfully, in this case of a popular project, in a very historic and walkable part of the city-an adjustment to these rules was made-after a study showing peak use would be unlikely to cause problems.

You have to wonder how zoning codes like this effect the rest of the city since the easy, default option is always to make more space for cars and less for people.

2012 Whitney Biennial List Released: Includes Former Braddock Native LaToya Ruby Frazier

I still can never get, why this single show, in a moderately sized NY museum is still considered the standard survey of the new, cutting edge and important in what is now such a vast interconnected world.

"The Whitney Biennial is an exhibition held every two years in which the Museum gauges the current state of contemporary art in America." Fat chance. At best it' gives some insight into what the small clique of curators feel is hot.

Even so, here is the list of 2012 Biennial artists.

Kai Althoff
Thom Andersen
Charles Atlas
Lutz Bacher
Forrest Bess
(by Robert Gober)
Michael Clark
Dennis Cooper and
Gisèle Vienne
Cameron Crawford
Moyra Davey
Liz Deschenes
Nathaniel Dorsky
Nicole Eisenman
Kevin Jerome
Vincent Fecteau
Andrea Fraser
LaToya Ruby
Vincent Gallo
K8 Hardy
Richard Hawkins
Werner Herzog
Jerome Hiler
Matt Hoyt
Dawn Kasper
Mike Kelley
John Kelsey
John Knight
Jutta Koether
George Kuchar
Laida Lertxundi
Kate Levant
Sam Lewitt
Joanna Malinowska
Andrew Masullo
Nick Mauss
Richard Maxwell
Sarah Michelson
Alicia Hall Moran and
Jason Moran
Laura Poitras
Matt Porterfield
Luther Price
Lucy Raven
The Red Krayola
Kelly Reichardt
Elaine Reichek
Michael Robinson
Georgia Sagri
Michael E. Smith
Tom Thayer
Wu Tsang
Oscar Tuazon
Frederick Wiseman

As usual, a few like Robert Gober, Mike Kelly and Nicole Eisenman are very established artists. The general flavor from what I have read and the few names, I recognize is a strong tilt towards work that blurs categories-lots of performance, film (Werner Herzog), photography, protest, etc...

LaToya Ruby Frazier, who for the last three years or so has lived in the NY area is on the list. It will be interesting to see what she does.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Nice Video About Creation Of Crop Bistro In A Classic Cleveland Building


I'm not a historic preservation nut-there sometimes are good reasons for radically changing or demolishing historic buildings.

That being said, they just don't make places of dignity and elegance like this Cleveland Landmark every day. Here is a great video I came across about the transformation of the ground floor space into a highly rated restaurant.

United Bank Building

The 9-story, 1.5 million dollar United Bank Building opened in 1925 as the tallest and largest commercial building on Cleveland's west side. It was one of the last of a series of classical bank buildings constructed in Cleveland during the 1910s and 1920s, a golden age for the city's banking industry. The selection of Cleveland in 1914 as one of twelve cities to house a branch of the new Federal Reserve Bank helped fuel this growth, as did the city's emergence as a major industrial center around the turn of the 20th-century. Many of the city's banks, however, did not make it through the stock market crash of October 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression. The United Banking & Trust Company, founded on Cleveland's west side in the 1880s, was a victim of the crash, and it merged with Central National Bank just a month afterwards in November 1929

Crop is on Lorain Ave in Ohio City, a few steps away from the landmark, West Side Market.

Follow the link to learn more.

The Dark Knight Rises Official Batman Trailer #2...Some Familar Scenes Here

Many cities in this trailer, I'm sure. But there are a lot of scenes of Pittsburgh. Fortunately, the atmosphere here in the Burgh isn't usually so dark and ominous. Unless, for example, the Steelers had a twenty point loss the night before and it is dark and rainy (like this past Tuesday).
Like so many others, I enjoyed seeing the movie being filmed here!!!! And I am looking forward to seeing it. For the trailer, go here

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

New to Cleveland: A Guide to Rediscovering the City: Review on Rustwire

If Cleveland is to have a bright future, it will have to appeal to people who didn't share the same kindergarten class. Good guides to help those newcomers are pretty rare.

Rust Wire reviewed a new one.

"I like that Justin focuses on quality-of-life amenities that are important to the young professional crowd. The stuff that makes Cleveland neighborhoods livable, this book emphasizes, are walkability, transit access, cultural amenities, recreational opportunities (like yoga studios), and even (and I really like this one) diversity.

In my view Justin’s appraisal of city neighborhoods is much more honest and thoughtful that the usual appraisals we get in Cleveland, e.g. Cleveland Magazine’s “rating the suburbs” which encourages readers to adopt lifestyle choices that are liable to have their spending all their free time sitting on the driver’s seat of a car or on the couch (while “saving” a few precious dollars on taxes)."

The HillVille Looks At A Big Placemaking Trend: Downtown Skating Rinks

The HillVille, is a new project aimed at creating dialog among Appalachian cities. I'm really digging it's positive vibes.

Cities On the Rink: Ice Skating Designed for Downtown.

"Greenville, S.C. and Lexington, Ky., opened rinks this November for the first time. Knoxville’s Holidays on Ice has been in Market Square since the mid-2000s, and a rink opened in Pittsburgh’s PPG Place in 2001.

While ice-skating is quintessential wintery fun, it also represents a movement by city leaders toward creating public spaces that are active, engaging destinations even in the coldest months.

Dana Souza, parks and recreation director for the city of Greenville, said Ice on Main, a 3,200 square foot rink surrounded by a hotel, city hall, offices and restaurants, is indicative of the city’s values."

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Win Passes to Every 2012 Beachland Ballroom Show

OK, if you live around Cleveland, this is a pretty great prize to go for.

Pretty much, just what it says. You enter on their Facebook page. Deadline December 29th

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Hillville, Online Journal Looks at Appalachia's Urban Side

From The Hillville:

"Maybe it’s because we’re all attached to our region’s rural past, so imprinted are we with our grandparents stories, we can’t stop thinking or writing about it. Or, the issues that dominate conversation happen to be in our rural quarters, like mining, mountain top removal and ameliorating poverty."

A deeply flawed mythology, since Appalachia is increasingly an urban place, impacted by the role of cities in and around it.

"Almost 60 percent of the region’s 24.8 million people live in urbanized areas, and if current demographic trends hold, that number will increase. The feds define Appalachia as a 205,000-square-mile region that follows the spine of the Appalachian Mountains from southern New York to northern Mississippi. Within that span, there are larger cities with more than a 100,000 people, like Birmingham, Huntsville, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Asheville and Pittsburgh. And, there are dozens of medium-size cities like Greenville, S.C., Charleston, W.V., and Scranton, Pa."

Surprise, but a careful look shows that the emerging, giant of Atlanta, is at the edge of the region.

Even more surprising at least to those who carry the old stereotypes, is how popular and successful many cities like Chattanooga, Asheville and now Pittsburgh have started to become.

So far, I see a very high level of quality in the posts.

The Hillville

Buzz from the Atlantic.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Best Holiday Desserts and Pastries in Pittsburgh (Susan on CBS Local)

I am sure this sugar plum mouse would be nibbling on these if she could.
A round up of the best sweet stuff for the holidays by Susan Constanse on CBS Local. For the round-up go here

Walking Tour of Johnstown's Amazing Architecture

I have still never visited Johnstown but it always looks fascinating from the train, dramatic, Western PA landscape, old steel mills, churches and even an incline!

The Johnstown Area Heritage Association (JAHA), has a very in depth walking tour of some of downtown's historic and diverse buildings.

Once again, I will plug the idea of hosting a single day or weekend of tours so people can really discover these buildings from the inside.

A Walking Tour of Johnstown

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Organizations Plan to Give Cleveland Area Homes To Immigrants

I gotta admit to not knowing many details about this but I have a few thoughts, both positive and negative.

The solution is The Discovering Home Program, which is a joint effort by the Cuyahoga Land Bank and the International Services Center.

Together, they want to turn neighborhoods around by offering struggling immigrants housing. The refugees will have to agree to fix them up. The hope is that families will take great pride in their homes and help stabilize neighborhoods. Many believe it is a win-win situation

Right off the bat, I'm impressed by any efforts in the Cleveland area to not just obsess over everyone leaving, but attract new residents. Any thinking in that direction is a big plus.

I also, see that ownership is to be gained by fixing up the homes. Here, I have some pretty strong doubts. If no cash investment of any kind is made, one is likely to repeat the same kind of easy come-easy go buyers with no equity that helped create the housing mess. Remember that in many cases, you will be asking people to move into shaky and damaged communities in a region with abundant low cost housing.

I have doubts that incentives like this will draw people who find the homes and neighborhoods of real value since price alone is the main draw.

Contrast that, for example with efforts to attract artists who see the benefits of living in a place with lots of other creatives.

That being said, many larger immigrant families would fit well with single family housing stock.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Beautiful Letter From George Romero in Support of Chapel Restoration

Earlier, I posted about efforts to save the Evan's City Cemetery Chapel, one of the last remaining major artifacts featured in George Romero's iconic, low budget masterpiece, Night of The Living Dead.

$50,000 is needed in less than a year.

From The Post Gazette:

"They welcomed us, in some cases fed us, and occasionally even agreed to play small roles in the film. They gave us all their support and then some. In this way they became the first people to not only approve but endorse what we were attempting to do.

"It was as if, in accepting us, they were willing to accept the far-fetched idea that a film made by what could only be called 'amateurs' might just possibly have a chance at success. The people of Evans City in effect 'teamed up' with us, subscribed to our hopes and dreams as if they were their own.

"The film, 'Night of the Living Dead,' was, as its title suggests, a horror film, which further prejudiced its chance at any sort of lasting attention, but the people of Evans City knew nothing about box-office shares or audience-response polls.

"We believed, so they believed. And, in a hundred ways, they enabled us to complete the film."

A long article. Apparently, Romero had tried to contact the people behind the efforts and after some bounced emails, had to send..a letter.

Friday, December 09, 2011

ArtPrize Boosts It's Juried Prize: Is That a Good Thing?

Michigan's ArtPrize is an event that right off the bat combined creative placemaking, art, economic development and public interaction in ways that excited me.

Likewise, in spite of it's success,(and the fact it's not in NY or LA) the art establishment has mostly ignored or tried to look down on it. "Oh My God, they really voted a non ironic religious piece the top award!"

For better or worse, Artprize is tipping the scale away from public voting and more towards "expert jurors".

From Hyperallergic

The top public vote award will be a little smaller next year, $200,000 instead of the $250,000 offered this year, but the organization is adding a brand new juried award of $100,000, which puts it in the same monetary league at the Hugo Boss Prize (also $100,000) and considerably more than the Turner Prize with its £25,000 award (roughly $39,000).

Some facts about ArtPrize 2011:

-1,582 artists from 39 countries and 43 US states took part

-The participating artists installed their work at 164 venues in a three-square-mile district in Grand Rapids

-38,000 registered voters submitted 383,000 total votes for the public prize

-Smartphones increased voting 62%

Artprize 2011 Timelapse from Michael Cook on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

In New York Region: Retailers Design More Around Transit

Urban Retailers Call For More Transit, Less Parking

Obviously the trend is stronger in the greater NY region, but a lot of talk at International Council of Shopping Centers conference in Manhattan seemed to be about adpting retail better to transit and denser urban design. Speakers included reps from Burlington Coat Factory, Sports Authority, BJ's Wholesale Club and a number of major real estate developers.

As retailers continue to weave suburban concepts into the urban fabric, more brands—and big-boxes—are going vertical. But as the pendulum swings in favor of transit-oriented development, the nation’s top retailers agreed that the need for mass transportation is beginning to outweigh the need for traditional parking design, according to speakers during day two of the International Council of Shopping Centers’ 2011 New York National Conference & Deal Making event. The convention closed out at the Sheraton New York and Hilton New York Hotels on Tuesday afternoon, where total attendance exceeded 6,000 each day.

During the general session, much of the discussion revolved around the challenges retailers face, running the gamut from site selection, obtaining local approvals, expansion concerns and store formats. The panelists also addressed the paradigm shift of retailers like wholesale clubs and supermarkets—two concepts borne out of the suburbs—that are finding equal strength in cities, especially near subway and bus lines.

An earlier post I did on urban retail formats in NYC

Pittsburgh Biennial @ Miller Gallery Reviewed in Hyperallergic

It's a bit strange that the awesome online art magazine, Hyperallergic only reviewed this one part of the multi venue Biennial. However, in some ways it's not that surprising since this show of artist collectives and collaborative projects might have the greatest relevance outside of Pittsburgh.

"The exhibition at Miller Gallery, curated by gallery director Astria Suparak, features five artist-teams, all with some connection to Pittsburgh. Although the Biennial’s publicity describes the show as an exploration of the art of collaboration, I found concern about space, place and the planet to be another significant thread weaving the works together.

Each collaborative asks the viewer to re-picture the interconnections that make up our experience of the world — to borrow Smith’s terminology. For Smith, this impulse involves the representation of cultural and economic networks on a global scale. The artists at Miller Gallery, however, focus on a wider range of intertwining relationships, spanning not only the global but also ecological, local, urban, public and domestic spaces."

An excellent, long review with a number of images.

The show ends, Sunday, Dec 12

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Pittsburgh Holiday Shopping Tips In Pop City and CBS Local

The other day, CBS Local posted some Pittsburgh area unique shopping ideas, which alone didn't seem long or interesting enough to pass along.

Now Pop City also has a nice list of ideas. Check out all the suggestions.

Pop City: Your all-local guide to great holiday shopping

CBS Local: Guide To Buying Last-Minute Local Gifts

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Run Down Of Cleveland's Holiday Pop Up Shops In Freshwater

Freshwater Cleveland posted a big list of amazing looking pop up stores and holiday festivals to buy unique gifts around Cleveland.

A high percentage of these seem to be on the West Side. Ohio City, Gordon Square etc, but there are some in other places, Downtown and Midtown.

Once again, places like The 78th Street Studios and Tower Press buildings are the focus of energy.

L Magazine's Story On Ex-Patriot Networks, Detroit Nation, Pittsburgh Nation Etc..

L Magazine has a good post about urban diaspora networks, which not surprisingly involves groups from all the major cities in the Rust Belt like Detroit, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh. Most of the usual blogging suspects are quoted, like Aaron Renn (Urbanophile) and Jim Russell (Burgh Diaspora)

Amazingly, active interest in building and exploiting these extended networks is very recent.

My personal views are somewhat mixed in that all levels of engagement need to be fostered, not just with people who left but with all kinds of other people.

It seems like most Rust Belt cities are in a learning curve, moving from Border Guard Bob type efforts to get everyone to stay, to reluctant efforts to get people to comeback to their hometown.

The best ones, acknowledge the natural movement of people while keeping them in touch and involved.

Jacobs acknowledges that networking opportunities and tangible engagement, not just economic redevelopment prospects, should be an important focus for diaspora groups. For people who hope to one day return to their hometowns, social networking is essential in order to replace lost groups of hometown friends who have also left the area. Detroit Nation often organizes road trips back to Detroit where members can socialize with each other, in addition to connecting with Detroit business leaders and experience innovation initiatives first hand.

Detroit Nation isn't the only expat group whose members currently call New York City home. Manhattanite Frits Abell founded the Buffalo Expat Network at the beginning of 2010, after 20 years in NYC. Buffalo Expat Network started out as a Facebook group but has since become an active expat network, connecting former Buffalo residents from all over the world in order to harness talent for Buffalo-based initiatives. Unlike Detroit Nation, Buffalo Expat Network engages their membership more through online communities, although in-person events have been held in New York City. "At the beginning of this year, we decided to focus much more on projects, so we have different expats leading different projects," he says.

IMHO, there needs to be a much broader interest in information and people flow all around. People in Ann Arbor should know Detroit better; folks in Columbus should know Pittsburgh and Cleveland and Indianapolis. It's like looking at a menu and just knowing what's available.

The article does point out that New York City itself benefits from a vast diaspora network.

Monday, December 05, 2011

December Unblurred

The theme for Unblurred in December is large group shows; it seemed like the larger venues on Penn were all doing some variation of this. It was interesting to see the different takes on that idea, and it made for a very active evening. I am sure I missed as much as I got to during December's Unblurred.

Winter in Frames at ModernFormations
Winter in Frames

A fun exhibit of small format works, Winter in Frames invited artists to submit works for public voting. The top three voted artists get a group exhibit. While the gallery typically follows a monthly show rotation, Winter in Frames will remain in place through January 14, when the winners will be announced. If you missed the exhibit opening on December 2, you can always swing by during regular gallery hours, or for first Friday (January 6).

There are several images from the exhibit in the slideshow. And no, I'm not going to say who I voted for. I will say that it was a nice balance of work. Survey shows like this, with no stated theme and no over-arching juror, can be difficult to present. ModernFormation's Director, Jennifer Quinio Hedges, did a phenomenal job with organizing the installation.

Exhibiting artists include --
Ron Copeland, Julie Urban, Dafna Rehavia Hanauer, Jake Reinhart, Lauren Toohey, Donnie Toomer, Steven M. Yeager, Lizzee Solomon, Katie Sussman, Stephen Tuomala, Stephen Knezovich, Nancy Schuster, L.J. Swiech, Carol Skinger, Ruthanne F. Bauerle, Stephen Haynes, Chris Humphrey, Joel Brown, Mark Zets, Jeff Zets, Eric White, Lindy Hazel LaDue, Rebecca Rose, Kristin Turcsanyi, Susan Contanse, Jes LaVecchia, Mark Mangini, Ryan Emmett, Jay DelGreco, Aimee Manion, and Joseph Materkowski.


Irma Freedman Center: Renee Ickes

A special off-the-wall presentation of local artists work, Lascaux to Garfield was a very short exhibit. There were many familiar names, and the exhibit was a joint venture between the Irma Freeman Center and The Puppet Happening.

There were several pieces that stood out for me. Renee Ickes, whose work is pictured above, creates some very cheeky pierced and cut paper pieces. Laurie Trok, who does very intricately layered paper-cut collages, had a couple small pieces in the show. More of her work is available for viewing at her solo show at Morris Levy Gallery, opening December 10.

Puppet Happening is a venture of Tom Sarver's, who has been producing puppet shows in Pittsburgh for years. He had a mini-festival at the Irma Freeman Center over the weekend, and will be doing more in the future.

Exhibiting artists include: Sheila Ali, Alberto Almarza, Ashley Pixelle Andrews, Tommy Bones, Dean Cercone, Victoria Cessna, Matthew Conboy, Thommy Conroy, Murphi Cook, LEX Covato, Mike Cuccaro, George Davis, Tirzah DeCaria, The Dirty Poet, Sam Ditch, Zach Dorn, Kirsten Ervin, Gabe Felice, Irma Freeman, Claudia Giannini, Karen Hartman, Doug Hill, Jennifer Howison, Renee Ickes, Carolyn Kelly, Jessica Langley, Chris Lisowski, Maria Mangano, Jean McClung, Anna Mikolay, David Luis Montano, John Morris, Lindsay O’Leary, Organza Orgazmica (Scott Andrew, Elin Lennox and Michael McParlane collaboration), Larry Rippel, MJ Sadeghi, Nicole Sarver, Tom Sarver, Jessica Scott, Kate Sherman, Moshe Sherman, Kara Skylling, Steve Smith, Oliver Southgate, Jim Storch, Laurie Trok, Robert Zehmisch & Bob Ziller.

Irma Freeman Center for Imagination. 5006 Penn Avenue. Images from the exhibit are available in the slideshow.

Image Box: Robert Pell
Image Box: Robert Pell

Robert Pell's low-relief pieces are very fun and beautifully presented. The works, a combination of drawing and cut-outs, are a tribute to his school notebook doodles.

Study Hall Series, Imagebox, 4933 Penn Ave

Notes of interest
Assemble went hyper local for its December exhibit, with an open call to artists living within ten blocks of the space. Lots of fun stuff, images in the slideshow.

The CottonFactory had their last Tee Rex event of the year. They won't be opening for first Fridays again until March 2012. Note to my artist friends: The CottonFactory has guest vendors for their Tee Rex events. Contact ink[at] for details. 5440 Penn Ave.

Jes LaVecchia has her work at the Mr. Roboto Project. These sweetly-colored, illustrative works are very fun, especially on these dreary winter days. Mr. Roboto is open for several special events in December when you can view the exhibit.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Sad Surprise: Forgery May Be Alive And Well

A lot of people got a shock when a few days ago the very prominent, Knoedler Gallery, suddenly shut it's doors after 165 years in business.

Even more shocking was news, the next day of a major and most likely related investigation.

"In several cases, Ms. Rosales sold the works through an art-world luminary, Ann Freedman, until 2009 the president of the prestigious gallery Knoedler & Company on the Upper East Side. Other works were sold by Julian Weissman, an independent dealer who had worked for Knoedler in the 1980s and had represented Motherwell when he was alive.

Ms. Freedman and Mr. Weissman said through their lawyers that they continued to believe that the works they sold were authentic and that authorities had told them they were not under investigation. But a lawyer for Ms. Rosales, Anastasios Sarikas, acknowledged that she was a target of the inquiry by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Mr. Sarikas said that his client had “never intentionally or knowingly sold artwork she knew to be forged.”

A few years back, it was discovered that the highly respected
founding director of the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art had played an active role in misrepresenting the provenance of a large group of Warhol Brillo Boxes.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Del's of Bloomfield To Get A Major Makover On The Food Network's Restaurant Impossible

Well, I ate at Del's once and while it wasn't one of the worst experiences ever, the food was pretty bad and I never went back.

The concept is to see what can be done in two days, with only 10,000 dollars. While the show is a bit dramatic, there seems to be a sincere empathy with the struggles of local businesses.

Check out I Heart Pittsburgh's post about it.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

An Urbanist's View of The Penn State Scandal

The following opinion is my own and may not be shared by other posters to this blog.

Most likely you have heard of this.

From Sports Illustrated

"For a prominent university, Penn State is remarkably isolated, nestled in the hinterlands of Pennsylvania, six hours from the nearest conference rival and three hours from a major city. (As many learned last week, the impenetrability is heightened by a status that exempts PSU from meaningful state open-records laws. Many documents related to the Sandusky case, such as e-mails between university officials, are not subject to public disclosure.) Like Russian nesting dolls, there are levels of isolation within Penn State, the innermost of which is the football team, which has separate facilities from the rest of the athletic programs and a lavish training facility all its own."

Here, the co-writer, talks more about the impact of isolation on Penn State.

Further on in the same article.

Healing will be far less swift an hour down the Nittany Valley in State College. While the crisis was unprecedented in its severity, the Penn State management was -- again, evidence of the school's insularity -- staggeringly clumsy. Press conferences were scheduled and then abruptly canceled. Remarks were tone-deaf. Spanier all but ordered his own firing when he declared his "unconditional" support for Curley and Schultz. When various administrators expressed shock at last week's revelations, even though Sandusky had been suspected multiple times and The Patriot-News had reported in March on the grand jury investigation, it came across as more than a little disingenuous.

From a side article in the same issue: "A place apart".

"The idyllic physical setting and the familial spirit of Penn State cut another way: It is a deeply insular place with concentrated power. Every character in the tragedy seemed to be a longtime Penn Stater. Paterno was there 61 years; Sandusky's association with the school began in 1963; Curley grew up in State College and has served 18 years as AD; vice president Gary Schultz served the school for 40 years; Mike McQueary grew up in State College and has been on staff for 11 years; Bradley has been on staff for 33 years; Jay Paterno, Joe's son, has been on staff for 17 years; Spanier taught at Penn State as far back as 1973. Sandusky, Bradley, Curley, Schultz, McQueary and Jay Paterno all attended Penn State as undergraduates. That people returned to or stayed so long at Penn State spoke to its appeal and its small-town values."

Another article, quotes former sportscaster and writer Myron Cope, who made this comment about Penn State in his biography.

"I particularly irritated Penn Staters by accusing Joe [Paterno] of excessive piety. You see, for many years he seemed bent upon casting Penn State as an academic facsimile of Harvard and his football players as model citizens (when in fact some of them told me they received the benefits of rural isolation—no major newspaper there to snoop—and a friendly police force)".

Tragically, another legendary coach and sports program is implicated in a very similar situation and cover up in Syracuse. While Syracuse, was once a fairly major manufacturing center, it now seems as if the university is the major force in town.

By way of extreme contrast, let's look back at a huge scandal in college basketball in the early 1950's.

The earthshaking scandals of 1951, which eventually reached to seven schools and 32 players around the country, actually erupted on Jan. 17, 1951 when Henry Poppe and Jack Byrnes of the previous year's Manhattan team plus three fixers: Cornelious Kelleher and brothers Benjamin and Irving Schwartzberg, who were bookmakers and convicted felons, were booked on bribery and conspiracy charges. All were in violation of section 382 of the penal code, the bill passed by the New York State legislature in 1945, which established as illegal an attempt to bribe a participant in any sporting event, amateur or professional. Poppe and Byrnes actually "had done business" with Kelleher in the 1949-50 season and received $50 a week during the off season of that year plus $3,000 to insure Manhattan lost games by the point margin to Siena, Santa Clara and Bradley in Madison Square Garden.

Byrnes and Poppe also received an additional $2,000 each to go over the point margin in games with St. Francis College of Brooklyn and New York University.

Ever even heard of this- corruption case involving masses of players and fixed games? One reason it's forgotten is that college basketball at the time was far from the big time sport of today. The other reason is it centered around colleges in NYC, where life did not revolve around these schools.

All of the CCNY schools de-emphasised sports and dropped into division III. Life went on. Could something like that even be considered in a place like State College?

Without, going into too much detail, I do think that there's something very unhealthy about major universities being so far removed from the world and I do think this was a major factor in both instances.

Penn State cannot shrink and or cut off it's major sports programs because there just isn't much else to do in State College. Incredibly, many students who were not athletes named it as the main reason for attending the school. Not surprisingly this put the program beyond critical review.

Liberty on The Border Exhibit in Cincinnati, Reviewed in Wall Street Journal

As online coverage of local history and culture has gotten better, I feel a greater obligation to keep one connected to a wider region. Cincinnati isn't exactly close, but it's not that far. Also, Pittsburgh's position in the Civil War's border region makes this show seem relevant.

From The Wall Street Journal

"The museum is well-positioned not only intellectually but physically to tell this complicated story, and it does it well. For the museum sits on the north shore of the Ohio River, the dividing line set forth by the Northwest Ordinance in 1787, which attempted to balance the entry of free and slave-holding states into the union. It was on this border separating Ohio from Indiana and Kentucky that the racial politics and policies of early America met reality.

The main theme of "Liberty's Trials" is Kentucky's efforts to remain neutral during the war. It is often thought of as a Southern state, but slavery was not widespread there. Lexington was an important slave-trading market because of the nearby horse farms and plantations. But much of the rest of Kentucky was against slavery and strongly pro-Union at the start of the war. We see this through maps, biographies and plaques retelling some of the key events that pushed Kentucky from a largely pro-union state at the start of the Civil War to one that was mostly pro-Confederacy toward the end of the war."

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Through Jan. 6