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!