Wednesday, December 31, 2008

December's drink & draw

Oh! We have a very dedicated group of artists here in Pittsburgh! Leslie posed for a very full house last night for the drink & draw session at brillobox. It was so nice to see all of the regulars as well as all of the new faces. Pictured below is Leslie who did some really classic poses.


Everybody seemed to have a good session last night. It's great to see te kinds of challeges artists set for themselves in theses sessions. I am especially impressed when artists bring color into these short poses. That seems to be a real challenge when none of the poses last longer than thirty minutes. Below is a slideshow of the work done during last night's session --

We have a special session coming up in January. I would like to call it a gesture intensive. But it may be more of a perpetual motion session. The model, Michael, practices a martial art. He did tell me which one but I am afraid it has slipped my mind. Anyway, he will be doing slow-motion exercises for January's session. Believe me, after going through a session like this, you'll think a five minute pose is a lifetime!! See you on January 27!

drink & draw is moving to once a month! We will be meeting on the last Tuesday of each month. Sessions will start at 6:30pm.

Drink and Draw...
is an open studio live model drawing session that meets last Tuesdays on the second floor of brillobox, located at 4104 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, Pa. This session is relaxed, surprising, and inspiring. amazing models dressed in various themes, old timey music, great company, and decor. All mediums, except oils, welcome.

Drink & Draw
Upstairs @ 6:30PM | $10

get on our mailing list. email us at
4104 penn ave

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Piano Crash

One of my favorite economics websites reminded me that before there was the American car industry-- there was the piano business. Pianos were once the largest consumer purchase in most housholds, people saved and borrowed to get them, supporting an industry that employed tens of thousands.

"With the rise of this industry came a vast marketing apparatus. Piano ads were everywhere, as a tour of old magazines shows. It was widely believed that spending money on a piano wasn't really spending. It was an investment. The money you paid would be embedded right there in this beautiful and useful item. You can always sell it for more than you paid for it, and this was generally true. So people would make great sacrifices for these instruments.

With the growth of this manufacturing came an explosion of shops that served the piano market all up and down the industry. Piano tuning was a big-time profession. Retail shops with pianos opened everywhere, and the sheet-music business exploded with them. Ever notice how in big cities the music stores are typically family owned and established 40, 50, and even 100 years ago? This is a surviving remnant of our industrial past."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Artists Review Artists Project @Thinking About Art


I am very excited to participate in JT's newest endeavor, Artists Review Artists. JT Kirkland has conducted several of these online projects on his very fine Thinking About Art blog.

Rob Hitzig is the artist that reviewed my work for this project. In return, I reviewed another artist. My review hasn't been published yet, but I will let you know when that happens and I will publish that very fine artist's name then.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The floodgates open at the Viaduct

To avoid the sick trap of getting the Petula Clark pop song "Downtown" stuck in my head whenever I think of downtown Pittsburgh, I give my internal voice a solid yinzer accent, rendering it "dahntahn." So it is with care for others with the same affliction that I mention that there will be art dahntahn today.

Like many, I don't come dahntahn on the weekends except when preapproved to chug gallery beer until I'm reduced to a crawl. Today, however, I'm going to make it there for a triple shot of entertainment: an artists' open house, the screening of the 3 Rivers Film Fest movie "The Speed of Life", and performances by acoustic rockers. The self-described "holiday open house extravaganza" looks to be the first of many for Viaduct Studio. More information can be found on

Friday, December 12, 2008

World Turned Upside Down Part 3

As usual, Cleveburgh Diaspora had a great post about migration trends which brought me back to my "world turned upside down" theme. I need to honestly state that, i'm a bit obsessed with the Indian subcontinent since making a few great investments in Indian mutual funds in the late 1990's.

When people were leaving India, few thought about the huge potential crop of people who might spring back with world class skills and connections. But now the benefits of this brain flow are now evident.The number of resumes flooding into India is taking off.

"Five months ago, Pankaj Dinodia was on top of the Wall Street boom: At age 25, the Indian immigrant had made it through one of the top U.S. business schools and held an important investment banking position with Goldman Sachs.

Then, in the middle of the summer, he felt the calling. The future didn't look so good in the big Western markets, he decided. Those calls from his family in New Delhi, urging him to come back and help out with the family accounting business, sounded more sensible. So he gave up his huge bonus and got on a plane.

At the time, his move from the world's most successful investment bank to the poky New Delhi offices of S.R. Dinodia & Co., Chartered Accountants, bewildered his friends and colleagues: It was as if he had abandoned his future.

Now they're all phoning him."

A few more quotes:

"The reversal is particularly dramatic in India, where human resource managers for finance firms are reporting hundreds of résumés from New York and London arriving on their desks each week.

Mr. Dinodia has found himself at the centre of this phenomenon. After he arrived in India, he set up an online community for Indian-born graduates of the Wharton School - the acclaimed University of Pennsylvania business college where he'd earned his degree - to help them find positions in India's thriving financial sector if they wanted to move back.

He thought he would end up helping out maybe a couple of dozen people. Then the markets collapsed. In the past six weeks, his network has helped 350 Wharton grads move back to India, using its circle of 50 India-based mentors and "industry captains" to place them in high-level positions in an economy that looks more promising, if a lot smaller, to many of them."

Lots of other countries from China to Turkey, Maylasia and Australia are aggressively working to bring people back home.

Of corse U.S. immigration policies which make it very hard to obtain permanent status have really contributed.

"Mr. Wadhwa worries that U.S. immigration policies are pushing the best minds out of the country's economy: Because the Green Card system only gives residency status to immigrants who have permanent jobs, and does not allow them to stay through a downturn, he believes the system is destroying the competitive advantage of the United States. He estimates that one million skilled foreign workers awaiting permanent residency visas in the U.S. are likely to leave."

But a lot of these recent migrants are people with U.S. and British citizenship. Similar trends played out after the dot com boom turned sour but India at that time had much less opportunity. The recent bust has also exposed much deeper flaws in the American economy.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tony Buba / Film Kitchen last Tuesday

Kudos to Matt Day for assembling a fantastic Film Kitchen last Tuesday night at Pittsburgh Filmmakers. Getting the blatantly obvious out of the way, he wangled the best food ever out of Chipotle grill - whole burritos. Bill O'Driscoll passed the Film Kitchen torch last year, after five years of curating and hosting the event he founded. I'm glad to see its still burning.

I snuck a photo of the 1968 film Jazz from a Very Special Hotel, produced by Laurence Taylor's 11th-grade lit class at Braddock High. Perhaps this offering is what brought out all the 'oldsters' Tony Buba gently teased throughout the night. In Hotel, Taylor's dry narrative voice-over tells the story of a new teen love forged in typing class and walks down quiet railroad tracks. Its a black & white, poetic glimpse into bustling Braddock of 1968.

Buba's Shut Down (1973) was itself shut down by a break in the film stock itself. I didn't care, I got a minute or two of his editing style and actually got to meet the man himself!

With a q&a at the end of the night featuring all the filmmakers, and a treat of an opening short film (Chia-Pi Choa's Where Do Fish Go In Winter, a treat of a slipstream fairy tale) Film Kitchen remains an intimate, regular, local film event well worth a visit.

The monthly film event is hosted by Pittsburgh Filmmakers and sponsored by City Paper. Film Kitchen online.

The author confesses to having screened work at this event in the past.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Rust Belt bloggers Public Art Post: Waffle Shop: A Reality Show

Josh Rubin's contextual art class at CMU struggles to find new and interesting ways to combine "art" and ordinary life. Each Semester, the class has been renting a different storefront in town as a base for an art project. See the projects on the Tent Show site.

The current one seems like a home run combination of yummy food and Reality TV and actually seems like a decent business model(it's CMU!). Of course one can sit there and ask if it's art, but that is hardly the point.

"Waffle Shop: A Reality Show," is truly a working waffle shop, offering plain and chocolate waffles garlanded in whipped cream for $3. But the interior also features a brightly lit photo booth and, at any given time, there might be a discussion being filmed on the week's chosen theme.
I haven't yet experienced this. Waffle Shop is well located next to The Shadow Lounge in East Liberty. Videos of the discussions will eventually be posted on line and are shown in the window.

"As for where this particular idea came from, Rubin says that as with a good waffle, when it comes to art, "We start from scratch. There's no syllabus. We research the area, pay attention to the surrounding culture and what else is going on around us. Students go with ideas -- it's a classroom in the world."
The waffle shop is just the latest version of what Rubin calls the "Tent Show." According to its Web site,, it's "a forum for experimental public projects that respond to the social, physical, and cultural dynamics of specific contexts and audiences." Previously, the class has operated a coffee shop, hodgepodge storefront and taco stand.
East Liberty was an appealing place to explore, Rubin says. The Penn Circle area crumbled decades ago due to a combination of bad luck and bad planning. But today it's re-emerging as a tony shopping district. As a result, Rubin says, the waffle shop is located on the site of "two different ecosystems."
And it draws energy from both. Steve Pham and Jennifer Lin of Shadyside still wore the telltale wristbands from just having danced their faces off at the packed Girl Talk show, the evening's earlier and sweatier entertainment at Club Gravity in Cheswick. What brought them in?"

Posting this a day early and I may post another tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Is News Now A Charity?

Can't say I was entirely surprised, but two recent stories about the health of major newspapers really hit home. The Tribune Company, owner of the Chicago Tribune, LA Times and several other major papers has filed for bankruptcy after piling on debt last year to go private. The NY Times is mortgaging it's new headquarters to head off a cash crunch and Several other major papers have suspended debt payments.

One force at work is clearly the credit crisis, but the other is the continuing slide in industry fundamentals. We seee less and less cultural coverage in most papers. Bloggers can fill a lot of this as new informal networks emerge but we all must admit that a lot of us rely on links to news articles.

What new networks and media empires are emerging? Several great networks of blogs like The Implode-ometer have done the hard grunt work in covering the financial crisis. ArtCal, The James Kalm Report and Culture Pundits might be the be the new trend in arts coverage. I'm also very excited by the new Streetsblog Network aimed at linking bloggers who write about urban design and transit issues.

One big problem is that these networks rely much more on an ever changing pool of grass roots writers, most of whom are not well known. The old formal model of issuing media passes and sending press releases to a small group of approved elite is breaking down. The Carnegie was nice enough to offer all our contributors media passes this year but what about the potential new bloggers and those not on the radar and those in other cities and countries?

Anyway, I will end this with a pitch for more people to contribute content to this blog and help expand arts coverage in Pittsburgh.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Wise Chinese

As the U.S. and the west's bubble economy implodes, exposing the thin air at it's core, the political players and crony capitalists have grasped at the hope that they can pull the world's last solvent countries into one last "collective" effort to save themselves.They need a bigger rug to sweep the dirt under. Luckily, it looks like China, which was already burned on U.S. investments will not be in on this. This is wise.

"Asked whether China might pursue economic policies aimed at saving the world, Mr. Lou said that the country’s leaders had a narrower focus. “China can only save herself because the scale of China is still rather small,” he said, adding that while China has more people than any other country, economic output is still low enough that the Chinese economy is not yet big enough to have a big effect on the global economy.

“If China can do a good job domestically, that is the best thing it can do for the world,” he said.

Mr. Lou’s comments represent the clearest statement yet that as global financial markets have plunged this year and economies have slowed, the attention of China’s leaders is turning inward."

The Chinese government seems to have a grip on how small it's economy still is and how much it needs to retain it's currency reserves and savings to boost it's own productivity.

They also are rightly afraid of the ever changing legal and financial environment in America with it's ever changing soup of programs and bailouts sold as way to "instill confidence in the markets."

"Mr. Lou said that the sheer pace of new initiatives and new rules issued by Western regulatory agencies was disconcerting and made it even harder for him to choose worthwhile investments. “If it is changing every week, how can you expect me to have confidence?” he asked."

That leaves the government ever more reliant on the printing press to fund it's schemes.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

What do you think?

I have been avidly following JT Kirkland's most recent blog project on artists reviewing artists. The project is hosted on his Thinking About Art blog. Artists Review Artists started about six months ago, with several posts a week. I must say, when JT took some time off for his honeymoon, I missed reading these posts. Fair to say, though, that it was just as interesting reading about his Paris trip!

Anyway, it's a great way to get acquainted with some artists with whom you may not know. Sondra Arkins work is up with its review right now. I loved the work that was posted and thought that the reviewer, Imants Ozers, made some very keen observations. Take a moment and check it out.

The Streetsblog Network

I know there's a lot of of optimism out there about the new administration, most of which I don't share. Partly, I'm more than a little concerned about our ability to pay for ambitious new projects and partly aware of how badly misguided previous government efforts, like the national highway system have been.

Anyway, since Obama is from an urban center, a lot of folks are hoping that this round of capital investments is spent wisely. Streetsblog is working to better link bloggers with interests in cities, urban planning, pedestrian issues and transit through it's new Streetsblog network.

Streetsblog Network ( brings together more than 100 blogs from 31 states — and counting. Its purpose is twofold: to create a place where people who blog on smart growth, livable streets and sustainable transportation issues can come together and learn from each other. And to provide a clearinghouse for information related to the transportation bill, or "TEA," that directs the spending of hundreds of billions of federal dollars. The next such bill is set to come up for reauthorization in 2009.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A Cold Hard Look At Braddock

I know I have given the town of Braddock a lot of good press, it still has some wonderful buildings, a good location, tons of history and a tiny number of very committed backers. But Null Space did us the favor of posting the cold data on Braddock's home price numbers.

2007: # of sales = 46, median price = $15K
2008: # of sales = 39, median price = $8K

39 sales in 2008 with an average sale price of $8,000 !

He also gives the brutal math on the cost of just maintaining utilities as the area depopulates.

"Why is it so hard to fix Braddock? Even being someone who has looked at the issue for a long time, just the other day I learned something new about how intractable the situation is there. I was talking with someone who lived in Braddock for over 50 years until very recently. Born and raised in Braddock and probably would have lived there longer if they could.. but it just became impossible for them to stay. Why did they have to leave? First their immediate neighbors moved out. They could live with that. Then the plumbing from the neighbors house was stolen, copper being pretty valuable until lately. Still, that wasn't a problem itself, but it turns out that the water was supplied collectively to a group of houses. The water meter being in the house which had it's plumbing mined. No plumbing there meant no water for the group of houses. Still, even that didn't force them to leave, they really were going to stay and pay to have some plastic plumbing put back into the vacant neighboring house. But since the house with the meter was unoccupied, the water company would not restart service to what was essentially a vacant and abandoned house. Makes sense sort of... but it meant that the occupied houses next door couldn't get water. The water company's cost of putting in a new water line and meter was far too exorbitant an investment, probably several orders of magnitude more than the house was worth to begin with so that wasn't an option. No water, you pretty much have to move out. If you can't keep folks like that who very much want to stay, what hope is there of rebuilding population there. In the end the house was sold for a dollar to a 'redeveloper' who mostly stripped out the remaining plumbing and other semi-valuable pieces of the property. Probably had a decent return on the $1. Just unbelievable, and seriously not something that is allowed to happen elsewhere in the developed world."

Obviously, I see some value in the place, perhaps as a highly affordable creative community which is something sorely needed in America. But, one has to admit that as each year passes, there is less and less of Braddock to save.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Obscurae Fundraiser For Braddock Arts Projects

I know I told everyone to stop shopping, but if you have any reasonable amount of money at all, I suggest going to this fundraiser in at Unsmoke Systems to support arts projects in Braddock.

Change is underway in Braddock as groups working with and within the community bring renewed energy to a town that many wrote off. Artists, social entrepreneurs, community organizers, urban homesteaders and others with a pioneering spirit are inspired by the town's potential for grassroots urban renewal and are using the inherent energy in Braddock to fuel their creativity. It is with this spirit that OBSCURAE views the maligned town – turning a photographic eye towards the borough's oft-overlooked beauty amidst the former grandeur and "urban blight" that Braddock has come to represent for many.

Curated by Braddock residents Jenny Fremlin and Jodi Morrison, with special guest curator John Ryan Brubaker, OBSCURAE pays homage to Braddock's unique post-industrial urban beauty. From the borough's Victorian and industrial-era construction to particulars of its natural surroundings, each photograph captures a unique perspective of the town. Works are mounted and framed with found-materials from the community. In creating OBSCURAE, curators Fremlin and Morrison hope to encourage others to look deeper and appreciate the small wonders that drew them to Braddock. "The energy in Braddock is amazing, from the support of our neighbors who are long-time Braddock residents to curious people dropping in there is always something happening in this town. All of that activity and more is captured in the photographs that have been submitted by these brilliant photographers who have explored here and chosen to help the town that inspired their art by participating in this event" said Fremlin.

Join us for a two-day photography exhibition/fundraiser, The event, OBSCURAE, will occur on Friday, December 5 and Saturday, December 6, 2008. Benefiting Braddock Redux and their continuing revitalization efforts of this historic steel mill town, OBSCURAE features more than 125 donated and framed photographs of Braddock from over 25 photographers that ticket holders will win and take home at the OBSCURAE art photography lottery. Public viewing of the work, open to all and free of charge, begins Friday from 7 – 11pm and continues Saturday at 2pm; the art lottery commences at 4pm Saturday. Those attending OBSCURAE, held at UnSmoke Systems Gallery at 1137 Braddock Avenue, are invited to take part in the gallery's interactive photo booth designed by installation artist Merissa Lombardo and taste fresh-baked pizza by Josh Tonies made in Braddock's very own outdoor wood-fire community oven located next to UnSmoke Systems. There is no charge to attend OBSCURAE and view the exhibition; visitors wishing to take home a work of art can purchase lottery tickets for $45 through the website,, or for $55 at the door. The lottery offers supporters the opportunity to contribute to Braddock art and community projects with a partially tax-deductible ticket purchase. At the same time, supporters will be able to enjoy the exhibit, local food and drinks, the photo booth installation, AND leave with a limited edition framed art photograph that will sell in OBSCURAE's online gallery for up to $125. Photographs included in the lottery range from 8x10 to 13x19 and are mounted and framed using a variety of reclaimed materials. All pieces are stunning to display or give as a gift this holiday season.

How does the Art Lottery work?

Donated pieces are exhibited throughout the gallery, and all pieces displayed will go home with a ticket holder that evening. Lottery participants are encouraged to browse the gallery before the lottery begins and compile a list of at least their first 25 favorites. The lottery begins with the first ticket being randomly chosen. When a ticket holder's number is called, he or she has up to 60 seconds to choose a piece. Once a piece is selected an art handler removes it from the wall and packages it for the winner. After approximately 35 pieces are selected there will be a break so that the remaining ticket holders can browse through the available artwork to select their next series of choices. The lottery continues, with appropriate breaks, until all the ticket holders have chosen a one-of-a-kind framed photograph and all the work is off the walls.In addition to the show, OBSCURAE's online gallery, launching Friday December 5, offers the chance to purchase limited edition prints and frames. During the weekend of the show, December 5-7, the online gallery will offer a gallery launch 10% discount. Proceeds from the gallery will support both the continued efforts in Braddock as well as the photographers who donated pieces for the exhibition. Some photographers participating in the show have also contributed additional pieces for purchase only available online. Visit to view the work starting December 5th .

Fundraiser sponsored by Braddock Redux hosted at the UnSmoke Systems Gallery

1137 Braddock Avenue, Braddock, PA

Curated by: Jenny Fremlin & Jodi Morrison, with special guest curator John Ryan Brubaker

Friday, December 5, 2008: Public Viewing /

Preview Reception 7pm-11pmSaturday, December 6, 2008: Public Viewing: 2pm ;

Art Lottery: 4 – 7pmLottery Tickets: $45 through website; $55 at the Door