Thursday, October 29, 2009

Warning Non Art Post Glut

Sorry, but having being close to the only steady and totally unpaid contributor on here gives me some freedom, which I intend to use. Local transportation and development, national and local economic issues and a variety of media and free speech issues are likely to tilt my posts away from art for a time. Will still try to post about that too.

Another Discouraged Blogger: Pittsburgh Comet Burning Out

If you follow blogs at all, especially those with an interest beyond the Steelers, you know they often show up on a faint horizon, burn sometimes very bright, then fade or even disappear in a single day or explode in a burst of frustrated rants as the blogger realizes the vastness of their job.

I didn't always follow, Bram Reichbaum's blog, partly because I did think effort this sincere and active would never make a dent here and well because his blog had burnout written all over it. Also, unlike Bram, politics really makes me more than a little ill.

Two thoughts--

Pittsburgh Comet had the usually fatal characteristic that spells doom for most blogs- it was a solo effort. Yes, initially it may have been hard for Bram to find others who could keep up to his standards, but by flying that solo, one seriously reduced the chance of survival.

The second is a deeper philosophical one about human nature and relates to why I am a Libertarian. (or more accurately a Classical Liberal)

Dear Bram-- The vast majority of average people have lives, jobs, relationships etc... or want them and can't spend their days following the minutia of city council hearings or zoning code enforcement. Moreover, most know that more and more critical decisions are made at the national or state level often by obscure czar's or extra legal government agencies they have almost chance of influencing without a pitchfork.

This was something very well known by the people who created the country's founding documents which clearly attempted to maximize the freedom of each individual, to say what they wanted,read what they wanted, take or reject the job or offers they wanted, go to the church they wanted, build the home they wanted. Even president Obama, (who apparently doesn't like it) knows the Constitution and the Bill of Rights was designed as a restraint on the state and not on the people. (Previous violations of the letter and spirit of the Constitution don't make it invalid)

The intent was that one could sleep at night and know one's religion or relationships or the fruits of ones labor and associations was mostly secure from interference. With this freedom people felt secure enough to invest, form complex associations and work very hard, unleashing a power and wealth unknown in human history. One key benefit which was not fully understood was that Classical Liberalism allowed individuals to know and invest in only the areas they knew best.

Agreeing to "get together" and throw the bulk of resources and human energy into a giant stew pot "for the common good", isn't the end but just the beginning of ones troubles. What is the common good and who decides it? Now it gets ugly.

The trend towards czars or opaque institutions like the Regional Asset District or The Sports and Exhibition Authority reflects the in inability to handle the thousands of conflicting claims and interests never intended for the political arena. Decisions, people used to make for themselves!

Can I know, what a building height should be on Mount Washington or how many parking spaces one should require for Strip development? Am I supposed to read Bram's Blog and spend the week thinking about this and the hundreds of other known and unknown local issues?

As usual this is an incomplete post and may be revised, updated elaborated on later.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bank Failure Haiku Update (With No Haiku)

I just can't let this one go.

Surprise, surprise, surprise, GMAC, the troubled former credit arm of General Motors, which has already sucked down 12.5 Billion in taxpayer dollars is back asking for more. GMAC is critical to the ongoing operations of Government Motors comprising the former GM and Chrysler. (GM And Chrysler bailout money not included)

The companies former commercial real estate unit, Capmark filed for bankruptcy protection on Sunday. Meanwhile, the losses continue.

Rolf Winkler

"Yet another argument against those who say we “made money” on TARP because Goldman, AmEx and a few others bought back their warrants at a small premium. All the profits from those warrants wouldn’t add up to the amount we’ve already poured into GMAC, never mind this latest infusion. There’s also the small matter of $100 billion+ we’re never getting back from AIG….

Readers may recall that FDIC was rather peeved at GMAC for previously offering high rates on deposits. This is the ultimate moral hazard of deposit insurance. Depositors aren’t willing to impose discipline on the bank — taking their money out — because they know it’s guaranteed. GMAC knew this and, through its subsidiary GMAC Ally Bank, offered the highest deposit rates in the nation for a time.

In order to sell more government backed debt under TLGP program, FDIC struck a deal by which GMAC will “keep its [deposit] rates at certain amounts,” according to WSJ.

One would think a change of management might be in order. Well, it’s not gonna happen. CEO Alvaro de Molina — formerly CFO at Bank of America — will stay on."

Don't worry your deposits are protected say's Sheila Bair. The assets and future earnings of all successful or potentially successful employer or person in the country has been placed on the block. Wisely, many are shutting down.

Where will it end?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Artist Interview With Ruth Levine On Urban Bytes

Occasional contributor, Jean McClung has a pretty amazing blog with in depth interviews with people who make Pittsburgh such a "special place". (mostly in a good way)

She just put up her interview with Ruth Levine, a local artist with both a fantastic life story and great story telling ability.Life Includes guest appearances by Milton Berle,Danny Kaye,Eddy Cantor,The Marx Brothers and Andy Warhol.



: You had told me a story about Andy Warhol. And I think you said you got a call....that's how it started?


Yes. In the early nineteen eighties, I was working at a very large Jewish community center in Rockville, Maryland. And although we had some National Endowment for the Humanities grants and we were starting to make a name elsewhere, it was with some slight sense of shock that I got the following phone call: Somebody got on the phone and said, "Hi my name is Ron Feldman. Do you know me?"And I said, "If you’re the Ron Feldman I’m thinking of, no I don’t know you. But I know that there’s a gallery with your name on it in SOHO, in New York."

He said, "Well I’m here with Andy Warhol who wants to talk with you". And that started the first of my series of saying "right" [ as in" yeah, right"] Because I was very dubious that indeed Andy Warhol wanted to talk to me"

Continues here.

Bank Failure Haiku Update


So just a couple of days after my last Haiku post,things are looking considerably more grim.

The Dow took what looks to be a serious reversal lead by the supposedly "recovered" financial stocks. The day before on a Sunday, word came out of another large financial bankruptcy.

In its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing yesterday, the commercial-property lender, Capmark Financial based in Horsham, PA listed assets of $20.1 billion and debts of $21 billion.Capmark was the new name for the commercial real estate arm of what was once GMAC and played a big role in commercial real estate lending.

Moreover, Capmark owns a large FDIC insured bank Capmark Bank, the wholly-owned Utah industrial bank subsidiary of Capmark Financial Group Inc., agreed to a cease and desist order with each of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) and the Utah Department of Financial Institutions. The orders require Capmark Bank to maintain a Tier 1 leverage ratio of at least 8% and a Total Risk-Based Capital ratio of at least 10%.

Anyway, it's pretty obvious that when Sheila Bair made her more than slightly deceptive statements she knew a line of zombie banks are in Capmarks condition.

I leave you with the latest Peter Schiff video. No joke, they tried to sell him on a adjustable rate mortgage!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Corruption And The Rust Belt

Rust Wire asks what role corruption plays in depressing local economies. It refers to this 2007 piece by Transparency International.

"According to economist Sanjeev Gupta, national corruption lowers economic growth and per-capital income, despite the argument that a certain amount of corruption can “grease the wheels” of the economy by circumventing bureaucratic regulations.

“Corruption increases the cost of investment for entrepreneurs who need to devote their scarce time and resources to fulfilling government regulations and bribing officials,” Gupta writes. “This cost can be high for small and medium-sized enterprises.”

“Second, corruption acts as a barrier to foreign investment and results in the flight of capital out of a country. The use of public funds to acquire assets abroad shrinks the economy’s savings pool that could otherwise be used for investment. This has repercussions for future generations, particularly in resource-based economies.”"

While, the role of corruption, the lack of clear rules and transparent institutions is almost universally considered a big drag on developing countries, Few have the guts to say it might be one of the biggest factors depressing the "rust belt" and even fewer try to do much about it.

Yet another big public scandal in Cleveland repeats a common theme in places like Ohio and Michigan.

"Damiani, a close ally of County Auditor Frank Russo, orchestrated the arrangement in which his law firm had near-total control over V.A.S. Enterprises, the commercial real estate appraisal firm that got more than $21 million in contracts with the auditor's office over a decade, according to federal prosecutors. V.A.S. did only $9 million in work, according to an audit released last week.

One of Russo's top aides has admitted taking $154,000 in bribes and helping to funnel $1.2 million in kickbacks to Russo from the Damiani-connected firms. In return V.A.S was awarded contracts to perform commercial audits, according to charges and plea agreements."

The Transparency International story suggests that the costs of opaque and corrupt government may fall hardest on small business people who lack inside connections, or political power. Small business job loss is much harder to guess at than big business, but it's very, very bad.

Clearly, at least by what's currently known we are not in Cleveland's league, but let's just say that transparency isn't big here.

Support Braddock Projects On Pittsburgh Match Day, October 28th

As you may know, I personally feel the city of Pittsburgh and the country in general is in for a world of hurt. City budgets, state budgets and federal budgets will be cut -- one way or the other if we are to survive. The failure to make rational choices in the past will force us to make harder choices in the future. That's what debt on this scale means!

Anyway, on the 28th,Your donation to any area non-profit from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm EST will be matched 50 cents on the dollar by the Pittsburgh Foundation. It's a small chance to knit together the support networks of what used to be called "civil society", which the wikipedia defines as.

"Civil society is composed of the totality of voluntary civic and social organizations and institutions that form the basis of a functioning society as opposed to the force-backed structures of a state (regardless of that state's political system) and commercial institutions of the market."

Personally, I will try to support the little, historic but very troubled community of Braddock.

"Ninety percent of a community gone.
Buildings crumbling into the streets.
More youth living in poverty than anywhere else in Allegheny County outside Pittsburgh.

These issues are faced by Braddock, Pennsylvania. Decades of prosperity in this steelmaking town were followed by decades of slow decay after the American steel industry collapsed in the 1980s."

That's a bummer but it's not the "need" that has me stoked, but a mayor and a small community of engaged people doing some of the most exiting and innnovative things in the region, some of which you may have heard about on this blog.

"But in the midst of decay, a movement to renew is taking shape. Braddock Redux, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded by Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, is gathering the ideas, the people, and the resources that will spark life back into this once thriving town. Fetterman's pioneering work offers a vision for postindustrial America, and has garnered accolades in the New York Times, the Atlantic Monthly, Rolling Stone, and on the Colbert Report.

With a focus on projects that fuse youth, the arts, the environment, and building preservation, Braddock Redux has begun to revitalize its community by:

• Facilitating the construction of GrowPittsburgh's largest urban demonstration farm, staffed in part by local at-risk youth
• Securing support and funding for the Mon Valley's first green roof
• Providing partnership development for the Braddock Youth Project, Allegheny County's largest youth employment and training program
• Preserving and renovating a former school into an art gallery and performance space
• Building a mosaic park on a vacant lot
• Planting an urban orchard
• Providing space and funding for Braddock's only community center

But there is more work to do. Most pressingly, Braddock's community center lacks heat and cannot operate during the winter. Braddock Redux is raising money to install a climate-friendly geothermal heating system. The low operating cost of this system will allow hundreds of at-risk youth to use the community center when the temperature drops.

Your donation to Braddock Redux on October 28th from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm EST will be matched 50 cents on the dollar by the Pittsburgh Foundation, up to $2,500 per donation. Please visit to register now and learn more about Braddock Redux, and on October 28th to make a donation. Matching funds are limited, and typically are exhausted within two hours on the day of the event."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

New Louisville Ad Campaign

Came across these new Ads for Louisville, Kentucky on Urbanophile.

The second one is pretty damn brutal and takes a hard shot at Ohio. Will Ohio be jamming Kentucky based broadcasts like Cuba does? Will they build a wall like East Germany did?

Anyway, the fact remains that Pittsburgh has not lagged other cities in retaining it's own residents in the last few years. The recent losses in population are the mark of an older generation passing. The statistic that stands out for the city is the relative lack of new residents and immigrants.

The relative confidence gap comes across between the passive provincial and declining midwest and the new South.

Rhichard Thompson @ Carnegie Library Music Hall In Homestead Tonight

OK, as freaked out about the economy as I am, I am still springing for this.

Site indicates a few tickets left.

"RICHARD THOMPSON: Named by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of 2003's Top 20 Guitarists of all-time and the recent recipient of both an Ivor Novello Award for Songwriting and the 2006 BBC Lifetime Achievement Award, the iconic British folk rock legend is one of the world's most critically acclaimed and prolific songwriters."

Read more about the venue here.

View Larger Map

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Exhibition Opportunity: Inspired By Books

I found out about this show on the Pittsburgh Filmakers website. The deadline is very soon.

Pittsburgh Filmmakers students, PF/PCA members and staff are invited to participate in a group photography show to be held at the Main Branch of the Carnegie Library during the month of November.

The theme and title of the show is "Inspired by Books".

Anyone interested in participating should bring one print framed and ready to hang to Sue Abramson by Monday October 26th.

Any questions contact Sue at 412-681-5449 ext. 216 or sueabe[at]

Blog Talk Show @ Waffle Shop Tonight

Sorry another mostly cut and paste post.

Tonight I Heart Pittsburgh will be hosting what should be an exiting talk show about blogging @ The Waffle Shop. This means you can eat waffles with all sorts of great toppings while you catch or perhaps participate in the show!

This week IheartPGH will host a talk show about blogs and blogging. We have some local bloggers lined up as guest and we would love to connect to bloggers beyond Pittsburgh too. Through the magic of the Internets even if you aren’t in Pittsburgh you can still watch the show and even participate too.

Have a Blog? Be Our Guest

Do you have a blog? Would you like to talk about your blog? Then you should be a guest on the show. Email if you are interested in being a guest this week or on a future show. Not in Pittsburgh, not a problem. We can add you in a virtual guest.

This Weeks Show

We are still finalizing the details and guest lists but look for some sports blog talk from TheSteelerN’at Blog and some serious fashion advice from Pittsburgh author Suzanne Mauro.

So great that CMU has kept up with this evolving community project/lab/business.

Library Talk

I really like a lot of Mike Madison's commentaries on Pittsblog.

Whatever one thinks about the proposed library closings, or transit cuts; they shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone. Is it really a surprise that a city that's population has shrunk from near 700,000 to a bit above 300,000 would have to make tough choices? Isn't the fact the city is basically in receivership a clue?

"Second: Why, oh why, are decisions and reactions to this sort of thing always made in a one-off crisis mode? Pittsburgh lurches from "close the fire stations? never!" to "close the libraries? never!" to "where's the casino payment for the new arena" as if Captain Renault were supervising the premises. He was shocked, SHOCKED, to find gambling going on at Rick's -- as he pocketed his winnings. What I mean is that there is no plan here, no sense whatsoever that library-branch-closing or fire-station-closing or arena-construction-subsidized-by-gambling is part of a vision of the city's future. Instead, it's just the latest crisis to be dealt with -- at a time when absolutely no one can pretend to be ignorant of the fact that the crisis is part of a long-term restructuring of the city and region. Library-branch-closing is just a game of winners and losers, and the Carnegie Library Board appears to be doing its best with a bad hand of cards. Metaphorically, Pittsburgh is Captain Renault -- without the winnings."

Hello-- everyone, slightly awake and in a board position should have known about the cards they had-- long, long, long ago. They were just hoping to pass the buck.

Further on he gets to the meat of it.

"What if we sketched out a map of public transportation, parks and schools and libraries and other community "centers," public safety resources (some of which could double as community centers), and housing and shopping concentrations (let's call those "neighborhoods") and figure out how to make those different systems talk to each other in ways that reinforce communities and livability? Doing that wouldn't stop the Board from closing library branches, but it might make branch closing (fire station closing, arena subsidies, and so on) part of a game plan that persuades people that a little sacrifice today is part of a better future. Maybe we think about closing library branches here and opening library branches there. Maybe we think differently about the current round of Port Authority transportation cuts. Maybe the arena gets security for its money from the casino up front, rather trying to claim it out of the back end.

I'm not optimistic right now about the region's collective ability to do all of this. But if it is not done, eventually it will have to be done, and it will get done via the winners-and-losers mode that we're seeing at the moment rather than in any more considered way."

Hey kids, now might be a good time to ask the question --What is a "Pittsburgh Promise" from people who operate like this really worth?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Bank Failure Haiku

I'll try to get back to more regular posts. Doing a lot try to make or at least preserve a buck which means reading a lot.

One of my favorite economics, websites, Calculated risk has a guy writing little Haiku poems for each Bank failure. They call themselves, Soylent Green is people.

105 failures so far this year-- perhaps more as we speak since the FDIC has a habit of doing most of them on Fridays.

Bank Failures 56 & 57

Pitcher throws to home
Failure swings.... to deep center
A double this time.

Bank Failures 79 & 80

Birmingham failure
Georgia, running out of banks?
South will sink again...

Bank Failure 81, Guaranty Bank, Austin, TX

A mushroom cloud forms
Deep in the heart of Texas
Guaranty is ash

Bank Failure 90, Corus Bank, Chicago

Scavengers alight
Finally, the King is dead
Long live Corus Bank!

Bank failure 100

One Hundred, so far....
The pig still in the python
Working its way through.

Bank Failures 104 & 105

Failure "two by two"
A flood is on horizon
The Ark is near full.

Given Calculated long list of unofficially troubled institutions, this poet's creative juices will be tested.

Update another bank has been officially closed making it 106.

I have to add this message from the head of the FDIC which is designed to make me feel better.

In the tone of a kindergarten teacher she tells a pretty slick half truth. When measured by the number of banks closed, so far we are barely at the more than 500 failed banks in the S&L crisis. But, what she doesn't say is that if measured by assets, we are far far worse off.

Chart From Calculated Risk

Below is an out of date chart but it gives one a clue. Remember that without the bailout, it's likely that Citigroup, Bank America and almost all of the big banks would have failed. (which is what should have happened)

Chart From Calculated Risk

Second she evades real subject and tells what really is an outright lie. The government has done an excellent job at preventing people from fearing for their deposits which are now insured up to $250,000. So, that's great right? People just don't have to worry. But, this lack of fear has worked to push more and more money into some of the riskiest banks since they usually pay the highest deposits, it may also be promoting a lot of new bad loans as well as helping banks to put off recognizing losses. Time will tell, how this will work out but so far it don't look good.

Now on to this quote "We are the government and cannot run out of money". This is both a very true and very false statement. No entity at all is free from the laws of reality other than "god", and even one of the greatest nations on earth can run out of assets. By the way, the only real asset of the government is the future earning power of it's people. Does the word slave come to mind?

When people use the term money, most people think of something of value. If what Sheila is really saying is we can't run out of zeros to print on our bills, I guess she's right.


So just a couple of days after my last Haiku post,things are looking considerably more grim.

The Dow took what looks to be a serious reversal lead by the supposedly "recovered" financial stocks. The day before on a Sunday, word came out of another large financial bankruptcy.

In its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing yesterday, the commercial-property lender, Capmark Financial based in Horsham, PA listed assets of $20.1 billion and debts of $21 billion.Capmark was the new name for the commercial real estate arm of what was once GMAC and played a big role in commercial real estate lending.

Moreover, Capmark owns a large FDIC insured bank Capmark Bank, the wholly-owned Utah industrial bank subsidiary of Capmark Financial Group Inc., agreed to a cease and desist order with each of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) and the Utah Department of Financial Institutions. The orders require Capmark Bank to maintain a Tier 1 leverage ratio of at least 8% and a Total Risk-Based Capital ratio of at least 10%.

Anyway, it's pretty obvious that when Sheila Bair made her more than slightly deceptive statements she knew a line of zombie banks are in Capmarks condition.

I leave you with the latest Peter Schiff video. No joke, they tried to sell him on a adjustable rate mortgage!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Natural Gas Boom We Can't Talk About

One of the more disturbing trends is the way we increasingly replace wishes and dreams for material facts and put more and more subjects behind a wall of political correctness. The result is that many resources are wasted and real opportunities lost.

Burgh Diaspora, had a good post pointing out the epic energy boom emerging in Natural Gas, centered in Western PA. An energy conference dealing with Western Pa, Marcellus Shale issues, expected to draw a few hundred already has more than 1,300 reservations and had to be moved to The Convention Center.

A Times article shows the wider opportunity. Not only are new gas reserves being opened up in the region, but because a lot of the first drilling was done here, people are traveling from all over the world to learn.

"Shale is a sedimentary rock rich in organic material that is found in many parts of the world. It was of little use as a source of gas until about a decade ago, when American companies developed new techniques to fracture the rock and drill horizontally.

Because so little drilling has been done in shale fields outside of the United States and Canada, gas analysts have made a wide array of estimates for how much shale gas could be tapped globally. Even the most conservative estimates are enormous, projecting at least a 20 percent increase in the world’s known reserves of natural gas.

One recent study by IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates, a consulting group, calculated that the recoverable shale gas outside of North America could turn out to be equivalent to 211 years’ worth of natural gas consumption in the United States at the present level of demand, and maybe as much as 690 years. The low figure would represent a 50 percent increase in the world’s known gas reserves, and the high figure, a 160 percent increase."

To people following this, there's got to be a lesson about how markets and incentives work. Literally, two or theree years back it was looking like we were tapped out of known gas reserves in America. But a few years of higher prices got more and more people to try apply new technologies to formerly mature fields.

In fact, the term "reserve" is pretty deceptive since it's very much based on price. If oil drops to 10 dollars a barrel and stays there a few years, companies start considering fields that cost more than $10 per barrel to drill, non economical.

Anyway, it's still way too early to estimate what the opportunity or the potentialy negative effects of all this may be. All I'm saying is we should be open to talking about it. It's clear that companies and investors who should know about these things are placing big bets.

I'm reminded of the way new drugs that have been used by a small sample of people are almost always pitched as having fewer side effects. Very, very few energy technologies have no side effects and comparing real viable prospects with imaginary green fantasy products isn't likely to be helpful.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Breaking the Rules: Creativity & Sustainability at the Intersection of Art + Business Oct 26Th

A great chance to listen and interact with one of Pittsburgh's new creative forces and expert in gyrotwittergooglology.

Breaking the Rules: Creativity and Sustainability at the Intersection of Art + BusinessGreater Pittsburgh Arts Council

October 26, 2009 | 5:00PM – 7:00PM | Cabaret at Theatre Square

Food included, plus cash bar

Join Nathan Martin, CEO of deepLocal, for an evening of creating, abstracting, and innovating within your job title. This Creative Conversation is designed to help young leaders across sectors begin breaking rules by thinking bigger (and broader) than our business cards.

Read more about Nathan Martin in Primer Magazine.
This New Pittsburgh Collaborative HUB event is presented in partnership by Pittsburgh Emerging Arts Leaders and The Rivers Club Young Executives. It is also a celebration of National Arts & Humanities Month in affiliation with Americans for the Arts.

Heads up to Pittsburgh Art + Technology, one of the great new blogs you should follow.

October 28Th Is Pittsburgh Foundation Match Day!

A great opportunity to leverage your donations to support the non profits you care about. Also that same day, the foundation will launch a new website to make researching and giving to local charities easier.

A cut and paste job.

PITTSBURGH, Pa., October 13, 2009 -- The Pittsburgh Foundation will launch a major initiative designed to boost individual charitable giving and support local nonprofit organizations with a special 'Match Day' on Wednesday, October 28.

To celebrate the community's first-ever official day of giving, the Foundation will provide matching grants of $300,000 for the first donations received through its new PittsburghGives program. And a separate fund of $100,000 will provide matching dollars to support Carnegie Library, currently facing branch closures and cuts.

PittsburghGives is a comprehensive directory of nonprofit organizations together with on-line giving tools, developed by the Foundation as an easy-to-use web database to help donors research information about local charitable organizations. The program enables individuals and organizations to give on-line to nonprofits via credit card. The Foundation's donors may award grants directly from their funds to their chosen charities.

The Foundation's matching grants are expected to generate a minimum of $1.2 million in total contributions to eligible nonprofit organizations. "This is historic for Pittsburgh philanthropy," said Grant Oliphant, the Foundation's President and CEO. "Technology is enabling us to move the clock forward in the way that our community supports the critical work of our region's nonprofit organizations. PittsburghGives provides a new, easy and exciting way for people to give to the charities about which they care passionately."

For Match Day on October 28, the Foundation will host a community event at the PPG Place Wintergarden, Downtown, starting at 10:00 a.m. A bank of computers will be available to receive donations, and refreshments will be served. Individuals will also be able to access PittsburghGives and donate through their personal computers by logging on at

PittsburghGives will launch with the detailed profiles of more than 300 local charitable organizations and the Foundation will continue to develop the program.

PittsburghGives is designed to serve as a unique vehicle for nonprofits to showcase their work in the community, detailing information about their charitable programs, missions, management and finances. The Foundation began working with nonprofits in February to build profiles for the PittsburghGives site, and has provided participating charities with materials to help them to promote the program among their supporters and constituents in preparation for Match Day.

Initially, the Foundation planned to provide $200,000 in matching grants, but increased this to $300,000, awarded from its unrestricted grantmaking pool.

The Foundation has added a special $100,000 fund of matching dollars to support Carnegie Library following its announcement of cuts and branch closures to cover a projected budget deficit. Matching dollars to support the Library are provided from two individual donor funds at the Foundation.

“During this harsh economic climate, nonprofits are under even greater strain to meet demand for the vital services and programs they provide, and we hope that our day of giving will inspire and encourage philanthropists young and not-so-young to join in supporting our community,” said Grant Oliphant.

For the Day of Giving, gifts to eligible nonprofits in Allegheny County of $50 or more received by PittsburghGives (up to $2,500 per individual) will be matched

50 percent by the Foundation (to a maximum total of $300,000). For example, a gift of $2,500 will receive a match of $1,250 from the Foundation for a total charitable gift of $3,750. The maximum individual gift for Carnegie Library is $10,000, which qualifies for a matching grant of $5,000.

As a resource for the regional community PittsburghGives is free to access – there are no subscriptions or other charges, with the exception of a credit card fee charged by the service provider for on-line donations.

“After our Day of Giving, we want people to visit PittsburghGives whether they are curious, undertaking research or wish to make a donation. This new program has transformative qualities about the way that giving is done in our community, and the way that nonprofits are able to share information about their work,” said Grant Oliphant.

· The Foundation has also introduced a charitable gift card that may be purchased in increments of
$25, $50 or $100 for sharing with families, friends and business associates. The program works like
any gift card and is available for purchase from the Foundation.

Recipients of the gift cards may redeem them with the Foundation, directing the dollars to the charity or charities they wish to benefit or the cards may be presented to any nonprofit organization in western Pennsylvania for them to redeem with the Foundation.

The card has a one-year expiration, after which the money received for unredeemed cards will be used as part of the Foundation’s community grantmaking initiatives. To purchase gift cards, visit, or contact Charles Stout at Cards may be redeemed at

Exiting Gordon Matta Clark Show In Saint Louis

Half assed post- may elaborate or correct.

I never experienced Gordon Matta Clark's work first hand, but just the guy is really a head opener in terms of the way he used simple methods to let people reimagine social boundaries and space. Swoon called him one of her greatest inspirations.

Gordon Matta-Clark
Conical Intersect (detail)
27-29, rue Beaubourg, Paris
courtesy of David Zwirner, NY and the Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark

Gordon Matta Clark: Conical Intersect (1975, 16mm Film, Farbe, auf DVD überspielt, Farbe, ohne Ton 17'12") from nothinglefttoadjust on Vimeo.

"Gordon Matta-Clark (1943-1978) used neglected structures slated for demolition as his raw material. He carved out sections of buildings with a power saw in order to reveal their hidden construction, to provide new ways of perceiving space, and to create metaphors for the human condition. When wrecking balls knocked down his sculpted buildings, little remained. He took photographs and films of his interventions and kept a few of the building segments. The placement of Matta-Clark’s work in the building by Tadao Ando offers the means to recall the artist’s lost interventions. Ando's and Matta-Clark's structures break the visual and symbolic boundaries normally associated with the architectural “box” by allowing light to penetrate spaces in unexpected ways. Moreover, the exhibition programming builds upon Matta-Clark’s desire to give abandoned objects and buildings new meaning by connecting the artist’s social activism to present-day St. Louis.

The Pulitzer, in collaboration with Washington University’s George Warren Brown School of Social Work, is organizing exhibition programming that will build upon Matta-Clark’s desire to imbue abandoned objects, buildings, and parcels of land with new meaning. The Pulitzer hopes to help carry Matta-Clark’s legacy into the 21st century and to inspire a new generation of social activism through creative acts."

"A new interactive arts program in St. Louis poses those questions, and calls on citizens to create the portrait through media and personal expression.

Later this month, the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts will launch Urban Alchemy/Gordon Matta-Clark, named for and continuing the legacy of a local urban activist who inspired community engagement through art."

Anyway, The Pulitzer Foundation is using the show as a springboard for community projects. Could be great or the usual bogus fake engagement we often get.

I found out about this on Rust Wire.

Cleveland Museum Donor Intent Correction and More Thoughts

I should have known that anger was making me write my two Cleveland Museum posts too fast. The general violation of donor intent, is still very bad but their actions are considerably better than I stated.

First the facts---- The museum, (at this point)is not actually selling any works in it's collection to pay for it's expansion.

"To be able to proceed, the museum has chosen a highly unorthodox way out of its quandary. It has gone to court for permission to draw up to $75 million over 10 years from the interest paid out on two endowment funds and two outside, restricted trusts for acquisitions. A decision is expected by the end of this month."

Now my thoughts.

Dropping the morality of violating, donor trust, lets look at what they are doing.

Basically, the museum's leadership is taking a very high stakes gamble that by expanding the museum's size and profile, it can draw in enough visitors and supporters to secure it's fiscal health. An interesting and honestly, plausible theory. Companies and private individuals take chances like that all the time. (they used to do it with their own money) This is a major museum, with core collections in areas like Asian art that might very well attract a lot more people.

The big problem here, is that none of the people involved in making this gamble have real "skin in the game".

How high is the risk? Pretty damn high! They are planning to double their size while at the same time shrinking the endowment cushion set aside to support the museum's operating expenses in a state suffering near depression conditions. If they can barely swing the expansion costs what are the chances they can cover the costs of operating a much larger institution?

Now, let's look at the incentives these people are operating under.

Heads the gamble works and they get to play around in a much larger institution and raise their career profile. Will they get higher salaries for running a bigger place?

Tails--- it ain't their problem.

In fact, one of the main actors, Timothy Rub is scheduled to take up the directorship of the Philadelphia Museum, leaving the people of Cleveland with the risk he took on.

Here's my personal take. The institution is really engaged in an act of economic terrorism. Behind their decision is the same twisted logic that gave us the financial crisis- an attempt to secure their power by becoming "too big to fail".The funds for a somewhat more modest and rational expansion had been raised already. moreover, Cleveland is a city with tons of empty and underused warehouse and industrial buildings that might have been adopted and reused at what might have been a great savings making the city an example of innovative fruagilty instead of irrational waste.

The bigger they get, the more risks they take, the greater the impact they have on the Cleveland region; the greater chances are that people or more accurately politicians will ever allow the full impact of a screw up to be felt.If this thing blows taxpayers small businesses and any non profit without their profile will bear the costs.

Directors of non profits and politicians like Tom Murphy should be made to put some real skin in the game and be made to pay financially for the long term consequences of their decisions.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Football's Price

GQ has a very, very heavy story on the price some football players may have payed for their time in the game.

"Let’s say you run a multibillion-dollar football league. And let’s say the scientific community—starting with one young pathologist in Pittsburgh and growing into a chorus of neuroscientists across the country—comes to you and says concussions are making your players crazy, crazy enough to kill themselves, and here, in these slices of brain tissue, is the proof. Do you join these scientists and try to solve the problem, or do you use your power to discredit them?"

A lot of lead characters in this story center around Allegheny county and ex Steeler greats like Mike Webster.

Still haven't read all of it yet.I may post further on this.

Deep Local and Encyclopedia Destructica's Old and New Media Artist Residency

This opportunity is a little complex so interested artists should read all the links and information carefully before applying.

Deep local, a company doing cool techno-geeky design and application stuff has joined with Encyclopedia Destructica to offer a new Three Month Artist Residency Program, designed to create projects joining art and technology.

Residents are asked to arrange their own housing and to work with available Deeplocal technology or assets when appropriate. The available technologies include SMS text messaging, Voice phone systems, iPhone and Android application creation, and the Deeplocal trans-media platform. Residents will be required to sign a non-disclosure agreement with Deeplocal. While a project proposal should include work utilizing these technologies, this is not the only work expected of the resident.

At the end of the residency, the completed project or projects will be promoted and publicly launched through a public exhibit with a partner institution. Deeplocal will host an open studio visit once during the residency to allow their clients, customers, and staff to network with the artists at the company's office space. Encyclopedia Destructica will also host a small exhibition and artist lecture at Encyclopedia Destructica Studios once during the residency. This is a potential opportunity for the resident to expand their sales and support networks.

What do I get?

Artists are given support in the form of money, space, technology, and expertise.

Project funds up to $1,000

Full-time work space at Deeplocal plus support staff and technology assistance one day per week

Artist access privileges with Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts
Support in art production and promotion and access to printmaking and bookbinding facilities at Encyclopedia Destructica

Access to API for proprietary Deeplocal mobile technology platform, which includes Voice, SMS, web, and mobile
Assistance in grant application writing

Exhibition opportunities, including a public exhibition with a partner institution at the end of the residency, an open studio night at Deeplocal, and an artist lecture at Encyclopedia Destructica

Who should apply?

Anyone who has a creative idea, enthusiasm, a good work ethic, and a desire to learn. Applicants can propose work of nearly any nature and will be evaluated based on creativity, the degree that the project leverages Deeplocal’s technology assets, the need for corporate support, and the likelihood of successful completion in the allotted time frame. Applicants are not required to have any technology background. It may be beneficial to look at what Deeplocal and Encyclopedia Destructica can offer to make sure that you are able to take advantage of their assets.

This opportunity is ongoing and is open to both Pittsburgh and Non Pittsburgh based artists-- however, the actual residency requires staying here for the length of the residency.

Non area artists should remember-- this ain't NY, San Fransisco or LA. It's very cheap here and you may be able to scope out housing if you really want this opportunity to work with the the awesome tech and creative resources Pittsburgh has to offer.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

GA/GI Pittsburgh's First Arts and Technology Festival

"It's an event where art and technology will shake hands," said Christine Bethea, organizer for Geek Arts + Green Innovators Festival. GA/GI (pronounced GAH-gee) will be Pittsburgh's first festival of Art and Technology. "Pittsburgh has had some great recent events which make doing this, all that more exciting," said Bethea siting the 15 Minutes Gallery Burghbot Exhibition in June, 2009 @ the Pittsburgh Technology Council and the more recent Roy G Biv Festival of Noisy Robots in October funded by Sprout. GA/GI has also been fueled by the more positive moments of the city's G-20 experience.

It seems Pittsburgh is definitely ready for this festival. Participants already on board are Friendship Development Associates who has sanctioned turning the Friday, April 2, 2010 Unblurred art crawl into a high tech arts extravaganza, Jonano eco chic clothing, Union Project, The Pittsburgh Technology Council, Art + Technology at CMU, Art Energy Design, Ingram Clockworks, Modern Formations and a host of other organizations, galleries and individuals. Specific information on the event, its organizers and how to get involved can be found on the GA/GI blog.
Image: Power Flower from Art Energy Design

Disgusting Cleveland Museum Post Part Two

I think I'm not getting a job at the Cleveland Museum soon-- but honestly if this is how they operate, I don't want one.

It's likely this will extend into a three part post. Part one is here.

I want to preface my condemnation, by saying that yes, life can be complicated and dealing with the wishes of donors can be very complex. Time marches on, cities grow or fail, endowments fall and causes and issues change, leaving institutions to guess at how to adapt the perpetual wishes of donors to changing times.

However-- for an honest person trying to do the right thing, things are rarely as complicated as they seem. Basic principles do not change and discerning a donor's intentions is not that hard. I'm also very sypathetic to the circumstances and needs that can motivate people to do this- It still aint't right. How can you possibly expect people to make donations to charities if their expressed wishes are not followed?

The Hershey Trust did it right by gradually expanding the reach of it's mission with it's expanding it's assets while sticking to the donors wish to focus on a local community.

With the Cleveland Museum, the asset given was fine art, explicitly granted to the museum's permanent collection.

Logically one can break down the intentions of the donors by priority.

First-- They wanted the works preserved for posterity. I can take a guess they didn't donate them to be destroyed. If for example, the museum had run into problems that left in doubt their ability to protect the work, they had an obligation to get them to someone who could which might mean selling them.

Second---They intended the works to seen by the general public and did not intend the works to be put on the market and end up in a private collection.

Third----They strongly wished if at all possible that they remain in the Cleveland Museum's collection.

One needs to respect the donors as rational, and often very highly successfull human beings who put a lot of thought into their donations. If they had wanted to sell their art and donate cash to the museum-- that's what they would have done. They donated art for the museum's permanent collection.
Violating or stretching donor intent should always be a last, not a first resort.

The details of this case, make it substantialy worse than the average and increasing common cases of small hard pressed institutions trying to survive. Culture Grrl has some great posts on this.

"In its court filings, the museum did not argue (as did the Barnes Foundation, Fisk University and the National Academy) that it needed relaxation of ethical guidelines or donor restrictions because its very survival was at stake. It wants to use the money to help fund the second phase of its 200,000-square-foot Rafael Viñoly-designed expansion. The projected cost of the museum's ambitious capital project (which included construction of its East Wing, above, which opened in June) ballooned from $258 million in 2005 to $350 million as of mid-2008---just before the economic bubble burst."

A real Rubicon has been crossed here and something has to be done about it.

Part Three comming soon

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Disgusting Move By Cleveland Museum Violates Donor Intent Part One

I've been far too overwhelmed to post on this IMO, very important topic earlier. This happens with subjects that piss me off or move me emotionally. I always feel, I should do a perfect post; wonderfully written with links and quotes from every scource and then pretty soon I just let it go. The pile of major insults against freedom and what used to be called the rule of law grows so big, you just don't know where to start. This will be a two part post.

As bad as attacks on the living are, they still might have a chance to defend themselves. The dead have no such chance and to violate their last wishes is vile crime at least to me.

Respecting people's charitable bequests can raise tough issues, the first of which I might describe as "the dead hand problem". Suppose for example, you were very, rich in 1830 and left all your money in an endowment for those suffering from Smallpox. The disease is gone, the endowment remains and one has to make a guess as to what the donor might have wanted. This is a very common problem.

Another issue that can come up is that an endowment or foundation can grow beyond what might be resonably used for the donor's stated purpose. A great example is the Milton S Hershey Trust.

"Established in 1935 by Milton Hershey, The M.S. Hershey Foundation was created to provide educational and cultural opportunities for the citizens of Derry Township. In the early years, The M.S. Hershey Foundation concentrated on providing educational opportunities through the former Hershey Junior College, The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center — a teaching hospital, and the former Hershey Educational and Cultural Center — an alternative to formal education. The Foundation also helped manage the sports and recreation programs of the Hershey Recreation Center at Cocoa Plaza before turning over operations to Derry Township.

Starting in 1970, the Foundation continued its mission to provide cultural and educational opportunities to the Hershey community by assuming operation of Hershey Theatre.

In the 1980s, the Foundation accepted responsibility for Hershey Gardens and Hershey Museum (now The Hershey Story). The Foundation also helped establish the Hershey Community Archives in 1985 and in 1990 took ownership of ChocolateTown Square community park. Most recently, in January 2009, the Foundation established The Hershey Story, The Museum on Chocolate Avenue in downtown Hershey as a welcome addition to furthering its mission.

Milton S. Hershey established the non-profit M.S. Hershey Foundation for the educational and cultural enrichment of Derry Township residents and visitors. When he set aside 5000 shares of company stock in 1935, he couldn't have possibly envisioned that in the 21st century, the Foundation would support five outstanding sites - The Hershey Story, Hershey Gardens, Hershey Theatre, Hershey Community Archives and ChocolateTown Square. As The M.S. Hershey Foundation has expanded its scope, so has the need for community support."

Here you have a high class problem. The Hershey Company grew to a point at which the shares left in the trust could do more than just provide for the school the money was left for. People then guessed that the donor wished the money to support the Hershey community and one now has all this great stuff.

Often it's sort of a gray area (but usually it's not) For example, The Buck Trust was an foundation left by a couple in California who explicitly stated the money be used to only support causes in Marin County.This attracted people in San Francisco, who felt it was "needed more there", and that this need gave them the sacred right to break into the cash box.

"The award Friday by Judge Homer B. Thompson ended the San Francisco Foundation's lawsuit to amend the will of Beryl Buck, which stipulated that the trust fund's money go only to charities in wealthy Marin County."

A whole lot of legal fighting has ensued.

Of course one of the most famous recent cases has to do with the $5 Billion estate of Leona Helmsley who she clearly left to animal welfare causes.

“Mrs. Helmsley’s Trust Agreement and Mission Statement were clear: Help dogs. And the Trustees have not done this. Instead they pursued their own agendas with Mrs. Helmsley’s money,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States.

“Every person with a will or estate—and every charity that relies on bequest income—should be profoundly concerned about this misdirection of funds.”

The trustees point out that just part of the funds left by Mrs. Helmsley could be enough to empty all the animal shelters in the country. But, whatever one might think of the wisdom of this cause--the prime fact is that we have no moral right at all to decide for her. None of the bequests of these people be called in anyway unreasonable. They just might not be what we would have done.

The same disregard for donor wishes has happened with museums but few drop to the level of criminal hubris displayed by The Cleveland Museum Of Art.

Part Two soon

Monthly Truth Break October 2009

Sorry folks but the truth hurts.

Remember that the above figure does not include state and local liabilities and unfunded costs.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mary Tremonte Featured Artist For Encyclopedia Destructica Open Studio

Mary Tremonte Mural In Braddock

The Lawrenceville Open Studios are the must see event tomorrow and a high point of that should be The Ecyclopedia Destructica studio.

Come visit the Encyclopedia Destructica Studios during the L'ville Studio Tour
Saturday, October 17th
10 am - 6 pm

all of our books and zines published since the beginning (2005) will be on display

sew together your own medieval carnival issue to take home
artwork on the walls by
Mary Tremonte

Holy cats and flying squirrels! Encyclopedia Destructica has selected the next FLYING DESTRUCTICATE! "Who could the next fantabulous artist in an already magnificent line of Flying Destructicates be? What could they possibly be up to now? What physical marvel of the book form could potentially be in production in the studios of Encyclopedia Destructica??!!!", you may be asking, thricely...

Well, the wait is over! Rejoice! Mary Tremonte is your new FLYING DESTRUCTICATE!!!! She astounds! She rocks! She removes your socks in a wave of undeniable awesomeness!

Mary is an artist-educator-DJ. She is a member of Justseeds Artists' Cooperative, a decentralized community of artsist who have banded together to both sell their work online and to collaborate with and support each other and social movements. She has recently completed residencies in Providence, RI and Halifax, NS. Mary is a Youth Programs Coordinator at the Andy Warhol Museum and volunteers at Artists Image Resource. She is consumed with printmaking, totally teens, collaboration, communication and the politics of social space, especially the dancepaty.

Come check out some work by Mary on the walls of the Destructica studios THIS SATURDAY for the Lawrenceveille Artists' Studio Tour.

Holy Crap: Art Prize Draws Thousands To Grand Rapids Part Three

Finally, I'm getting to the real meat of the post-- actual information, video's and images of Grand Rapid's Artprize contest.

I want to apologize somewhat about my previous "hell hole comments". Grand Rapids doesn't looks so bad.Without the art,I would describe it from the images as pretty bland. My point, was that this was not the place one would expect to draw huge crowds from all over to look at art.

The other reason, I tried to give all this backround on Michigan's dire economic situation is that we are all in some way headed that way. Economic development, by way of billion dollar show off projects and trillions in carpet cash bombing is comming to an end, one way or the other.

The new winners will be those who can do more with less and use very limited resources in innovative productive uses.

Whatever you think about any particular work, one has to say the concept was a huge hit. Plans are already in the works for another go at it next year!

Exiting and honestly very moving. Be back with more thoughts.

UPMC Braddock Hospital To Close January 31st

Sorry not an arts post. Just keepin it real.

"UPMC purchased the faltering Braddock Medical Center in 1996, and has invested about $30 million in the 277,000-square-foot facility since then, including a new $8 million facade that hasn't even had a ribbon cutting yet. In the past six years, though, UPMC has lost $27 million at the hospital, and only 51 of the 123 beds are now occupied on average.

"We were projecting the daily census would go down to just 44 beds in 2010," Mr. Wood said, and that, combined with a 21 percent decline in admissions over the past five years, was the driving force in the decision to close."

Register For Mobile Art && Code Syposium

MOBILE ART && CODE is a symposium on the artistic and tactical potential of mobile, networked and locative media: November 6-8, 2009 at CMU!

Heads up on what looks to be an amazing event.

"ART && CODE is an event series and online community dedicated to the democratization of computer programming for artists, young people, and the rest of us.

This November 6-8, we continue our successful workshop/lecture series with MOBILE ART && CODE: Mobile Media and Interactive Arts - a symposium on the aesthetic and tactical potentials of mobile, networked and locative media. The three-day event will feature intimate, practical, arts-oriented programming workshops for popular mobile platforms (such as the iPhone, Android, Nokia Smartphones, Arduino, SMS, and Asterisk PBX systems) along with an all-day series of free lecture presentations that contextualizes the use of these technologies in a variety of contemporary critical, artistic and design practices.

MOBILE ART && CODE is made possible by a generous grant from Microsoft Research, with oversight by the Center for Computational Thinking at CMU. The ART && CODE symposium series is a project of the CMU STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, directed by Golan Levin. If you have questions or concerns about MOBILE ART && CODE, please email Golan Levin at"

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Holy Crap: Art Prize Draws Thousands To Grand Rapids Part Two

This my second post about Michigan and the Grand Rapids Artprize contest.

I feel I still need to provide more context to give one some idea how hopeless and deep the troubles in Michigan go. Green shoots in fertile, well watered soil in a sunny climate are not news. Grand Rapids is not widely known as an arts attraction. It has no Carnegie International and even more importantly, Michigan is perceived for good reason by most people as an intractable hell hole. It has an activist governor trying every trick in the book to "help her state", (minus the logical ones that would really help.)

Few dispute how hard she has worked, running all over the state, country and world with handouts, job incentives; snazzy new initiatives and regulations paid for by people other than herself to turn Michigan around.

"Michigan felt the recession first and hardest. The state ranks fifth in foreclosures and last in attracting new residents. Nearly 20 percent of its citizens are on Medicaid. As the auto industry has shrunk, so has tax revenue. The state government technically shut down for nearly two hours early Thursday over a budget crisis, and the legislature and governor are still tussling over how to resolve a projected $2.8 billion deficit. Underlying all of the grim statistics is the loss of jobs. Michigan has had the nation's highest unemployment rate -- now 15.2 percent -- for most of the past three years."

Granholm Touts Green Jobs

Swedens Carl XVI Gustaf Meets Governor Granholm to Explore New Alternative Energy Business Collaborations and Initiatives

"In her effort to attract employers, the governor has taken up the latest arms in the economic arsenal -- tax credits, loans, Super Bowl tickets and a willingness to travel as far as Japan for a weekend to try to persuade an auto parts company to bring more jobs to Michigan. She has won solar and wind energy, electric car batteries, and movie production jobs. About 10,800 of the new positions came from overseas companies, according to her office, the fruits of visits to seven countries."

But what are the net results???? Granholm tells a tale that as bad as things are they would be so much worse without her efforts which is a way of getting around the fact that --

"Michigan has lost 870,000 jobs -- about 632,000 of them during Granholm's tenure. The number is expected to reach 1 million by late next year, the end of her term."

And it didn't just start losing jobs in the last year or two.

The news was grim in other areas, too. In 2005:

• 19% of children in Michigan lived in poverty, up from six years ago.

• Almost a third of the state's African Americans lived below the poverty level.

• Detroit remained one of the poorest big cities in the country with almost a third of its residents living below the poverty line.

• Cities and townships posted drops in median household incomes ranging from 24% to 6% and poverty rates increased in all but three cities.

Even the jobs Granholm is touting as having "created" seem hardly sustainable. She seems to be good at attracting a particular breed of company.

Companies who are losing money and have no profits yet.

Companies with no profits who can't attract private equity investment or loans without massive government subsidies.

Of course, the rational employers that still make money or hope to do so have been getting out of the state.

This is why she has to do this.

Granhom begs for stimulus cash

Here Steve Wynn and the governor of Indiana which is also a big manufacturing state try to knock some sense into her.

The Indiana Governor seems hardly thrilled about having his taxpayers pay for the endless troubles of states like Michigan.

Anyway, I promise the next post will get to the actual Artprize and why I think it might be so important.

Some More Regional Casting Calls

Here's a few of the notices posted on the Pittsburgh Film Office site.Some are for leading roles, some are for extras in projects from big time Hollywood to student film projects. Do your homework.

Unfortunately, you just missed today's casting call for Extras in the wanabe blockbuster, Unstoppable

Actors Needed for Short Film

Vinegar Hill is looking for four actors needed to star in a short film in Indiana, PA later this month. Must be able to travel to Indiana PA for an audition October 23, rehearsal October 30th, and filming October 31st and November 1st.


§ Two Males, early 20s to early 30s

§ One Female, early 20s to early 30s

§ One Female, mid 30s to mid 50s

Please send head shot and resume to by Oct 19. No pay, but it is a great resume and reel builder!

CASTING Asian Actor and others for Student Short

Chatham U. MFA grad student looking for some actors for a short film shooting in early November. The movie is 3-5 minutes long and has no dialogue. Should shoot over one afternoon/evening.

Deadline: 10/25/09

Story Background: in the near future China has taken over the U.S. in a near bloodless conquest, in this new world vices such as alcohol, tobacco, and coffee are outlawed, thus becoming very valuable commodities in the underground economy.

Casting needs:

ASIAN MALE (any adult age) to play the local patrol officer.

MALE (any age/race, preferably bald/shaved head) to play a smuggler.

a few others of any age, type, gender to play patrons in the speakeasy.

contact:Mike at

Black Boot Productions is currently casting all roles for the feature film, The Idea Thief. The film is a comedy about a struggling author’s personal battle against a plagiarist. Shooting is slated for summer, 2010.

Call For Actors! The Idea Thief


Joe: early thirties, slim and ordinary-looking. An easy-going guy, lately driven to emotional extremes by personal and professional difficulties.

Wendy: late twenties, slim and pretty in a girl-next-door way. Joe’s best friend. Supportive and intellectual, with a sarcastic sense of humor.

Pharaoh: early thirties, thick but not fat. A filmmaker with an eccentric personality. Impulsive, hyperactive, and very driven. Wears all black.

Stormy: early thirties, fat. A sloppy, beer-guzzling, oversized kid who wants nothing more than to drink, get laid, and goof off. He’s also as loyal as a golden retriever.


Emily: late twenties, slender and pretty. Wendy’s lover. Lately very emotional after unwillingly breaking up with Wendy.

Mike: voice only. Joe’s spirit guide who gives him advice on life. Should have the polite, chipper voice of a good telemarketer.

Fred: Forties. Joe’s agent. Very businesslike—polite, but stiff.

Auditions will be held at Dee’s Café located at 1316 East Carson Street, Pgh, PA 15203 on Saturday, November 7th from 12:00 pm – 6:00pm.

For more information, contact Jon Skocik at724-531-0902or e-mail

Pittsburgh Art Events: 10/ 16-17/09.


"3-Way", the new exhibit at Fe Gallery (4102 Butler St, Lawrenceville), runs from 6-9 PM, and features the work of Anna Mikolay (Director of Education at the Mattress Factory), Josh Tonies, and Laura Tabakman. This non-profit venue typically shows art without regard to commercial imperatives, so there's a good chance you will see some stuff to make you go "hmmmm?!"

Have you had the opportunity to check out Maxo Vanka's murals at St. Nicholas Church in Millvale (24 Maryland Ave.)? If you haven't, this is the perfect chance- they are having a "50%-off flea market" this weekend. On Friday, it runs from 5-8PM and on Saturday, it's 8AM-2PM. Along with a dinner and a lunch, they are also welcoming people to tour the church itself.


Spend the day (10AM-6PM) in Lawrenceville checking out artist studios. Despite the rapidly increasing price of real estate in this neighborhood, artists haven't (yet) been completely priced out. Although many of the participants are more of the "crafter" sort, you should take this opportunity to invade some strangers' spaces. Unlike the typical "house tour", this event is free. Make sure to stop by Encyclopedia Destructica (156 41st Street) to see where their magic is realized.

Apparently Shepherd Fairey is in town again, for his opening reception for "Supply and Demand" at the Andy Warhol Museum. The museum is encouraging all to come and meet the artist. I used to have a modicum of respect for Fairey... until I realized what a raging hypocrite he is. The guy has been freely appropriating the imagery of other creators for years, and in fact has built his career on the practice. So it galls me that he has sued others for so-called copyright infringement. Anyway you can meet him after 6PM, and meet his lawyers if you decide to appropriate his very own methods.

Fist Fight Breaks Out Over Tom Murphy Legacy

Time doesn't seem to have changed the conflicted feelings people have about Pittsburgh's former mayor Tom Murphy.

Be back when I can with more thoughts. Follow all the links to hear the debate.

3-WAY: An Exhibition By Three Pittsburgh Artists @ Fe Gallery

Sorry for the hasty cut and paste job here. The opening is tomorrow night, but you can also see the show on Saturday during the Lawrenceville Artist's Studio tour.

Remember, the gallery is now only open Thurs-Saturday, 12-3

Fe gallery is proud to present:


An exhibition by three Pittsburgh artists:

Anna Mikolay
Josh Tonies
Laura Tabakman

Opening Reception: October 16, Friday from 7-9pm
New Gallery Hours: Thurs-Sat 12-3pm
Dates: October 16- December 2, 2009

4102 Butler Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15201


Free and Open to the Public

The exhibition includes individual bodies of work by three local
artists, along with a collaborative project. The artists, unfamiliar
with each other, were brought together by Fe's curator, Jill Larson,
and asked to create a site specific collaboration.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Holy Crap: Art Prize Draws Thousands To Grand Rapids

Ok, I didn't know anything at all about this, but I'll go out on a limb and say this is a potential game changer for the entire history of the state of Michigan and perhaps the entire "Rust Belt".

To set the stage here, the statistics and evidence show Michigan to be in at the very least a full blown depression bringing to mind words like disaster area and catastrophe.

"Michigan's seasonally adjusted unemployment inched up a tenth of a percentage point in September to 15.3 percent, state officials said Wednesday.

The figure compares with a 9.8 percent U.S. unemployment rate for the same month. The U.S. Bureau of Labor is scheduled to update the unemployment rates for all 50 states later this month, but Michigan has had the nation's highest unemployment rate since early 2006."

Grim, awfull; but it don't tell the half of it.

Following the link in the story, brings us this headine- "Discouragement over bleak job market shrank Michigan's labor force by 79,000 during last year."

Yes by the government's sick and obviously dishonest logic, people who are too discouraged to look for work, are not considered unemployed. However, it doesn't stop there a whole range of other people aren't counted in that figure either.

Above is a chart of the nationwide U6 unemployment rate.

The U6 rate includes

U1: Percentage of labor force unemployed 15 weeks or longer.

U2: Percentage of labor force who lost jobs or completed temporary work.

U3: Official unemployment rate per ILO definition.

U4: U3 + "discouraged workers", or those who have stopped looking for work because current economic conditions make them believe that no work is available for them.

U5: U4 + other "marginally attached workers", or "loosely attached workers", or those who "would like" and are able to work, but have not looked for work recently.

U6: U5 + Part time workers who want to work full time, but cannot due to economic reasons.

But, Peter Schiff and others have pointed out that this figure also doesn't count a lot of people. If you own a "business or are self employed or an "independent contractor". You are not counted as unemployed. However, if your business is not doing well, you may have little or no income. Likewise, the retired are also seeing a huge decline in their savings.

Sorry, but it get's a lot worse. U6 unemployment/underemployment in Michigan, Oregon, California and Rhode Island is over 20%. Even by these criteria, Michigan is in a class by itself since it's had huge unemployment for many,many years.The main reason things aren't worse is that almost anyone with other options leaves the state.

"About 109,000 more people left Michigan last year than moved in. It is one of the worst rates in the nation, quadruple the loss of just eight years ago. The state loses a family every 12 minutes, and the families who are leaving -- young, well-educated high-income earners -- are the people the state desperately needs to rebuild.

Long treated as a symptom of Michigan's economic woes, outmigration has exploded into a massive problem of its own, a slow-motion Katrina splintering families, gutting state coffers and crippling an already hobbled economy, one moving van at a time."

I'll try to stop there but if you google.

Michigan Bankruptcy Rate
Michigan Foreclosure Rate
Michigan Homeless Stats

Or a long list of other measures, you will see a lot of bad stuff. Don't click images without some morphine on hand.

With all this in mind and in light of the years and billions spent efforts by the state, local and federal government to "fix things"; one wouldn't have guessed $500,000 dollars put up by a private individual as award money in an "American Idol style" art contest would have had much impact.

"Unprepared for the surge in ArtPrize visitors, some restaurants ran out of food and were forced to close early. Others stuck to their policy of being closed Sundays.

"Nobody had any clue this would happen," Doug Small, president of the Grand Rapids/Kent County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said Wednesday.

Few hotels tracked ArtPrize traffic, Small said. Because the summer travel season was over and no other major events were taking place in the area, he said it's likely many extra hotel guests were there because of ArtPrize."

I will try to follow up on this.

Pittsburgh Legend Bruno Sammartino

I know this might seem like chaos having little or nothing to do with Pittsburgh's art scene, Bruno, who came to Pittsburgh as a boy is an iconic legend with a truely American life story.

Broken kneck, multiple back surgeries, knee surgery. This guy paid the price of greatness.

Check out this second interview. I swear I didn't put this up as a joke. This is a great story and Bruno is a great man.

He mentions the conflict in the interview, between wrestling's identity as just a staged circus act, and his desire to be seen as a serious athlete demonstrating fantastic strength, speed, agility and skill.

"Sammartino made his professional debut in Pittsburgh on December 17, 1959, pinning Dmitri Grabowski in 19 seconds. [2] On December 23, he defeated Miguel Torres, for the local Spectator Sports promotion, in Pittsburgh. He soon became extremely popular. The name of the local TV wrestling program was Studio Wrestling and it was broadcast on WIIC-TV Channel 11. The host was Pittsburgh personality Bill Cardille.

In 1966, Sammartino bought the Pittsburgh-based Spectator Sports promotion. The promotion was a stopping point for national stars such as Gorilla Monsoon, The Crusher, Bill Watts, George Steele, and Bobo Brazil, as well as featuring local talent like Johnny De Fazio, Frank "Carnegie Cop" Holtz, Hurricane Hunt, Tony "The Battman" Marino, and John L. Sullivan (who later gained fame as Johnny Valiant). Although there were no major problems, Sammartino sold the company in 1971. He was later asked by the new Buffalo-based owners to help with the booking of Pittsburgh area shows. The local TV show was canceled in 1974, and the promotion shut down. The Pittsburgh area then became part of the WWWF territory."