Saturday, January 30, 2010

Grow Up And Act Normal

Yet another borderline ballistic rant wells up almost every day as I read the paper and think about the future of what looks like a nation run by infants. Mommy, Mommy, I want a Maglev! I want a Maglev!

But son, we are a little short right now and we need money for those roads and bridges you want. I need them to get to my new house, Mommy. The one you bought to avoid city taxes? Transportation is a right! OK, but we are having problems. The loans uncle Freddie and Aunt Fannie guaranteed for a lot of peoples houses have gone bad. You haven't made a mortgage payment on your house in the last two months. Mommy, housing is a right! You told me that. Do you need six bedrooms and a three car garage? It's what you gave Timmy! It's what you gave Paul! I know, but now there are so many bad loans and we need to bail out the banks and--. The banks can't fail! The banks can't fail! Banking is a right! But son, remember the health care you need. Mommy, we can't talk about that. Health care is a right! Life and death, Mommy, I don't want to die. I want to live forever, and ever. I know son, but sometimes we have to make choices and....

Mommy, Mommy, Mommy. We can't talk about this. I want a Maglev. I want a Maglev. I shouldn't have to choose! This is America, the greatest nation in the world. I have rights!! It's what you said. It's what you promised. It's why your my favorite mommy. You make me feel safe. You never used to talk like this. This is America! We can do anything. I want a Maglev! I want a Maglev!

Tedious, isn't it? And, You know I could go on and on with only slight exaggeration.

Null Space and the Post Gazette both things up about the childish antics that likely resulted in our relative lack of new rail funds. When Obama's administration starts to think your plans are unrealistic, you have a big problem.

Not going into the specific proposals too deeply, generally the bulk of funds went to states that--

A) Seemed to really want rail projects.
B) Had somewhat reasonable proposals to economically upgrade existing freight tracks and rights of way.
C) Point to point connections designed to link cities.

It also seemed like things tilted heavily to corridors with somewhat limited physical barriers like mountains. We can, quibble pretty heavily about the likely use of some of these lines (like the Buffalo one and the Chicago, Detroit One.)

So why so little for us? We are a big populous state with almost the only already viable existing line running along our coast. We are also a stones throw from Cleveland with no mountains between us along the former legendary Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia line almost everyone thinks needs to be reborn.

So, what happened? Well, it doesn't seem like projects linking either Cleveland to Pittsburgh or to Philly (or D.C.) were submitted. Instead, we asked for funds for a fairly reasonable commuter line from Scranton and this....

"Mr. Gurney said release of the funding was stalled because the railroad agency's attention was on awarding the $8 billion in new grants. Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia submitted $57 billion in requests for the money, which was part of last year's economic stimulus package.

Pennsylvania applied for $2.3 billion in stimulus money to start maglev construction, but Mr. Gurney said it appeared from the start that the grants would all go to conventional steel-wheel-on-rail projects.

"What happened was not at all unexpected," he said. "While it's disappointing that no maglev project got any of the funding, we saw the handwriting."

The project calls for a 54-mile system from Pittsburgh International Airport to Downtown Pittsburgh to Greensburg. Mr. Gurney said the severe decline in flights and passenger traffic at the airport has not diminished its potential."

That's right we asked for one of the largest requested grants for a project that doesn't link us to any significant city, but whizzes us to our airport using technology that I think has yet to be proven cost effective.

In fact, we managed to come up with one of the few ideas that might not help Pittsburgh's central city and which worked against rail's great ability to take large numbers of people into and out of dense areas with little impact. This idea seemed focused on helping Monroeville, Penn Hills and the southern and eastern suburbs.

Older Yinzer's may be reminded of the ghost of Skybus, an earlier attempt to corner the market on what was likely a dubious technology.

I should say more but honestly, I'm just too angry.

To quote Null Space, "If your strategy was to actually not expand transit options would the results be any different."

(Clarification-- this is an fairly exagerated rant low on details. We, actually did recieve a tiny 26.4 million to beef up the Harrisburg--Philly section and a whole $750,000 to study improvements to the grindingly slow from here to Harrisburg. I actually don't know all the proposals but it's pretty clear that a heavy focus was put on the Maglev. To my knowledge, nobody here saw value in any link to Cleveland at all.)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Historic Locomotive Works On North Side To Be Torn Down

If you want to know the price Pittsburgh is paying for not having a solid transit system and it's highway building binge in the 20th century, here's yet another clue.

Carnegie's historic railroad works were one of his first major business ventures and started building trains on the North Shore in 1865. The loss of this complex of buildings few noticed from the elevated expressway say's something deep and sick about our culture. Amazingly, few (or perhaps none) have talked about their historical value and even fewer the enormous potential value of this land to the city's tax base and the health of the entire North Side.

"Thousands of skilled workmen labored at the locomotive works over the decades; at full capacity the plant employed as many as 1,500. Some lived nearby in the Manchester neighborhood, which built up rapidly in the late 19th century with factories and housing, and attended St. Andrew Church, once located across from the locomotive works on Beaver Avenue.

Over the years, and with the construction of elevated Ohio River Boulevard next to the factory, the buildings lost all of their residential context. Today, they're surrounded by Duquesne Light equipment and a chain-link fence."

That's right-- before this so called "Boulevard" sliced through the area, this was a critical valuable link in a Neighborhood! A place Brian O'neil tries to describe in The Paris Of Appalachia.

"Check out the 1937 photo of old Beaver Avenue on the next page. See the vibrant street of shops in Manchester, and compare it to the desolate, soulless service road it has become today, a mere abutment to Route 65. The big road takes commuters in from the Northern suburbs to earn their bread and then hightail it home, just as the government planned a half century ago. Manchester lost it's commercial avenue, the lifeblood of any walkable community and has never recovered fully."

I would say he seriously understates things. Manchester today is pretty damn damaged. I just can't spell things out more clearly. Here we have an elevated expressway that has so eviscerated and divided Pittsburgh that most people don't even notice this slice of wonderfully located urban waterfront.

Someday, a wise and courageous city leader might say.

Mr Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall.

Great Pittsburgh 80's Rock Video: The Silencers

A blast from the past video I was forwarded, of a three song demo video by the Silencers, one of a number of bands from a period many consider the city's golden age of Rock.

The opening Peter Gunn part really showcases a lot of 1980's Pittsburgh, with shots of what looks like either the Terminal building or Armstrong Cork factory; street scenes from The War Streets or Manchester and a very Pittsburgh looking church.

Sorry, again for the relative lack of arts posts.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ohio Gets Major Dollars For High Speed Rail

This is in no way a comprehensive report, but it seems Ohio will be getting $400 million federal dollars towards creating high speed rail connections on a planned route linking Cincinnati,Dayton,Columbus and Cleveland. The route is somewhat suprising but perhaps wise, providing it's a start.

If you think about it a bit, one grasps that that one of the Midwest's greatest assets is the gently rolling or flat land that makes transport easy. Chicago was the city of broad shoulders because it acted as the central rail head for a vast,rich and flat area of the country. Like it or not, geographic realities place us practically closer to the cities of the Midwest than to most in the east.

As far as I can tell, other funding will be granted to make a link from Chicago to Detroit and Pontiac, a route that honestly seems to make little but political sense. No progress will be made so far on the logical historic rail link between Chicago, Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

I will try to follow this and remain optimistic. The whole thing feels weird. On the one hand, almost all logic and common sense points to the need to revive a great rail system. But, should the government--the same entity that used so much cash and power to destroy our cities and create such a misguided free road system be in this game? How's it done taking care of our highways?

Even more disturbing is that, no real break as far as I can tell has been made with past mistakes. We just don't have money to continue supporting most of our road infrastructure while building a new rail system at the same time. Real goals and choices have to be made. The wisest one being to systematically cut off most federal interstate highway dollars while leaving the market to quickly start creating alternatives, which almost certainly would revolve around rail. (The idea everything must be really high speed is a wasteful fetish. All that's really needed is to be significantly faster than driving.)

By the way, if you haven't noticed it, one of the primary reasons given for Federal Highways was as emergency urban evacuation routes-- a concept proven wrong on numerous occassions like the 2005 failed evacuation of New Orleans. (When the Federally "guaranteed" levee system broke)

Buncher Co Land Fight May Hold Up Light Rail

Up until very recently, I wasn't following the many dream Pittsburgh light rail systems floating around on napkins around town. From what I had heard, Peduto's idea of some kind of loop linking Downtown with the Strip, Bloomfield, Oakland and Shadyside made the most sense. (although, I really thought the cost estimate I once heard of only $25 million seemed absurdly low ball)Of course it makes sense-- I thought of it myself after living in Pittsburgh for one week.

The reasonable plans imagine using existing but underused old rail corridors and easements and almost all go through the Strip.

Such system would vastly increase the potential land uses and density levels along the route meaning more potential cash for almost everyone. It's a win, win so who would have a problem with it?

Well, already the problems are here.

"Although the tracks from 16th to 21st streets were removed or covered over in the 1980s, AVR contends it held the easement to operate rail service in the corridor, and that Buncher was barred from developing the strip of land once occupied by the tracks.

When AVR's chief executive officer, Russell Peterson, and a consultant met with Buncher's president, Tom Balestrieri, in September 2008 to invite the company into a public-private partnership to build a transit-oriented development between 16th and 21st streets, Mr. Balestrieri told them the easement didn't exist, Mr. Peterson said in a filing to the transportation board."

Now I want to make myself clear, (oooops, I really mean it) I'm pretty much a Libertarian and pretty much opposed to all eminent domain uses beyond the most extreme public needs and I really don't think transportation routes fit the bill at all. 90% of the time if a project really makes sense, it will gain support and justify the purchase price of land or rights. People always say they need public power to do what the market won't. Most of the time this is because the idea doesn't make a lot of sense in the first place.

I also have no knowledge at all of this contract. Still, I am pretty shocked and amazed, that a large property owner in the Strip wouldn't see how light rail would vastly increase the value of it's holdings by opening The Strip up to really dense, walkable mixed uses. Even more amazing, is that there's so little talk about these plans. I mean we live in a city that has bulldozed vast areas for Sports Stadiums and almost every other use.

Most people don't know that there is at least one major transit system in Hong Kong run by an incredibly profitable private company which also develops major apartment, office and shopping developments along it's routes.

( The plan talked about in the Post, once again-- focuses on linking to suburban areas instead of creating a comprehensive route in the city. Which, since it serves mostly low and moderate density areas offers little or no chance of paying for itself either by attracting enough riders or through increased property tax collections)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Are American Cities Making The Possible Impossible?

It's sort of embarrassing when you read something you really can't add to much. Aaron Renn who has a great blog called Urbanophile was nice enough to allow an extended quote from his post, Impossibility City.

It should be self evident that people live in cities to be near other people and reap all the benefits of human interaction. Officials are starting to understand people conveniently getting to stores, schools and workplaces but often try to limit and control the unexpected interactions that make cities really valuable. Do they still pump in muzak on the T platforms? God forbid you heard a talented neighbor sing. God forbid they met a record producer.

"On the second front, I don’t think people truly get the link between a broad vision of what a city is, a large sphere in which individuals can pursue divergent activities and goals, and economic success. As Sam Jacob of FAT put it, “Cities are not about the perfect vision; they are not about a singular idea. They are about a collision of all kinds of incompatible demands.” The life of the small town or the suburb are rigidly circumscribed. They might not be about a single vision, but they are about a more narrow and defined view of what life should be. They demand conformity. A place like that, no matter how large or even how successful, is not a true city.

A collision of incompatible demands. What a great way to put it. It is in containing that collision within a geographical, political, social, and culture context that a city creates its meaning. Cities can resolve the paradox, reconcile the incompatible into something new and powerful. It isn’t always pretty. The results are sometimes messy or unpleasant. But its in that resolution process that we create the energy and innovation that moves the city forward and allows its residents, business, and institutions to reinvent themselves and their lives if they so choose.

Let’s put it in terms that are broadly understood, by considering this in the framework of Richard Florida’s “Creative Class”. I don’t think this is the end all, be all by any means. But clearly, in a nation pinning its hopes on an innovation economy to replace the jobs lost by productivity gains and offshoring in traditional sectors, and to power the economic growth of the future, you need to both have the talent and the catalyst to make innovation happen.

Florida’s simplified thesis is that successful cities are about talent, technology, and tolerance. The last point is usually taken to mean a tolerance for gays and various “bohemian” types. But tolerance isn’t about non-discrimination ordinances and it isn’t about gays. Tolerance is a mindset.

The dictionary definition of tolerance is “sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own”. From this is clear that most advocates for “progressive” policies of the type advocated by Florida really aren’t tolerating anything. They might be about allowing differences, but it is seldom about allowing views or actions that are in actual conflict with their own values. Indeed, progressives can be as intolerant as anyone for beliefs or actions that differ from their orthodoxy.

We need tolerance properly so-called. We need an environment where we are willing to put up with things we don’t like in return for the same freedom for ourselves. We need cities where “live and let live” is the motto. Rules that stifle this in order to produce a perpetual suburban style family friendly or least common denominator view of what a city should be are ultimately counter-productive. They sap the city of its animating power.

This isn’t just an obscure philosophical point. It’s real and tangibly important. George Bernard Shaw famously said that “all progress depends on the unreasonable man”. Innovation requires non-conformity with existing ways of doing things. This requires not just the idea, but the mental fortitude to break away not just from our own patterns of doing things, but from the social pressure to conform. In a sense, all innovation depends on the outcast."

Apologies In Advance

I just want to warn people of that a bunch of non art posts are coming, most of which relate to the need to cover and talk about local transit and development issues. Things someone needs to talk about.

For example-- The absolutely huge and realistic chance Pittsburgh may actually have a light rail system in it's future. People who haven't lived here might be shocked at how little buzz, debate and discussion this is creating. The city still provides a large chunk of the region's good jobs while dedicating a huge chunk of it's land to parking and non taxable uses,yet still doesn't understand the value of connecting it's core with a good transit system. Amazingly stupid.

Anyway, I will try to do other posts.

Pitch For More Bloggers Again

Well, we have another very active calendar of art openings, films, events and performances, plus an even fuller line up of related issues about free speech, arts funding, new media, no photography policies but still have far too few people contributing to this blog to make a dent.

Luckily there are a number of new and now pretty decent people covering things on Bittersweet Harvest, City Creative, Pittsburgh Art + Technology and the revived Pittsburgh Art Blog to add to the trusty POP City, I Heart Pittsburgh and improved coverage in The Post Gazette and City Paper.

As to the other main area of my at least personal interest-- blogs covering the local nexus of mass transit, walkable urban design, parking and the local economy pretty much don't exist. There's Bike Pittsburgh, City Walkabout and not much else. It's hard to be bullish on a region that won't talk about some of it's most important issues.

If you think you can contribute to our coverage with one post a month, please shoot us an email.

As to potential payment. I actually think there is a decent chance of adding a bit of advertising or perhaps other revenues but ironically we are just too short of time to get a handle on this--mostly because we are posting.

I will be back with more thoughts.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Amazing Masstransiscope Stop Motion Animation Art

I'm a huge fan of animation and I love trains. Back in the early 1980's an the artist, Bill Brands realised that a moving train itself could be used to make a video experience for it's passengers. In this video are a compilation of stories about the project and several very informative interviews with the artist.

Over many years this public art project fell victim to time, dirt and vandals, but was restored fully in 2008. I remember going back and forth a few times just to see it again.

Pittsburgh's Great Operatic Traffic Cop Dies

OK, I'm not from Pittsburgh and just wasn't here to see this guy at work. But I remember him from Candid Camera.

Two things come across, the first being that seeing anyone who really loves their job in action is always a joy.

The second is just how much the social lives of cities and how we view them has changed. Clearly this cop understood the human "messiness" of city traffic, isn't just a problem to be controlled, but an intricate dance in which the goals of all people are gently coordinated. An old lady may be slow to cross, someone may need a nudge to stop or slow down, perhaps a kid dropped his favorite toy in the street-- these are not always serious police matters to be solved with tickets and "law enforcement". Mostly the role of this arm swinging character was to have people slow down and watch out at a critical urban intersection.

Interestingly, Victor Cianca was loved more by Pittsburgher's than by many fellow officers.

"I've gotten more guff from the guys I work with than I ever got from the public," he said in 1982.

When he was invited to New York to accept an award from "Candid Camera," then-Police Superintendent James W. Slusser refused to let him to travel there.

"If he wants to be an actor, he should take a course at Carnegie Tech," Mr. Slusser said, at the time. Mr. Slusser later allowed Mr. Cianca to go, though it was too late for the man to receive his award."

January Gallery Crawl

A couple weeks ago, I did a brief tour downtown of some of the visual arts venues. Well, as a follow-up, I swung through downtown for the January Gallery Crawl on Friday to catch some of the things that I missed and see the new exhibits. My first stop was Resolutions, curated by Urban Tree Forge and moxie DaDA.

Unfortunately, the gallery crawl was the closing reception for the exhibit. But I did want to point out that Gabe Felice had several small works in the show. Not the ones pictured above. The venue was entirely too packed to really get a shot. These were indicative of what was at the venue though. What I've seen of his work seems to be in this really small scale. Gabe Felice shows pretty regularly, so I'm sure you'll have an opportunity to see it out there in Pittsburgh.

Urban Tree Forge & moxie DaDA
820 Liberty Avenue
Resolutions promotes moral courage and strength of mind. Artists have been chosen for their choice in materials and context of self-discovery, as well as their resolve to create and produce from within the urban landscape.

As always, Shaw Galleries had its wonderful collection of prints and maps on display. This month, Shaw is showing a series of pochoir prints created by Rouault. The exhibit is over on January 30, so try to stop by and see them. There is a short explanation of pochoir prints in a previous post.

Shaw Galleries
Rouault: Visages
805 Liberty Avenue
Features all 10 original pochoir prints from the late French Expressionist Georges Rouault's very rare Visages Portfolio (Album of Faces).

The Gallery Crawl was too packed to get images from 707 Gallery of Anjali Srinivasan's solo exhibit. The above image is from the artist's website. Several people have already reviewed this exhibit, so I am just adding my voice to the many in urging you to go and see it. The work is lovely and I look forward to visiting the gallery again before the exhibit closes in February.

707 Penn Gallery
707 Penn Avenue
Particulate Behaviors: New Works by Anjali Srinivasan
The exhibit explores the threshold of olfactory sensation, optical phenomena and participatory environments, through installations and objects of spice, glass and emergent technologies.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Paris Of Appalachia Book Review Coming Soon

I finally read long time Post writer and North Shore resident, Brian O'Neill's, The Paris Of Appalachia and hope to get a review up in the next few days. The book was very well written and brings a the sincere perspective and insights of a long time resident to the city. I highly recommend it. It's a fairly short, easy, fascinating read filled with personal stories of life in town-- or at least life in a small part of the North Shore. However, this is also it's great flaw. O'Neill just doesn't give a broad enough view of the city to back up all the sweeping conclusions he makes in the last few chapters. Ironically, I end up with a more positive and optimistic view of our assets and prospects than he does.

I will try very hard to get this up in the next few days.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Deitch Speculation And Buzz Update

No real news to report here but NY Magazine published a nice story filled with art world insiders opinions on what this major dealers move to head a major museum may mean.

“He’ll have one foot in New York,” predicts Larry Warsh, an art collector who serves on the board of the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat with Deitch. The MOCA could end up endorsing the “Goog model,” says Warsh, and add MOCA satellites or partnerships worldwide. He could even start a branch in New York (Deitch says he will close his galleries here by May, but intends to maintain a presence via guest exhibits). "That wouldn’t surprise me at all,"

It's certainly my hope that the combination of a somewhat desperate institution in a world art capital and a famous and globaly connected person like Jeffrey will lead to very exiting and ground breaking results.

Another Jane Jacobs Video

Jane Jacobs: Parting Words (2007) from Kevin Balmer on Vimeo.

Too lazy a disorganised today to post much or tie thoughts together. Here's another video, about Jane Jacobs. It's not nearly long enough.

In a more rational world all of this Jane stuff would get pretty stale, lame, and redundant. After all this should be just common sense. However, in the fragile world of Pittsburgh and America today, the first step in making the world a "better place", is to keep the ignorant and powerful from making it worse.

I like that the video draws the link between a lot of Richard Florida's ideas and their obvious roots in Jane's writing.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Art Clokey: Mandala

I was hoping to share some thoughts about the downtown shows I saw last night, but honestly the gallery crawl was too packed to really see things well. I will be back.

One highlight was my visit to the small, shoestring, start up museum called the Toonseum which screened a documentary about Gumby's creator and his pioneering first film called Gumbasia.

The documentary referred heavily to another equally experimental artistic project he made later, called Mandala, a trippy religious meditation on life and death.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Jet's Fans Crowd Times Square

I swear this isn't really about the Jets (GO GO GO GO GO JETS) but about the way NYC continues to lead the way as an innovator in pedestrian friendly design-- at least in Manhattan.

So anyway the Jets are in the AFC championship game, (a rare moment) and their having a pep rally-- big deal. Sad to say that in many ways it is. Most of the time, these rallies have to be organised well in advance and be held in a stadium, thousands packed the roads to get to. Of course if one wins the whole thing, most cities block off a central area for approved celebrations, an inconvenience that seriously screws up traffic patterns and interrupts business and daily life.

This however doesn't seem like this at all. Daily life is going on and traffic is moving normally because Broadway, the central street in the "center of the world", is now always closed to traffic.

How can this happen? Well, experts have long known that close to 90% of the people in Times Square on a business day took some form of mass transit or walked there. Even so, up till almost a year ago, the bulk of space was dedicated to cars. Sidewalks were jammed so tight that many pedestrians tried to avoid the area if they could. Finally the mayor whom I don't fully support on many things took the logical step of closing Broadway from 23RD Street all the way past 42ND Street to all non emergency vehicles.

Not everyone's happy about it.

Streetfilms-Veronica Moss Visits Times Square - The most amazing home videos are here

A Few Words About Free Speech

This blog's title strongly implies it's not about politics but culture. Even so, it's pretty hard to imagine real sincere cultural exchange or growth without freedom of speech or association.

The Constitution really can't be more clear in stating that the government has no right at all to limit the free speech, the press or free association of it's citizens. But, I guess if one had to guess the most protected form of communication intended by the founders, it would be political speech.

The funny thing about the recent court's strikedown of campaign finance limits was that the case was not brought over an ad, but a film with political content. When justice Roberts asked the solicitor general if there were any forms of speech the FCC could not limit under the law; the answer was almost none.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Pittsburgh Art Events: 1/ 22-23/10.


The Downtown Gallery Crawl for the winter is upon us, and the Cultural Trust is offering attendees a melange of stuff- some of which has been up for weeks, and some that is being newly unveiled for the event itself (5:30-9PM).

Space Gallery (812 Liberty Ave.) still houses the "Behind our Scenes" exhibit (curated by Laura Mustio & Nicole Rosato), which showcases the work of artists affiliated with local art institutions like the Mattress Factory and the Carnegie Art Museum. I attended the opening, and would suggest that the show is worth a quick run-through. The Pitt News has a write-up of the show here.

I've also seen PCA curator Adam Welch's collection of large assemblage pieces and other works at the 709 Penn Gallery. Welch has been quite busy trying to reconcile the perplexing dichotomies within himself and society (here's a review by Kurt Shaw). You'll have to see for yourself how he's managing. While you're at it, stop by next door (707 Penn) for a display of works by Anjali Srinivasan.

Wood Street Galleries hosts a genuine opening reception for a retrospective of works by Argentinian artist Martin Bonadeo, and Future Tenant has Do You Understand?, a multimedia exhibit on online communication, curated by Kim Rullo. Even though they opened this thing last weekend, you can get a "Sneak Preview" online at their official site. Meanwhile the 937 Gallery (on Liberty Avenue) has three full floors of stuff to take in, including Robot Resolution for the tech geeks, and the For Real For Real storytelling series for the literate nerds.

At 820 Liberty, Urban Tree Forge and Moxie Dada has its closing reception for Resolutions. Evidently the curators there are trying to get you to think, as they are advertising an "Exhibit challenging viewers to think about environment, sustainability, self government & control". Finally, you should make a point of stopping by Pittsburgh Tribune Review art critic Kurt Shaw's relatively-new gallery (805 Liberty Ave.). He's featuring "rare original prints" by French Expressionist Georges Rouault.

If you'd rather simply avoid the hustle-and-bustle of Downtown on a Friday evening, you can choose instead to go to Paper - series on paper by Kelly Blevins, Seth Clark, Joren Dykstra, Maria Mangano & Andrea Muha at the Gallery on Baum (4643) in Oakland. I've been tracking events there for a bit, and it seems like this is their first show that features local artists, so come out (6-9PM) and reinforce this new direction. There's a nice preview (and a couple of images) of this over at The Pittsburgh Galleries Blog.


Your options seem kind of limited for Saturday. All I could find is Now & Then and Cubism Revisited, featuring the work of David Lewis and Terry Shutko respectively, opening at the Mendelson Gallery in Shadyside (2-5PM). It should be worth checking out.

(EDIT: There's also a show of drawings at the Panza Gallery: 115 Sedgwick Street in Millvale from 6-9PM. I feel terrible for forgetting this because it's an exhibition by folks I draw with most Thursdays. Hell, I might even have something in the show.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Gumby Dharma At The Toonseum: Friday January 22nd

I'm not sure why, but Gumby always scared me on some level. To be placed in so convincing a place that is both of our world and yet so completely off was amazing.

Look at the intense sense of exploration and modernist joy in this little short. Very influential stuff, I would imagine.

"Art's animation work and personal brand of love of life has for almost half a century influenced millions of TV and film viewers and filmmakers across the world. A consummate storyteller, we capture Art's story as he reminisces about his long life and his vast animation work. In addition, the film will include short interviews with some of the contemporary leaders in the animation world who have been touched and influenced by Art's pivotal contribution to the genre. Highlight clips of Art's original, groundbreaking art films, Gumbasia and Mandala, will appear in the film as well as clips of some of Art's favorite Gumby and Davey and Goliath episodes.

Also included are new stop motion work, (directed/animated by Academy Award® Nominee Timothy Hittle) depicting 'interviews' with Gumby and some of the gang on their time with Art Clokey."

January 22nd, 9:00pm following the Cultural District Gallery Crawl
Suggested donation of 4 dollars benefits the ToonSeum.
Seating is limited.

The ToonSeum 945 Liberty Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Suggested donation of 4 dollars benefits the ToonSeum.
Seating is limited.

This filming was planned before Gumby's creator, Art Clokey's death at age 88.

Reality Break

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Sorry for the interruption, unfortunately reality is knocking at the door again. It seems like the magic word among those in the know is Sovereign Risk.

Here a hedge fund guy who predicted our current mess and was evil enough to profit from it lays bets on the next big shoe to drop.

First came central bank induced real estate bubble, primarily caused by efforts to keep the Yen low through very low interest rates. Then when the crisis hit, instead of closing bad banks and bankrupt companies (most with political connections) came a decade's long series of bailouts, more and more monetary easing (the stuff that caused the bubble in the first place) and a cycle of greater and greater government stimulus spending on projects people didn't need and the government couldn't afford.

But now after more than twenty years of hiding and evading the pain with piles of government debt; the real pain may just be starting. Japan faces almost certain default or a period of drastic hyperinflation which will wipe out the last savings of it's citizens.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cleveland Art Prize Winner Amy Casey

As we all know, we can't learn much from Cleveland, a city that seems to have taken the elitist, backroom deals that have so damaged Pittsburgh to a new level; tilting most investments away from local residents and towards a select projects meant to demonstrate Cleveland is a "great city".

And then there's an old endowment funded by local donors and foundations for scholarships and awards to local artists. Just the kind of thing they should be doing more of.

"In 1960, the Women’s City Club sponsored a series of talks to assess the cultural scene in Cleveland. In the final lecture of the series, composer Klaus George Roy suggested that Cleveland begin a tradition of identifying and honoring its own outstanding artists on an annual basis. Martha Joseph accepted Roy’s challenge and assembled the first Cleveland Arts Prize committee.

For 30 years, Martha Joseph guided the Arts Prize within the Women’s City Club and led a drive to establish an endowment. Under the tenure of Mary Louise Hahn (Chair, 1990 – 2000), the Arts Prize commissioned an Arts Prize medal, launched a scholarship program, and established the tradition of holding an annual awards event in cultural venues throughout the city. Led by Diana Tittle (Chair 2000-2004 and Arts Prize recipient 1997) the Arts Prize codified and published the selection criteria and became an independent non-profit organization. In 2005, Terri Pontremoli led the organization until Marcie Bergman became the Executive Director in 2006. Under Marcie’s direction the Cleveland Arts Prize began the tradition of holding a fundraiser in addition to the annual awards event.

The oldest award of its kind in the United States, the Arts Prize is a testament to the standard of excellence and quality of artists in Northeast Ohio. In addition to artists, the Arts Prize honors individuals who have expanded the community’s participation in the arts and helped make the region more hospitable to creative artistic — expression."

Above is a video about last Year's winner Amy Casey.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Fresh Beginnings: Fresh Decade Music Night In Braddock

Yes we know, the hospital is closing and Braddock's small relatively isolated population is mostly fading away. Yet, weird green shoots keep showing up like a new music production company that wants to host music performances.

Looks pretty good, hardcore, drum, hip hop and all kind of improv by independent acts from as far as Ohio.

..Fresh Beginnings Fresh Decade
Saturday, January 23rd @ Braddock Elks Lodge..
424 Library St.
Braddock, PA 15104

The lodge is over by the mayor's house. Looks to be almost an all night thing open to all ages. Doors open at 8:00--$10 cover with donation of canned food to local food bank.

More info here.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Urban Bytes Interview Up, Jeb Feldman, Urban Homesteader, Talks About the Arts Explosion in Braddock, PA"

I wanted to get the word out that there is a new interview up on Urban Bytes, " Jeb Feldman, Urban Homesteader, Talks About the Arts Explosion in Braddock, PA."

Although the posting date is 12/19/2009, it was really just finished today.

There are a lot of very exciting things going on in Braddock PA. And the arts scene there is particularly vibrant.

While Braddock has had some bad news lately (the closing of UPMC Braddock) , it has had some very good news on the job training front. The Post Gazette reported last week that Heritage Community Initiatives in Braddock received a 1.4 million dollar grant to train people in green jobs over the next two years.

For the Urban Bytes interview with Jeb Feldman, go to

Better Late Than Never : Gestures Post Coming Soon

I saw the Gesture's show at the Mattress factory the day before it closed and still felt it deserved some kind of post which will go up in the next few days.

It always frustrated me that reviews here could never come out after a show was over. This "what to do this weekend", bias is one of the single biggest factors limiting the exposure of small and offbeat independent spaces and galleries since all the major shows must be reviewed. Even better, is the "that place is rarely open excuse"--small shoestring galleries might very well be open more if people knew about them. If the show is good, it should be reviewed.

Reviews and write ups have a value far beyond this and act as a historical record of the show. Almost all magazine art reviews come out long after shows are over.

I'll finish with a call for more contributors to this blog. Contact us if you have thoughts and opinions about the arts scene in Pittsburgh.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Video 2009 Of Handmade Arcade

Handmade Arcade, December 2009 from Brian Staszel on Vimeo.

I found this video documenting the 2009 Handmade Arcade, the largest Pittsburgh indie craft fair held every year in the Christmas season which draws in crafters and customers from all over.

Found on Bittersweet Harvest.

Reimagine The Leslie Park Pool

Ok, we all may remember the The Accordion Pool Party, an outpouring of energy last summer meant to get people thinking about the neighborhood's small outdoor swimming pool.

Now a series of meetings will be held seeking more input and ideas. I think this is from a letter being sent around.

"A pool again?" she writes. "A skate park? A spray park? A community arts center? The planning team wants YOU to share your dreams for the park site, and have a meaningful discussion and move forward. Everyone is welcome! Bring a neighbor, your teenager or grandparent. We want to hear from as many residents as possible!"

We all have our preferences but honestly-- I think pool works best but this is a sweet and potentially useful, well located and interesting space that could be adapted for an outdoor amphitheater or a skate park or perhaps allow many uses. But once again the root problem emerges of a lack of a good transit system capable of bringing the wider community there and the general lack of density in the neighborhood itself (related problems). Lawrenceville has a much smaller population than it once had.

Notice the somewhat threatening use of the term "residents", which is discouraging. Would a little input from a Bloomfield, Stanton Heights or Garfield resident be that out of line? I may be reading too much into that.

Read more on City Walkabout.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Yinz Links Thoughts

Followers of this blog quickly become aware of it's often chaotic nature. Projects are often started and not followed up on and continuing themes like Merge's weekend posts and my Yinz links come and go. There are three main reasons for this.

1) No blogger on this site gets any compensation beyond a very occasional free museum pass. You get what you pay for. At some point in the future we may be able to work in a few revenue generating ideas, but they are not likely to result in significant cash.

2) The blog has no editorial or "management" team. The blog flows with the whims, energy and interest of it's most active posters.

3) One of the leading posters is has ADHD and perhaps a number of other serious mental disorders. (and it's not Susan)

Anyway, the Yinz links series I did for a while may occasionally return in a random and evolved form broken up into categories like Yinz Arts Links; Yinz Economics; Yinz Weird News or something like that. It will not be on every few days.

Spell check doesn't recognise yinz as a word.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Art Inter/National @Boxheart

I took a break from studio work today and wandered up Liberty Avenue to see Boxheart's Art Inter/National today. Lovely day for it. It's great to have such an amazing venue so close to my workspace.

The Art Inter/National is an annual exhibit at Boxheart. From their show statement --
The Art Inter/National Exhibition began in January 2002 with the concept of exploring space, how the immediate environment impacts the artistic process and influences what each artist creates. Inspired by the prestigious Carnegie International, Box Heart Gallery is thrilled to offer the Pittsburgh community an intimate, yearly alternative. Over 275 entries, from regional, national, and international artists, were received this year. Of these entries, 20 artists were selected for participation and 29 works of art in a variety of media will be exhibited.

A variety of media indeed! On exhibit are some very fine works ranging from sculpture to painting.

Watercolor on Paper: Brian Shaughnessy

There is something very compelling about Shaughnessy's works. They are a little on the violent side, but that wasn't why I was drawn to theem. Rather, it was the richness of the work. For all that these are watercolors, there was a real density to the images. Very difficult to achieve with watercolors.

Encaustic: Ariela Steif

I'm a sucker for encaustics. The images above don't really do justice to the works on display at the gallery. As with any encaustic, there is considerably more depth to the works. These have a very interesting surface character, too. The imagery implies violence as it depicts strands of barbed wire.

Mixed Media : Jane Notides-Benzing

This was a sweet little work. There is an airiness to it, no doubt. The colors catch and toss your eye all the way around the work. A very energetic work with a lot of implied movement to it.

As always, a very fine show. Please stop by and find your own favorite among the works.

Art Inter/National
January 5 - January 30, 2010
Tuesday: 11 am - 6 pm
Wednesday - Saturday: 10 am - 6 pm
Sunday: 1 pm - 5 pm
4523 Liberty Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
P. 412.687.8858
F. 412.687.6338

Jeffrey Deitch Press Conference @ LA MOCA

I found this youtube video of the Deitch press conference on the great blog, Culturegrrl.

Yes, I know this is a Pittsburgh Arts blog but one of my major goals is to try to raise awareness in the city of trends and happenings in the world outside.

Most of the systems and things we counted on in the past are in crisis. An old world is dying and we need to think about what will replace it. The museum director as aloof elitist prince in an ivory tower funded by a few government checks and a grants from a tiny number of supporters is over---thank god! Institutions must be loved, relevant and connected to their communities and the wider world on many levels to thrive.

More thoughts to come.

Good luck, Jeffrey!

Winter In Copenhagen

Copenhagen January Cycling - Your Country from Copenhagenize on Vimeo.

Contrary to popular belief in many places like Denmark and Scandinavia lots of people still bike in the cold and snow if they possibly can. Check out the whole video and the custom mini plow used to clear bike paths.

Found this on Streetsblog.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Update: It's Official, Deitch Projects Will Close

I suppose it's sort of self evident, but Jeffrey's appointment to head LA Moca will result in the closure of his gallery. As of June, this important innovative space which played a big role in the contemporary and street art community will be closed for good.

Not to insult Jeffrey on any level, but one has to wonder if he would have done this in a stronger and less freaked out and conservative art market. A most elegant way to bail and yet live on as a power player.

Transformazium co-founder, and street art creative genius, Swoon as well as CMU alum, Jonathan Borofsky both showed at Deitch.

A few words from Jeffrey about the auction houses and role of fame and money in today's world.

Mover Shaker Art Dealer, Jeffrey Deitch To Head LA MOCA

No time for a big post on this.

After the long boom/bubble, many, many institutions like LA's once leading contemporary art museum are in crisis. People are scrambling and fur is flying, but even so, I doubt many saw a move like this coming.

Once LA's leading venue for new contemporary art, Moca had been eclipsed by the revival of The Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Hammer Museum.

"These two had galvanized their institutions and their boards, siphoning attention, trustees, art and money away from their competitor. Meanwhile, the Museum of Contemporary Art was in debt and was just surviving by drawing down its endowment. In late 2008, to loud objections from the art-loving public, its board contemplated closing the museum and selling its collection or merging with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The temporary solution was only slightly more palatable: accepting $30million from Eli Broad, the former chairman of the museum’s board."

The Times article shows that Deitch's background as a curator and writer goes beyond just being a wheeler dealer. He may in fact be a great choice who can bring global Art World connections to the table. Keep posted for updates on this fascinating story.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Power Of 32

Awesome, a new regional project aims to build links among 32 counties in Eastern Ohio, Northern West Virgina and Western Maryland.

A new day has dawned heralding dialog, creativity, transparency, connectivity. They want your input. We can talk, share, collaborate, build together a bright new world. Yes We Can!

Um......... Never mind.

Hat tip to Burgh Diaspora

Great Blog Profile: City Walkabout

I will be randomly throwing up posts about blogs I find of personal interest, most of which shine a light on the Pittsburgh cultural scene, urban oriented design or architecture.

First up is City Walkabout, a blog on the Post site touching on Pittsburgh's neighborhoods and streets from a more personal, practical and pedestrian perspective. One flaw so far is that this blog has to slim comment thread. It would be great if more people would join the conversation.

Check it Out.

City Walkabout

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Downtown Pittsburgh in January

The last Gallery Crawl of 2009 was on New Year's Eve. I did go downtown, very briefly, for the crawl. I wanted to head out of town before the "festivities" started. I did get into several venues, thinking that I would return the following Wednesday with camera in hand to take a real good look at the work.

Only a handful of galleries were open, however. Future Tenant, 707 and 709 Penn Avenue galleries were closed for installation. Some, unfortunately, were only open for the crawl. My first stop was the Stories exhibit, at 925 Penn Ave.


Stories is a first-time exhibit of Emphasis Interiors. The concept for the company is to incorporate art into the interior design process. Christine Dregalla plans to produce more of these exhibits in different locations throughout the city. From the show statement --
Stories is an exhibit of art-filled interiors inspired by the narratives of our lives and the meaning we assign to the places we call home. Whether one is a thrilling mystery, an epic saga or an esoteric poem, a customized home reflects the lives unfolding there.

As you can see from the above image, Ms. Dregalla has admirably combined art as well as fine crafts into an interior presentation. Stories is available for viewing Wednesday - Fridays, through the end of January. There is a closing reception planned for February 1 as well as other events and artists talks throughout the month of January. Check here for details and contact information.

One of the venues that I visited on New Year's Eve was 937 Liberty Ave. The third floor was open, with an interesting mix; there was a gospel band, tables of books and a collection of Teenie Harris' photographs. I have seen some of Teenie Harris' burlesque and cabaret photographs before, but never such an extensive collection of them in one place. These were particularly wonderful images,mostly take at the Little Paris Club in the Hill District. I checked the online database for some of the images from this exhibit, but only found the tamer ones. I don't have any images to show you, but the venue is open every Friday for Reverand Deryck Tines' Lunchtime Gospel at 12:15. If you are downtown, try to swing by. It was an amazing collection of drag portraits.

My last stop for the day was SPACE gallery for the Behind Our Scenes exhibit. From the show statement --
Our goal for Behind Our Scenes was twofold. We wanted to both give the artists working 'backstage' in Pittsburgh's art scene their own chance in the spotlight as well as provide an opportunity to celebrate and further unite this community of artists.

I know a lot of artists in the Pittsburgh area. For the life of me, I can't think of a single soul that is supporting themselves solely on their pursuit of the creation of art. All of them are engaged in activities, including teaching, sales, construction or working in a non-profit, in order to pay their bills.

Artists don't create in a vacuum; their art is influenced strongly by their experiences. In some ways, it is more difficult to express your own aesthetics and themes when your day is spent surrounded by the works generated by other artists. In some ways, working for a non-profit arts provider and still creating your own work is one of the most difficult things that you can do as an artist. Many of the artists in this exhibit are surrounded by strong work by masters for a majority of their time.

Another general note about the exhibit: There were a few works that incorporated audio, all of which were playing at the same time. It was a little distracting and difficult to isolate those works so that you could appreciate them on their own merits.


The above work, Nathan Hall's Stalactite, is beautiful. It is this softly glimmering work, with a subtle sound component. I won't try to project a philosophical interpretation on this. For me, it was purely an aesthetic enjoyment of a beautiful object.


Nicole Rosato displayed a series of portraits, If you were a place you'd be..., for this exhibit. There were twelve of these little gems. They are lovely.


This was a very energetic work by Jim Dugas.


Curt Riegelnegg Housing Plans for the New Fiscal Year, Page 1

Mr. Riegelnegg had three works in this series. There was something very appealing about them.


Loved this Exquisite Corpse. It was created by Katherine Young, Jocelyn Horner and Molly Weaver, all of whom work at the Mattress Factory.

Behind Our Scenes
December 11 - February 13, 2010

*Behind Our Scenes artists represent the following Pittsburgh art museums and galleries:The Carnegie Museum of Art, Oakland
The Mattress Factory, North Side
The Andy Warhol Museum, North Side
Fe Gallery, Lawrenceville
Future Tenant, Downtown
Wood Street Galleries, Downtown

Local Film : Blanc De Blanc

Local director Lucas McNelly and his team took a two-week filmmaking challenge and created an intimate poem of a film. I'd love to tell you the story; this would, of course, ruin the viewing experience for you. An unlikely love story between Jude (Rachel Shaw), a young ER nurse working at UPMC Shadyside, and Dave (Jason Kirsch), a stranger without a past who synchronicity brings into her life.

Pittsburgh is the third party in the relationship. The informal visual intimacy we Pittsburghers experience day to day in our neighborhoods are echoed in shots of Shadyside, downtown, the Roberto Clemente Bridge. Cinematographer David Eger captures Pittsburgh's neighborhoody depth of field in precicely-framed, close, yet relaxed shots.

Blanc de Blanc is a rare thing, a nesting-box film that succeeds. Its about love stories and process of relationship itself as much as it is the narrative that unfolds in Jude's life. I'm glad I had the opportunity to watch it privately, to test it as hard as any one tests a suitor.

I found Jude's lack of tests for Dave an exquisitely unbelievable aspect of the plot. My unbelief is, I think, precisely the point - exactly what I needed for the larger functions of the film to become clear.

Within the narrative, the love story unfolds with very real moments of struggle and intimacy. Jude argues with her belief in the possibility of the relationship in a way that is very real, I think, in our own couplings and uncouplings. It is our belief in the very possibility of it that gives any relationship its legs. Lose that belief, and lose the relationship.

Depth of field again ... highly detailed moments contrast with the larger visual & poetic structure making an extraordinary piece of work, regardless of production time. McNelly establishes Dave's character through a short series of images, a brief set of details that open the film. There is exactly enough there for us to struggle with the ambiguity of him - the ambiguity allows a lover's projections of character; the ambiguity provides fuel for the audience to argue with Jude and Dave's choices in the way we would argue with our partners; the ambiguity found in poetry.

Very well-acted - watching the actors dissolve into the story was a pleasure. Their work resonates with ordinary life in just the right way.

My only quibble : sound design. I'd love it if the musical presence took a back seat. Perhaps the constant audio presence is meant to create the sense of closeness that the characters are enduring in their shared environment. Perhaps it points to the persistent unreality of their relationship. The music felt too close to the dialogue. I wanted a little more room, the music pushed a little farther back. Give the visuals a little space. But, that's just my aesthetic talking.

McNelly's been getting a fair amount of attention for the quality of the work here, particularly given the brief production time. I'll forego the pile of links and instead send you to the horse's mouth -

I certainly hope he's able to line up some of the non-traditional screenings in town to support the film. At an hour and seventeen minutes, its at tightly-edited piece worthy of a few opening short films and a lot of audience.

Keep an eye on where this one goes. Its a gem.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

More Pittsburgh Envy

With more and more people aware of Pittsburgh's relative (not absolute) economic strength, more and more are casting envious eyes at our cities deep stock of assets. Yes, we had slums and relatively poor neighborhoods and towns, but we also had a deep middle to wealthy housing stock and an array of majestic parks, museums, libraries, theaters and assets rare for a city of it's size. Pittsburgh in many ways was built to last.

Null Space has a link to an article in Arizona bemoaning the small number college choices in the Phoenix area and in the state as a whole. While, the state grew and grew and grew, few noticed or cared but now some (like me) wonder just how hollow that growth was. It's a slight exaggeration to say Florida, Arizona and Nevada have shell economies but the number of people in those states who built houses, or sold lumber, or made loans, or built stores or paved new roads based on the needs of new residents is pretty staggering. That's the nature of a bubble--no one thinks it will stop. Why look for alternative investments or different businesses to be in when it's so easy to concentrate on what's booming? Why build communities and wonder if your area is "sustainable'? It must be cause people keep comming.

"That doesn't sit well with Mayor Scott Smith, who is working to lure a major medical school or other college to the nation's 38th-largest city.

"We could put five colleges in here and we wouldn't even begin to match what cities our size in other areas of the country have," Smith said.

He cited Pittsburgh, which boasts a population of slightly more than 300,000 - 160,000 fewer than Mesa - but which is home to prestigious schools such as Carnegie Mellon University, Duquesne University and the University of Pittsburgh, as well as several smaller schools."

This is the comment I left on Null Space.

"I think shows that our much maligned "robber barons" and early Pittsburgh leaders made some pretty sound investments in Pittsburgh's colleges, museums, parks and other city assets. (They also left us some very profitable companies)

Say what you will about Carnegie, He didn't skimp on leading edge technology and efficiency upgrades in his plants and he left a flawed but fairly
wise legacy."

What's happened since is very much another story.

Great Steeler Shrine In Post Gazette

Believe me, if you live here, you've seen your share of Pittsburgh Steeler shrines and Man Caves (not all made by men)but the one in today's post is above average for sure and likely borders on good folk art. It includes a good story too.

Like all real shrines, it combines holy relics, objects of devotion, proof of sacred moments or miracles and the physical manifestation of it's creator's love and devotion.

"More hand-painted miniatures. No. 92 is body-slamming a Browns fan. Several years ago, linebacker James Harris (who wears 92) did just that to a drunken Browns fan who ran onto the field."

Two seats from Three Rivers Stadium

Steel beam from Three Rivers Stadium

Chef's hat that was signed by former Steelers wide receiver Antwaan Randle El

Huge photo of the Ice Bowl signed by some of the greats who played in the game

"And then there's the pickle slice that one of the DeLuca boys tossed against the stadium wall one day after removing it from a hamburger. It, or a facsimile, stayed there for years. Before Three Rivers turned to dust, "we scraped it off the wall, took it to Kinko's and had it laminated," Mr. DeLuca said.

There's a red-white-and-blue football that his mother, the late Violet DeLuca, hid in 1965 to stop him from throwing it against the walls.

"The day she was on her death bed, she told me there was a football hidden inside a plastic seasonal coat bag" in the closet, he said."

The photos are great but I wish for more closeups of Deluca's hand painted figures and other stuff.

Read more:

Friday, January 08, 2010

Another Note About Links

I'm gradually piling in a few new links, perhaps 6 or 7 in the last week and a good number before that. A lot of them are long overdue things like the City Walkabout blog on the Post Gazette site and the three City Paper blogs.

I just want to repeat that a link from this blog to your site is not complete endorsement of it's content. For example, I just added the Transportation for America site which is mostly a high pressure sales pitch and advocacy campaign for major government mass transit and rail funding. While I strongly endorse mass transit and even more importantly a return to the denser more walkable communities and design concepts that once made transit viable--as a Libertarian or Libertarian Republican, I don't think this is an area government should be in at all-- most especially the Federal Government. After holding my nose and looked further I had to admit they can be a good source of tips, articles, studies and links about transit issues as well as critiques of our flawed car oriented highway policies. I know it sounds nuts, but I actually think self funding privately owned mass transit and rail networks could become viable----if they didn't have to compete with the mostly "free" government highways. Freight Rail is coming back and hanging on in spite of a very unfair playing field and In Hong Kong a private company has made running a subway into a very profitable business. (while keeping fares pretty afordable)

I also hold an even more fringe view that a return to dense, mixed use urban design will make feet the primary transport mode.

Hollywood Dormont January Film Schedule

To the extent there's a theme to this blog or at least my post's on it, it's that the little things in the city that often matter most. And cheap ones are even better.

So in keeping with that, I celebrate the rebirth of Dormont's Hollywood Theatre, a good cheap place to watch classic, old, forgotten or just weird fun films in an actual theater. (Um, haven't been there yet)

This Month's schedule is very full and includes

The Original Batman Movie
North By Northwest
Grand Torino
Abbott & Costello
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Rocky Horror

See the full schedule here.

And yes, cause it's a suburb in the South Hills and not in the city-- you can take the T there! Well, actually it's more a little town just at the edge of the city with what could be a sweet but very small business district with a nice used bookstore, a good deli, small good diner; good Pizzaria, I think a cool looking pool hall and some other stores. I lived there for a few months off Potomac just above Banksville Road (really a nasty highway) The Hollywood was empty then. (Funny how we so often call nasty highways, roads or better yet "parkways". Are we ashamed?)

Hey kids, go play in the parkway!

More on the Theatre's history here.

Palm Springs Modern @ Carnegie Museum Of Art

Most people including myself don't always think about architecture, but as Julius Shulman says in the video above, it's something that affects our lives in the deepest way.

Anyway, the Carnegie has an absolutely fantastic show up right now of photos taken by the master photographer, Julius Shulman of the modern architecture of Palm Springs. Most are photos of the private second homes built for relaxation and enjoyment in a beautiful natural setting. A very high percentage of the masterworks of modern architecture are private homes and few places have as many as Palm Springs. Seeing these homes through the eyes of a master photographer who photographed the area over a lifetime takes things to another level.

The show is very well put together and includes a great film about Shulman in Palm Springs that puts things in perfect context.

Here's a blurb from Justin Hopper's review in the City Paper.

"In Palm Springs Modern: The Photographs Of Julius Shulman, at the Carnegie Museum Of Art, we can see Shulman's oeuvre in yet another light: as an attestation to the strange sublimity that defined the postwar American Dream.

Shulman's photographs of Palm Springs depict a time period readily identified. As second homes for movie stars and "mad men"-- houses for Sinatra and Doris Day join Kaufmann's in the exhibit- these were designs uninhibited by desire for privacy or workspace. They were "machines for relaxing in"."

Show closes Jan 31st.

Almost all amazing shows at the Carnegie right now. Be back with more thoughts like it or not.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Beware Of Feds Bearing Gifts

While doing research on another much more in depth post, I came to realise how much our current cities and landscapes had been shaped by projects born in the last great economic downturn when the Federal Government offered to "stimulate" and improve cities.

Few were as eager for the cash as Newark, New Jersey. "Newark pursued Federal Funds".

"The city made serious mistakes with public housing and urban renewal, although these were not the sole causes of Newark's tragedy. Across several administrations, the city leaders of Newark considered the federal government's offer to pay for 100% of the costs of housing projects as a blessing. The decline in industrial jobs meant that more poor people needed housing, whereas in prewar years, public housing was for working class families. While other cities were skeptical about putting so many poor families together and were cautious in building housing projects, Newark pursued federal funds. Eventually, Newark had a higher percentage of its residents in public housing than any other American city."

No doubt, there was a short "boom" and and many jobs tearing down neighborhoods and constructing "transportation improvements", like the mass of Highways that cut through the city.

"Billed as transportation improvements, construction of new highways: Interstate 280, the New Jersey Turnpike, and Interstate 78 harmed Newark. They directly hurt the city by dividing the fabric of neighborhoods and displacing many residents. The highways indirectly hurt the city because the new infrastructure made it easier for middle-class workers to live in the suburbs and commute into the city."

Not sayin this what's in store-- thankfully because government's at all levels are too broke, but watch out for that "free stuff". It often costs more than you think.

Polish Hill Photo exhibit at Carnegie Library in Oakland

A great chance to see a display of historic photos documenting on of Pittsburgh's little gem neighborhoods, Polish Hill.

"Late in December, we got an invitation to show selected items from our small-but-growing Polish Hill photo archive at the small gallery at the main Carnegie Library in Oakland. The time frame was short but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity! We picked a few of our favorite photos, printed and mounted them. The show just went up and it will run until the end of January.

To visit the gallery at the Carnegie Library, enter though the main doors and go left down the hall; the gallery is the last door on the right."

More info about the show and a project to build an archive of neighborhood photos can be found on Blogski.

Physician, Heal Thyself

Don't know all the facts about this yet but it looks like a major county health department building may have a major health hazard on it's hands.

"The lead tests done by Ms. Ewall in the second and third floor offices of Building One found lead dust levels of up to 32,800 micrograms per square foot -- 150 times higher than the 250 micrograms per square foot that would trigger a remediation and cleaning recommendation in a residence. The highest lead dust level -- 337,000 micrograms per square foot or more than 1,300 times higher than the residential threshold -- was detected in August 2009 on a window sill in lead program's second floor office by Ms. Ewall's supervisor Jeff Jozwiak, who could not be reached for comment.

All the tests done by Ms. Ewall and Mr. Jozwiak were analyzed and reported by the Pennsylvania Health Department's Division of Chemistry and Toxicology laboratory in Exton, Chester County. She said a supervisor, Bruce Good, recently told her to stop doing those tests in Building One and elsewhere in the seven-building Clack Health Center complex."

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Robert Caro Talks About Robert Moses

I'm really sorry once again for throwing up this video about one of the greatest figures (for better or worse) in New York state and perhaps in American history.

Please watch it if you can.

"That Robert Caro’s book is alive and being read a generation and a half after it first appeared bespeaks its pertinence to Americans who have never set foot in New York. It is the classic description of what happens when the power to raise and spend money is placed in government entities beyond the reach of the voters, when government institutions are designed to be impregnable to outside clamor."


Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Street Bike Parking

Sorry for not posting more. Here's a film about taking the next logical step in bike parking by actually using the street. You get some idea, of just how much space is being used for so few people.

Generally, I think a city street has to work on a pedestrian level, first and foremost and then logically be well suited to truck and emergency vehicles. Bikes can play a role too.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

A Wonder! "Gods, Love, and War: Tapestries and Prints from the Collection" Carnegie Museum of Art through June 3rd

I found this exhibit to be, in a word, jaw-dropping. While the exhibit also contains wonderful drawings and prints by masters such as Durer and Bruegel, the tapestries are the star. They are wall size and stunning. I found myself briefly wishing that I was a small child. I think that the combo of the size of the works and the ability of a child to suspend reality for a bit would give a child a real "you are there" experience. I had some of that myself. You are there in front of a castle with the nobles ice skaing. There at Alexander the Greats triumphal entry into Babylon. There with the harvesters stomping on their grapes, and an ancient god in the sky in his chariot. Note: There are many mythological themes as kings liked comparing themselves to the ancients. The successful ancients, that is.

I am probably being too fussy, but the images I found on the web just didn't seem to do justice to the exhibit. So I did not post one here.

A description from the Carnegies web site reads:

The rooms of Renaissance castles in Northern Europe typically were lined with immense and colorful wall hangings often highlighted with threads of silk, silver, or gold. The ideas dramatized in these monumental pictures—religious, historical, or mythical—not only glorified their owners, but also reflected and reinforced the artistic, political, and social values of the age. This exhibition, highlighting a selection of tapestries and prints from Carnegie Museum of Art’s collection, explores the historical popularity of these engaging pictures in textile; the patrons, artists, and studios that created a taste for tapestries; and the thematic intersections between tapestry and print imagery, such as masterworks by Albrecht Dürer, Andrea Mantegna, and others.

I found this exhibit to be one of the best that I saw in 2009, and that is including two extensive trips to NYC. I am looking forward to seeing this again, hopefully several times, before it goes down in June 2010.

Tribune review and pictures here:

Pittsburgh Post Gazette review and pictures here:

Two other excellent exhibits currently at the Carnegie are Palm Springs Modern: Photographs by Julius Shulman and Forum 64: Cecil Balmond.