Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Festive Summer Parade...Pit Bulls at San Francisco's Pride Parade

This a bit of a stretch relevance wise......but it does have to do with a city (San Francisco), and a dog that is often urban (pit bulls). And the parade pictures are great fun.

Opening Tonight at Mendelson Gallery: Jack Weiss and Vanessa German

2010 AAP Mendelson Exhibition Award Winners: Jack Weiss and Vanessa German.
The Mendelson Gallery is proud to present Jack Weiss and Vanessa German, winners of the 2010 AAP exhibit Award. These two artists seem very different from one another at first glance, but there is a subtle balance between them. See their artwork at the opening on Wednesday, June 30 from 5:30 until 8:30. (Please note the change in date for the opening reception first posted in the AAP calendar)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Free Outdoor Movies In Downtown Youngstown

A few short years ago, there was very little good happening in downtown Youngstown, in spite of a pretty big university sitting on a short hill within walking distance and a core of buildings that usually shock people with their beauty and quality.

Now there's a pretty active restaurant and club scene and the full residential restoration of one of the biggest buildings in town. Actually, it sort of looks like a little small business mecca is developing.

It's hard to say where this all started but one big thing was the opening of a technology incubator which offered, I think free rents and some of the resources of Youngstown State to small start ups.

Other small and incremental changes brought activity and made people more comfortable in the downtown. Like the free outdoor Summer movie Mondays on The Covelli Center Lawn.

Every Monday till August 30Th

June 28 Star Trek: The Future Begins

July 5 Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

July 12 The Time Travelers Wife

July 19 Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns

July 26 Twilight New Moon

August 2 The Blindside

August 9 Casablanca

August 16 The Princess and the Frog

August 23 The Dark Knight

August 30 UP

Details and more positive news about Youngstown can be found on I Will Shout Youngstown.

Readers of this blog know I'm pretty interested in that area. It's just too well located and has too many assets to be ignored.

Would anyone in Youngstown or with a good knowledge of what's going on there like to post on this blog? Email me at

Monday, June 28, 2010

As Promised: Furries ! Shots From Anthrocon 2010

I really was hoping for a set that somehow represented the diversity of Fandom. Fully dressed furries were just a part of it--although, there seemed to be an whole lot of them this year. Many people just had unique T-shirts or were carrying a stuffed animal or in many, cases showed an interest in some other fantasy type character from pirate, to fireman. Actually, the whole vibe was a cross between Halloween and a Dead concert. Still, the furries grabbed the spotlight.

Almost all these shots are by Jean and were taken in or very close to The Weston Hotel.

Even though we didn't attend, we were able to roam the first few floors of the hotel.

The start of a Furry dance party, which turned into a photo-op. (Furries like photo-ops)

Furries support local economy.

Part two later. Thanks Jean for all these amazing photos.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Fun Furry Pictures On The Way

I know I've made promises like this before, but occasionally, I actually deliver. Jean and me spent last evening hanging around with The Furries downtown. We were also around the night before as many were still checking in. We did not attend the actual convention but wandered around the Weston, and the neighboring bars like Tonic, which was a very furry place.

I may be kidding myself, but I feel a bit I have a better grip on what this is all about and mostly it looks like a whole lot of fun. It was pretty clear that "fandom" includes a huge group of people united by a broad range of interests, from Sci Fi, to comics, mascots, anime and video games.

What interested me was that many don't just obsess and imitate known pop culture, but create their own designs, fantasy figures and drawings. Better than a bunch of people who know every line from The Omega Glory.

One thing we heard was that the Furries are booked come here till 2014, which I sure hope is true. Estimated attendance this year was likely 5,000 people and may have come close to booking up 8 Pittsburgh hotels. Even deeper changes may be in the works, cause for the last several months I have seen the occasional tail in Pittsburgh. Are Furries behind some our recent growth, or do people feel more free to come "out" now? Remember, Richard florida's three t's.

Also, this convention unlike most also attracts gawkers and rubberneckers like ourselves, who themselves are coming in to see them.

Anyway, it's good to remember that the only other Convention close to this size is in San Jose in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

New Levi's Ad Campaign Focuses Cash and Attention On Braddock

Image of Levi's ad as seen on New York Times Website

Regular television viewers have seen plenty of the tough dedicated mayor of with the local zip code tattooed on his arm. So far I've been sort of ambivalent about the effects of all this. Often, Fetterman is photographed at Carrie Furnace, which isn't even in Braddock or really all that close while the actively working clanking, belching ET Works is rarely shown (actually I've never seen it in a national story about Braddock)

If one was going to shoot the mayor at nearby landmarks not in Braddock, why not Kennywood? Why not the busy, if ugly Homestead Waterfront mall? Even worse, most stories skip over the positive wonderful assets Braddock does have, like the Landmark Carnegie Library, or Unsmoke Systems or the thriving urban farm, the mayor helped start. Or that it's just a few short miles outside of Pittsburgh. The media is clearly portraying Braddock as a hopeless dying place, and Fetterman ("he went to Harvard") as saintly (white) hero for being there. The rest of the town's residents, are hardly seen.

This long PBS interview is pretty typical.

Of course, some positive press in the art world has followed Swoon, the famous, talented and attractive, young (white) street artist, helping to launch the Transformazium in North Braddock. This isn't to say the mayor and folks like Swoon, are not playing critical, interesting and likely leading roles, but this is clearly a team game. Anyone comparing the town they see today with what was there five years ago can see the sweat and care of lot's of people.

Now, a new Ad Campaign by Levi's will both bring more than a million dollars in cash for projects in Braddock, and hopefully put a more realistic spotlight on the town and the people working everyday to make it better.

"The town will also be featured in video clips and an hourlong show, sponsored by Levi's, to appear online and on the IFC and Sundance cable channels.

The idea to use the residents of a real community, shown trying to overcome tough times, was prompted by the introduction of a line of Levi's work wear, which includes jeans, corduroys, shirts and jackets. The print ads and billboards will carry headlines like "Ready to work," "Everybody's work is equally important" and "We are all workers."

"We wanted to engage consumers in a conversation about real work," said Doug Sweeny, vice president for Levi's brand marketing for the Americas at Levi Strauss headquarters in San Francisco.

"The apparel category can be about posing, about being somebody you're not," he added, whereas the Levi's brand promise is that "you always feel your true, authentic self when you put on a pair of Levi's jeans."

Pending further info, I give this a big thumbs up. The ads will begin appearing on TV next next week.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Great 2 Day Event! 10th Anniversary Shadow Lounge

So many interesting things going on this weekend(i.e. scroll down in blog for Merge Divides listings). The Shadow Lounge event looks tremendous. Lots of good music. I personally can recommend Nik Westman and the Central Plains.

From The Shadow Lounge's Facebook Page.
Shadow Lounge 10 Year Anniversary Block Party
Start Time: Friday, June 25, 2010 at 4:00pm
End Time: Saturday, June 26, 2010 at 2:00am
Location: Shadow Lounge + AVA + Outside

Description.TICKETS HERE

1 day pass = $10
2 day pass = $15

It's been 10 years since the Shadow Lounge first opened as a Cafe & Performance Lounge. Join us in celebrating the journey that has transformed, not only the physical space of the lounge, but the Nightlife & Cultural Scene of the Pittsburgh Region. Live Music, DJs, Food Vendors, and More.

Fri. 6/25/2010 4p-2a
Sat. 6/26/2010 2p-2a *incl. Title Town & Global Beats

Shadow Lounge 10 Year Anniversary 2-day Block Party
presented by Yuengling.

4p-6p DJ Soy Sos
6p-6:05p Welcome by Vanessa German
6:05p-6:30p Peace Ike
6:35p-6:55p Shelby Star
7:00-7:45p Mother Sun
7:50p-8:20p BNVs
8:25p-8:45p Phat Man Dee
8:50p-9:05p Kellee Maize
9:25p-9:55p Formula412
10p-10:45p Mifune

Shadow Lounge
11:10p-11:40p Margot B
11:45p-12:00a Jack Wilson
12:05a-12:35a Dream Job
12:40p-1:10a Nik Westman & the Central Plains
1:15p-2a Erik Rico

8p-9:30p Hank D
10p-12a Dan Dabber
12a-2a Selecta



2p-2:20p Music
2:20p-2:50p Music
2:55p-3:20p Cowboy Relics
3:25p-3:45p Hip-Hop on LOCK
4:10p-4:40p Joy Ike
4:45p-5:15p Guaracha
5:20p-5:50p HutchSimon Project
5:55p-6:25p INTERVAL Trio
6:30p-7p Billy Pilgrim
7:05p-7:35p Hood Gang
7:40p-8:10p OLD E Allstars
8:15p-8:45p Sonji
8:50p-9:20p RXC
9:25p-9:55p Omega Love
10p-10:30p Eviction Notice

Shadow Lounge
9p Title Town

8p-9p DJ Aaesir St. James
9p-10p DJ Phinesse
10p-2a GLobal Beats w/guest DJ set from Erik Rico

ShareExportEvent Information.This is a public event. Anyone can see the event, RSVP, or invite others to this event.

Weekend Right To Life Convention meets Furry Right To Yiff Convention meets The TypewriterGirls Gone Furry @ Future Tenant

Gee, I gotta hope these two crowds meet somehow but the Right to Life folks are at the airport. It's Furry Weekend! I'm scared it might be the last one. Why is the mayor and City Counsel so silent on this issue? Five years ago, there were no condos in the Strip and I think Brillobox wasn't even here. Also, last year the Furries freaked out the Mets and the Pirates got a win out of it.

Special event: Fur is word-er : TypewriterGirls Gone Furry @ Future Tenant Tonight!

Call it a shenanigan-filled, dada-bred poetry cabaret, a celebratory welcome to Anthrocon 2010 or an evening of off-beat unclassifiable entertainment.

On Friday, the Typewriter Girls will team up with the Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails, the Bridge City Bombshells, plus comedian Gab Bonesso, some area poets and others for an evening of controlled artistic chaos loosely organized under the title “The Typewriter Girls Gone Furry.”

The impetus for the evening is Anthrocon 2010, a convention that begins today at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center of “Furry” fans who identify with animals and often dress or act like animals.

Events planned to get attendees in touch with their inner beast include the Bridge City Bombshells performing feats of “Furry Burlesque,” an open bar with themed drinks such as “When Minks Make Love,” a performance by the local band the Hood Gang, and the Typewriter Girls exploring the question of what happens when your pet stuffed monkey wants to become a furry, too.

The evening gets under way at 7:30 p.m. Friday when doors open at Future Tenant, 819 Penn Ave., Downtown. Performances begin around 8 p.m.

Admission: $10, which includes an open bar.

Details: 412-325-7037 or or

See my furry post and shots from last year.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pittsburgh Art Events: 6/25-26/10

c. David Grim (taken 6/19/10)


Pittsburgh Center for the Arts is opening "Interplay", an Associated Artists of Pittsburgh show curated by Eric Shiner, the curator of art at the Andy Warhol Museum. I couldn't find any specific information about the connective thread of the work (other than the rather ambiguous title)*, but I trust Shiner's aesthetic, and there are some artists included that I enjoy. On a weekend when very little is happening on the arts scene, this should be a no-brainer. There is a $5 requested donation, and the reception runs from 5:30-8PM.

(Editor's Note 6/26/10: This was the best AAP show I've seen. Go look at it! -Merge)

And there's a performance ("I Look at You and See Myself") at SPACE Gallery downtown featuring a collaboration between choreographer Mary Miller, fiber artist Tina Williams Brewer, musician Charles Hall, and costume designer Venise St. Pierre. Apparently the work revolves around stories inspiring quilts created by Brewer. But like many events here in the 'Burgh, I'm having difficulty finding details, such as what time the event occurs and how much it costs. If you are interested, perhaps this is a good place to iron out the details. I only mention it because this sounds like it could be kind of cool.


I may not be naturally attracted to a show called "Spotlight on Pastels", but given the general tone of this post, I wanted to give a shout-out to the consistent professionalism demonstrated by the Boxheart Gallery (4523 Liberty Ave, Bloomfield). While the proprietors sometimes seem a bit distanced from local art trends, they remain committed to their own vision and have carved out a solid position in town. They do this by paying attention to documentation and concept, and thus deserve our respect. Stop by and see what I mean at their reception, running from 5-8PM.

You could also stop in Fast>>fwd Gallery (3700 Penn Ave) for the last time (6-10PM). The group painting show that marks their very last exhibition was a standout earlier this month at Unblurred. Put it this way- when my Dad and I actually agree that an original painting is worth buying, then something special has truly happened. Stop in to say goodbye, have a drink, and contemplate the energy that goes in to running an independent venue dedicated to showcasing edgy and emerging local artists (thanks Craig and Joe!).

* And believe me, I did try. I went several layers deep on the web pages of the organizations involved, and could find nothing describing the show other than a quote from the show's "Chair" (Connie Cantor).

Great Talk About Personal and City Brands @ Urbanophile

The subject of who should or could control an urban brand, has been filtering around in my head for awhile and now Urbanophile has a post about it.

Readers of the blog, know I'm pretty sceptical about major taxpayer investments in sports teams (or any other private business). Mostly, this is about risk VS. potential reward. In terms of land use, stadiums are hard to fill most of the time and require huge parking footprints, but all of this I've brought up before.

Another, risk is the way concentrated investments like this tie a local brand to so few people or entities any of which could quickly turn toxic or choose to leave town.

Pittsburgh hit a brand lemon with Ben Roethlisberger but we seem to be surviving. Even worse, is watching the way so much of Cleveland's brand has now been tied to LeBron James, a sports figure honestly so huge and bankable that Cleveland has little chance of retaining him if money alone is the only factor. He holds all the cards and now they have to hope he stays.

LeBron's impact on the local advertising market is so great that some people wonder if The Cleveland Plain Dealer can even survive without it. It really seems to have been the plan of every major Cleveland institution, from the sports teams to The Symphony, to the Cleveland Museum, to The Cleveland Clinic to The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to reach a scale and importance that might enable it to be called "too big to fail". Not many places have gambled so much on so few and so far it hasn't worked out.

Even worse, is that many of the other talented, hardworking "players", in the region see this kind of thing and have to secretly resent it.

Urbanophile's suggested strategy is likely a lot wiser.

"It strikes me that as with corporate brands, cities should do a market scan of their town and build an inventory people there like Fischer who are doing really cool stuff. Then you try your best to promote them, following the principle of “first do no harm” of course, and also encourage them to associate themselves with the city in some way, so that people at least know where they are from. Then if something cool like these maps goes viral, the city can pick up a bit of cred along the way. Most cities have lists of all the famous people who are originally from there. Wouldn’t it be nice if they were equally or more so focused on those who are still around that are doing cool stuff today? Done right, and in a non-heavy handed way, this could potentially be a win-win."

What interesting emerging innovators, talents and small business folks do you think carry the Pittsburgh brand? Same with Cleveland? What new ones are you watching?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cincinnati Considers Lowering Minimums Within Two Blocks Of New Streetcar Line

OK, let me let you in on a little secret that most people still don't know. The empty land of surface parking, dead streets with an occasional building, we now associate with the American Downtown isn't just a product of supply and demand--in most places, it's the law.

Urbanophile, is re posting a look at what these great laws have done for Buffalo.

Of course, our great urban planners will just tell you these laws just take into account that "everyone wants to drive". Well, how would they know that, since it's now mostly illegal to even offer alternatives and since the very land (like the lower Hill) used for this parking is often taken from people who lived there without cars. It's like saying everyone in North Korea is demanding dull green clothes.

So anyway, the voters of Cincinatti and city boosters are placing lots of hope in a new streetcar line. Get the Digitalis, they are even considering limiting the minimum required parking for development within two blocks of it No, two whole blocks! Amazingly, this is progress.

"That’s why the city’s decision to reduce parking minimums would be a reassuring sign that local planners understand the necessity of designing neighborhoods to encourage transit use. Today, the city requires one to two parking spaces per housing unit, even for apartment buildings constructed right downtown. The new law, if approved as likely later this year, will halve those requirements in all new construction within 600 feet of streetcar stations, even reducing them to nil in some cases for buildings with six or fewer units.

As the Cincinnati Streetcar Blog points out, this change may have the positive effect of reducing the cost of new development in Cincinnati by allowing builders to avoid building underground garages or acquiring adjacent sites for surface parking. This will reduce not only the initial investment necessary to construct in neighborhoods near the streetcar but also the cost of individual purchasing or renting, making it more likely that there will be a market for new housing in the area.

In turn, by reducing the number of parking spaces per unit, the city is encouraging people who live in downtown areas to use transit to get around — and they’ll be getting a high-quality service through the center city with the new streetcar, so that shouldn’t be much of a problem. Though some may argue that Cincinnati could have gone a step further and eliminated all parking minimums to areas near the streetcar, the initial line is short and won’t even reach the University of Cincinnati north of downtown; if and when the system is expanded, the city council may want to reevaluate the use of parking minimums at all along this corridor."

Ever wonder why, so many new downtown developments in most cities are only for rich people? Well, a requirement to use half or more of your space for parking or build a huge garage is one huge reason. What exactly are Pittsburgh's parking requirements? How come the subject almost never comes up?

By the way, Cinncinati looks like an absolutely beautiful city. Check out this long post on Urbanophile about it. Look at the amazing unloved place called Over The Rhine.

As Lolly (AKA Laura) put it.

"If you build cities for cars, you get cars. If you build cities for people, you get people."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Some Thoughts On The Blog's Future

Some of you may have been disappointed by the blog's slow path away from pure art's coverage, although it's always had a pretty big chaos component.

What I've always had in mind, was a blog not just about the arts here, but the relationships between artists and creative people and some broader idea of community. I also want to form some kind of group conversation about good design and urbanism on every aspect of life.

Several new people will probably be posting once in a while giving their different views on how to make the region more livable. One has some knowledge of Cleveland, but now lives in the D.C. area (without a car), the other lived in D.C. and now lives in Pittsburgh without a car. Both are seriously into biking so that's likely to come up.

Hopefully, more people will also take me up on my offer. I'd still like a lot more arts coverage. Also, more perspective from Northeast Ohio or West Virginia would be great.

A further note. All opinions are the views of their respective posters (although we often may agree) There is no real editor and certainly no intent to create groupthink. A certain level of controversy is encouraged.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Three-story Community Business Reflects the Changing Face of Polish Hill

After 30 years of losing daytime retail businesses, Polish Hill has landed three promising new shops in one fell swoop. On Sunday, June 13, a teeming crowd of customers greeted a coffee shop, a record store, and a bookstore—all neatly stacked in one modest, turn-of-the-century building on the corner of Dobson and Hancock.  

                                    Next stop on the 54C: 3138 Dobson.

Though it may sound like the perfect planned community for a neighborhood gaining younger artist, musician, and academic homeowners, the complex started with an impulsive move by two Polish Hill residents. “There had been one bad landlord after another, the building had been Section 8 apartments, and then it had stood empty for over a year--it was in crumbling disrepair,“ explains Pittsburgh realtor and Polish Hill Civic Association Vice President, Catherine McConnell. “A homeless fellow was crawling into the basement in the winter and lighting fires to keep himself warm. I felt strongly that this was a very important building to get back for the neighborhood.” McConnell had tried contacting the building owner over months with intent to show it, but in vain. One day in 2008 she drove by and saw a fellow realtor showing the building to “investor types.” She turned a corner and called her colleague on the phone. “’Give me 24 hours--I’ll find you a tenant,’ I begged her.” But a day later, “Catherine came to me and said, ‘We have to buy this building ourselves,’“ recalls photographer Mark Knobil, McConnell’s partner. The couple have resided in Polish Hill for eight years now. 

It didn’t take long for the two to run into a business partner in the form of Polish Hill musician Robert Levkulich, who was looking to open a coffee shop with his girlfriend, designer Carrie DiFiore. The four signed an agreement almost exactly two years ago. “Polish Hill has needed a public space—a gathering place—for a long time, “ says Knobil. A 2008 neighborhood survey confirms that 54% of respondents thought a coffee shop would greatly benefit the neighborhood. McConnell continues, “Coffee shops have become something people seek out like a second living room. We go to cafés in Lawrenceville or Bloomfield and see our neighbors from Polish Hill—now we hope to see them even closer to home.” Lili Coffee Shop, named for DiFiore and Levkulich’s two-year old daughter, offers wifi and espresso drinks, baked goods and smoothies, ice cream and wraps. But unlike some cafés in the post-Starbucks world, Levkulich also includes reasonably-priced coffee and cheap nosh on his menu. (Macaroons are $1, and certain cookies are 75c.) The John Paul Plaza retirement home up the block, and a bus stop right at Lili’s front door, means many fixed-income senior citizens pass the corner every day. And like the rest of the neighborhood, they've had no public places to convene besides the bars or the church. Before now. 

“I want to attract a mixed-income crowd,” says Levkulich, who is thinking of starting a limited-hours delivery service to the retirement home. “You don’t really see those kinds of places opening up anymore.” 

                                   Overheard Sunday morning at Lili Coffee Shop: “I need something that’ll keep me awake during Mass.”

The upstairs ventures at 3138 Dobson are expected to attract both local and destination shoppers. And in an area of roughly 1,500 residents, they may have to. “The Gooski’s Business Model, “ PHCA President Terry Doloughty calls this, referring to the popular Polish bar and music venue on Brereton Street which has served for years as the neighborhood’s biggest draw: “It’s a community bar during the week, and on weekends, it gets what I call the ‘tourists’.” Third-floor resident at the Dobson complex, Copacetic Comics, already has a dedicated following of folks who have traveled across town for years to browse owner Bill Boichel’s uniquely-curated selection of comic books, graphic novels, fiction, art books, DVDs, CDs, and periodicals. The second-floor retailer, Mind Cure Records, is a brand new business venture but owner Michael Seamans is a familiar face to Pittsburgh music scenesters who know him from Paul’s CDs and (Lawrenceville music club) Belvedere’s record sales events.  A retail store featuring art, flowers, and vintage items, Urban Gypsy, opened April 22 around the corner on Brereton and has drawn regular customers from such swank addresses as Sewickley, Washington’s Landing, and Shadyside. 

                                   Bill Boichel moved Copacetic Comics across town from Squirrel Hill. He is excited about the chance to connect his wide variety of graphic novels and other “cultural resources” with a new audience, especially “the growing young adult population in Polish Hill that's accruing here due to the modest rent.”

To lure folks in, Lili Coffee Shop has already featured one evening of acoustic music, and will host a literary reading during the Polish Hill Arts Festival. The café also plans to install a small bike repair area in the back, providing (for free) some work stands and basic tools for neighborhood bike riders as well as those trekking through. Levkulich has noticed not only many cyclists who use Polish Hill as a cut-through to the East End, but also a number of academic residents of the neighborhood who bike to the universities in Oakland. 

Aside from one neighbor on Dobson who worried aloud about street parking, local feedback about the complex has been overwhelmingly positive. Levkulich says, “I remember hearing about the neighbors across the street from Tazzo D’Oro Café in Highland Park--they filed an ordinance because they didn’t want the noise from the sidewalk café. We’ve had nothing like that.” One café employee claims, “I don’t know how many times I’ve heard customers say, ‘I’ve been waiting 13 years to get a cup of coffee around here!’ ” Throughout the two-year renovation of the complex, neighbors had been not only supportive but increasingly eager. According to Knobil, “Everytime someone passed me on the street, whether it was a bike punk or an elderly woman, it was, ‘When’s the coffee shop going to open?’ To be honest, there were many times over the past two years when I would have gladly walked away from the project. But I would’ve been tarred and feathered.”  

The project encountered numerous challenges in its two-year journey, including getting the building up to commercial code, reinforcing the floors to bear hundreds of pounds of books and vinyl records, running over budget, and at least a few differences of opinion. “Everyone we knew told us that we should be making this into high-end apartments and not commercial space,” Knobil states. But as a realtor, McConnell noticed, “When I’d want to show a place in Polish Hill, people said right away, ‘There’s nothing you can walk to.’ So I’d have to show them Bloomfield or Lawrenceville instead.” She adds, “The trend of buildings in disrepair in Polish Hill was hard to kick. It was decades of poorly-kept rentals, too many empty houses, and delinquent landlords.” As Seamans points out, “If you look around at Polish Hill buildings, you can see how many storefronts there used to be. This place is like a time-capsule of the moment the steel industry died.”

Knobil says, “The café, the upstairs shops—it’s about making Polish Hill a nicer place to be for the people who live here.” With that aim in mind, the building owners are offering their commercial tenants below-market rents.

                                   Michael Seamans (pictured) worked with longtime Pittsburgh punk rocker Dan Allen to create the business of Mind Cure Records (named in homage to a now-defunct Pittsburgh-based punk record label). Allen, in turn, brought Bill Boichel and Copacetic into the business complex.

Almost everyone involved in making the three-business project a reality has been a Polish Hill resident, from the architects to the general contractors, from the plumber to the designers, and even the owners of the first and second floor businesses—who themselves have put significant amounts of sweat equity into their spaces.  The latest Polish Hill residents to enter the scene are the three café servers employed at Lili Coffee Shop, who are grateful that they can walk to work. (Levkulich jokes about knocking on their doors if they’re running late.)

Mark Knobil admits he hasn’t yet relaxed into a sigh of relief, even knowing that opening day has passed—as if after two years of unexpected developments, he’s still waiting for the other shoe to drop. Catherine McConnell laughs as she looks around the brightly-painted walls of the finally-realized project, “We’ve wanted a café in the neighborhood for years. Frankly, we hoped someone else would do it!”

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Opening Tonight Dee Briggs at Unsmoke Systems

From Jeb's email:

Come on out to Unsmoke for art in Braddock. Dee has gone big and beautiful all over the premises.
And an additional sharp collaboration artwork in metal.
And the oven will be hot and cooking pizzas yet again as well.
Five new site specific works by Dee Briggs

Reverberation: Rhythm, reflection and balance are the ideas that organize this work and preoccupy its maker. Physical, tactile, spatial balance, syncopated visual rhythm, multisensory reverberation are the places where Dee Briggs begins and ends with five new site specific works opening at UnSmoke ArtSpace in Braddock, June 19th. Five new works will be installed in large and small-scale spaces that exist between the architecture. Briggs has chosen the interstitial spaces of the gallery (and it’s context) and allowed this work to reverberate within it. The results are an ongoing exploration of spatial experiences defined by line and plane, light and shadow, volume and void. The exhibition will also include a new collaborative experimentation with sound artist Herman Pearl.

Dee Briggs was born in 1968 in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania. She received a Masters of Architecture degree from Yale University in 2002 with undergraduate studies in architecture from the City College of New York. Briggs began making art full time in 2002 and now exhibits nationally and teaches in the schools of art and architecture at Carnegie Mellon University. She lives and works in New York and Pittsburgh.

Adam Aviles Ellen Garrett Doug Ferrell Kaitlin Miciunas

Phase II of the site-specific installation in steel, Unhealthy for Sensitive People, is a developing multi-sensory experience, demanding physical and social interaction between individuals and their immediate spatial comprehension, within the boundaries of the space and in relation to Braddock.

Adam Aviles, Ellen Garrett, Doug Ferrell and Kaitlin Miciunas will be graduating from the School of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon University in the Spring of 2011. They have been working on this collaborative project for the past year as an outgrowth of the 3-D Media course they took in the Fall of 2009 with Dee Briggs. The project was supported by a Student Undergraduate Research Grant (SURG) given by Carnegie Mellon University.
Stop into UnSmoke ArtSpace in Braddock this Saturday, June 19 for the
opening of these two new exhibits.
In addition to the art we'll have refreshments from East End Brewery
and the Braddock community brick oven.
Unsmoke Systems
1137 Braddock Avenue
Braddock PA 15104
Opening Saturday, June 19, 6-9 pm

Friday, June 18, 2010

50 Years Worth of Unclaimed Dry Cleaning Plus

Mr. Vacca, an Italian Tailor, dry cleaner, and a gentleman of the old school, is retiring. He is 80 years old, and at this location in Bloomfield (4623 Liberty Ave) for 50 years. He and his family are in the process of selling off miscellaneous items in the store , as well as unclaimed dry cleaning. There is a LOT of unclaimed dry cleaning. The prices are great.

I love this place. Mr. Vacca is a master at his craft. His cleaning was actually done on site.I would bring in some particularly dreadfully stained clothing, and he would peer at it with the eye of an expert and conclude "I think it will be all right" And he was true to his word.
The fact that the whole store is frozen in a Madmen era time warp is really charming.

I did a brief interview with him that I will post on the blog soon, but for now, I just want to get out word about his tag sale.

Going Out of Business Sale
Vacca's Tailoring and Dry Cleaning
4623 Liberty Ave
Bloomfield near Pearl St.
Pgh. Pa.
Saturday, June 19th 10 a.m. til at least 2 p.m.
may also be open next week

Old Vs. New Pittsburgh: Let the War Begin (or at least the argument)

Well, you might know by now, Pittsburgh is no longer really shrinking. New people are comming in, others are returning and more students are trying to stay. We now have one of the country's most educated populations. (In recent years the migration from Pittsburgh has been to the next world as the older steel generation passes on)

The nirvana everyone said they wanted just might be arriving but my guess is many politicians and old city insiders won't like it.

PG's Ruth Ann Dailey, wrote a good piece about an emerging cultural conflict that's only now broken towards the surface. Whatever, one thinks about the Mellon Arena's fate,(IMHO, it has to go) something really stinks about the way things are done here. Now a critical mass of people is talking about it.

But over the past four decades, with the collapse of the steel industry, Pittsburgh's economy has been slowly and painfully transformed to one built on health care, research and technology, financial services and high-tech manufacturing -- fields which, as that Pitt report points out, "recruit and retain ever more educated workers."

Workers in these fields put a greater emphasis on communicating, exchanging ideas, collaborating and reaching consensus. They expect the same from their government, quasi-governmental agencies like the SEA and powerful private entities like the Penguins that so greatly impact our city's quality of life.

They're right to expect this -- it's what American democracy was always supposed to be. Not top-down, but organic, meritocratic and open to all comers.

They're not going to just roll over without protest when the same old, same old goes down -- the backroom deals and nepotistic appointments that are the enemies of transparency and accountability.

Some good aternative viewpoints can be in places like...

Null Space
Pittsburgh Comet
Bike Pittsburgh
Burgh Diaspora
Tube City Almanac
Utterly Opinionated
Reimagine An Urban Paradise

Mostly pretty tame stuff.

As well as the trusty City Paper and occasionally even The Post Gazette. Pop City also moves past the chearleading role more commonly than it used to.

Also, things are a bit more complicated since inside old money power players and some local foundations have put money into many grass roots efforts. Still, this is a place where one feels most of the big checks are endorsed by the same 20 folks or people who know them.

Back with more thoughts later.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Stadium Status

Stadium Status from Internets Celebrities on Vimeo.

I'm a little too upset and depressed (gee, why would that be?) to do a long post on this story in Next American City now. This little video was made about NYC, but one can just fill in your city's name in most cases. At least most of NYC is still there, while so much of Pittsburgh's rare flat prime land, potential livable neighborhoods and tax money is gone.

"But despite all the obvious reasons why this sort of large-scale, disruptive development is not actually in the public interest, stadium developers continue to receive massive subsidies, even from the federal government. Neil deMause, author of the book Field of Schemes, is featured prominently in Stadium Status. He points out that technically speaking, due to the federal subsidies developers of new Yankee stadium received, Red Sox fans helped pay for the ballpark. The mechanism is somewhat roundabout; the city issues the teams tax-exempt city-issued bonds, a transaction that was made illegal in 1986, because it robs the Federal Treasury of tax dollars for private development. But, because the city has the teams pay back the loans in the form of PILOTs—Payments In Lieu Of property Taxes—they claim that they are collecting tax revenue, even if the federal government is not. According to Neil deMause, this mechanism amounted to about $60 million in (mostly) federal subsidy for the Yankees alone. Aside from the fact that this is questionably legal, it’s troubling that the federal government is unwittingly lining the pockets of developers who claim to work in the public interest, but don’t.

Back in October of 2008, right after Lehman Brothers tanked, and the realities of the banking crisis were becoming clearer, federal tax officials approved the use of tax-exempt bonds to Ratner’s development group, for the Atlantic Yards project. With that decision, millions of dollars of future tax revenue disappeared from our nation’s coffers, and Downtown Brooklyn will get 16 new skyscrapers and a few hundred jobs selling peanuts for 41 nights a year. What a trade."

Density is the Dream

Last night I dreamt that Pittsburgh was giving out incentive money (they’d gotten a grant, of course) to anyone in the metro area who would move closer to the city center. There was a bonus amount for crossing into the city limits, but that wasn't a requirement--the idea was just to dense up the whole area. If everyone could move a little closer in (closer to the city that is the reason for the metro area), it would make a noticeable difference in population.

I woke up thinking that there could be a separate incentive for moving close enough to your job to walk or ride your bike. Just think how great these movements would be: shops, grocery stores, and restaurants would thrive; streets would be safer in at least two ways: less desolate and fewer killer-cars; city services like libraries, schools, snow removal, public transit, and police coverage could expand through adequate tax funding; the long-discussed city-county merger might finally happen. The city would attract more tourists and transplants because we'd have a new light rail running through the center of town and we'd be voted Most Walkable City.

What else do you imagine could be the impact of more density in Pittsburgh and the immediate area?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Transformazium Update In POP City: Braddock Deconstruction Workshops Tomorrow and Friday

Pop City has a long piece about progress on The Transformazium in North Braddock. I'm sure lots of us want them to just get it over with and get an exiting new art and community center up and running.

But these folks are not just talking the talk about sustainable reuse, they are using the building as a lab project and lesson in building deconstruction. The goal is to save as much of the building as possible and adapt it to reuse through as few steps as they can. If you've been to Construction Junction you know what that's about and also have a clue as to the precious quality unique material and craft went into buildings here.

"All reuse is a form of recycling, but not all recycling is reuse," says Brian Swearingen, the head of Construction Junction's deconstruction crew. "In deconstruction and reuse, we're taking that same material, but using it for the same purpose, or slightly altering it for another purpose. When you do that, you're saving energy, because you have less transportation costs, less energy costs, and no remanufacturing costs, which are high. A good example is a metal table. If you recycle that at a landfill, you have to put it on a truck, probably put it on a train, possibly put it on a ship, and send it maybe halfway around the world to make what is oftentimes a similar product."

Construction Junction was set up eight years ago by the Pennsylvania Resources Council to spearhead a movement in Pittsburgh away from disposing waste in landfills without exploring its other purposes. They operate a store, which accepts donations of reusable materials from individuals and businesses renovating or demolishing buildings, and sells those materials at a low cost so they can be repurposed.

Want to learn about this process, and the emerging industry developing around it? There's are workshops tomorrow and Friday.

Update--Crap, the link on POP City didn't work and I can't seem to easily find the details. One has to realise just how broke and pressured many of the organizations and people involved are.

Perhaps you can hunt this info out?

Braddock Redux


Construction Junction

Reuse Consulting

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Great Pittsburgh Urbanism Blog: Reimagine an Urban Paradise

Both Karen and me were dumb/ crazy enough to have seen Pittsburgh's potential as an interesting, inexpensive, livable city. even so, up till very recently there have been very few blogs or sites batting around the nuts and bolts ideas that would help get us there. Yes, there's Bike Pittsburgh but a safe dynamic city in a town with the hills needs complete streets and neighborhoods for everyone.

Reimagine an Urban Paradise, is a nice blog that starts to dig into that. Here, Lolly, the author tells us about a fun, practical thing you can do in a dense city. Read her post about Clothing Swaps here.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Polish Hill: Open for Business

Today was the first day that all three new businesses at the corner of Dobson and Hancock (in Polish Hill) were open. 

Third floor: Copacetic Comics (featuring books, DVDs, CDs, and graphic novels as well as comics) moved from Squirrel Hill into a space three times as big as the old one.

Second floor: Mind Cure Records sells a wide variety of vinyl records. A full website is coming soon.

First floor: Lili Coffee Shop is a lovely space, serving coffee drinks, pastry, pies, cakes, and other nosh. I had the homemade yogurt and granola and T. had the sweet-potato sweet bread; the quiche came highly recommended but was sold out by the time we got there. 

This is an exciting development for a neighborhood that has been gaining residents in recent years but has been terribly under-served for retail and services: It is a dense, walkable neighborhood that for decades has had almost nothing to walk to. Could this building turn the tide to send it in the direction of a sustainable neighborhood? Because of the density of its houses, and rising popularity with new homeowners, it is perfectly poised to be just that.

I plan to post more about each of these businesses in the coming weeks. Click here for more pictures of opening day or better yet, go down and see for yourself. 

Friday, June 11, 2010

Two Opportunities to See John Mentzer's Work This Weekend

At Three Rivers Arts Festival:
Urban Tree Forge
Thursday - Saturday: 12pm - 8pm Sunday: 12pm - 6pm
929 Liberty Avenue |
Visual Art Exhibitions
John Metzler from Urban Tree Forge and Moxie Dada join to bring you an inspiring new exhibition featuring artwork and sculpture created from reclaimed urban trees with additional artwork from local and resident Studio artisan.

And, at the beautiful Fe Gallery in Lawrenceville:
Fe Gallery is proud to present:"Tribute Show" honoring the inspiration and achievements of John Metzler. John was a driving force in the art community and his generous spirit created ripples that impacted all who know him.
JUNE 12 saturday 6–10 PM
A moment of silence at 8 pm

As part of this exhibition, Fe gallery would like to continue the ripples by turning this exhibition into an opportunity. Under the advisement of Randie Snow, John’s exhibition will be a fundraiser for his daughter, Chelsie and Urban Tree Forge. Therefore, Fe will be donating our percentage of all sales to Chelsie and Urban Tree Forge. Please join us on Saturday to honor John and to continue the ripples and the support of the Urban Tree Forge.

June 12- July 3, 2010
Gallery Hours:
Thursday and Friday from 12-3
and Saturday from 12-4
Fe Arts Gallery | 4102 Butler Street | Pittsburgh, PA 15201 | 412-860-6028 | |, |

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pittsburgh Art Events: 6/11-12/10.

Anybody who took advantage of the multiple offerings in the local art scene last weekend really shouldn't expect much along the same lines this weekend. I considered not doing a post of events this week, but there are a few things worth mentioning...


Justseeds art cooperative has moved from Portland to Pittsburgh, and they are opening up their new headquarters in Lawrenceville (3410 Penn Ave 2nd Floor) above Bike Pittsburgh. The group is a collection of like-minded artists interested in posters, design, and resistance politics. Come check out the event that they are hosting to mark the occasion from 6-10PM. There will be a book release or two, and new prints available.

While you are in Larryville, stop by the Wild Card gift shop (4209 Butler Street). It's a funky independently-owned joint with an aesthetic marked by an appreciation for kitch and nostalgia. It also notably carries a variety of locally-made goods. They've been having opening receptions for the art that they hang at the back of the store for a few months now, and I think it's time to give them their due. I really enjoyed Chicago-based artist Laura Berger's paintings during the last cycle, so I'm a bit excited to see what Kathryn Carr's "Root" has to offer. Show up between 6-9PM.

Meanwhile Sweetwater Center for the Arts in Sewickley (200 Broad Street) is opening (7-9PM) "Standing Out from the Crowd", a show of photography curated by Sylvia Ehler, Education Coordinator at Silver Eye Center for Photography. They are a notable organization serving to advance the medium in Pittsburgh, and so I'm sure it's worth a visit. I seriously considered submitting something for this, but got caught up with other things. But that doesn't mean I might not drop in anyway.


Artists Image Resource (518 Foreland Street on the North Side) is having their annual all-day Summer party (4-11PM, $5 Admission). There will be performances, DJs, print exhibitions, food cooked out in the open air, print demonstrations, and refreshments. Can you beat that for the price?

Finally, Fe Gallery (4102 Butler St.) is opening up their doors (and collective wallet) for an exhibition of recently-deceased artist John Metzler. Randie Snow is directing the presentation, and proceeds from the show will benefit the late atirst's Urban Tree Forge and his daughter Chelsie. As noted previously on this blog, John was an outstanding artist and a great guy. Show up and help keep his legacy alive (as well as the organization he founded) by purchasing one of his amazing sculptures.

-Merge Divide

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

New Grocery Solution Points to Larger City Woes (Or, Our Right to Grocery Stores at the Center of Sustainable Communities)

Yesterday, I read the surprising news that the Strip District grocery store, Right By Nature, has started a delivery service in order to address the lack of grocery stores available to Downtown and Hill District residents. Don't get me wrong, I find the action by Right By Nature very kind, in a very Pittsburgh way--they're stepping up to provide a service to help their neighbors. But as a city, aren't we all sufficiently ashamed of the Hill District's situation (as Vanessa German quipped in her show "Testify," "If you live in a black neighborhood in Pittsburgh, you have to get on a bus to find a grocery store"), and as a city, isn't this a very outdated solution to an embarrassingly long-running problem (the Hill has gone decades without a real grocery store)?

When I say outdated, I'm talking about delivery service. I'm talking about individual cars on the road, and the oil we use to power those vehicles, and how that oil is getting more and more costly. I believe, and I'm not the only one, that the writing is on the wall for the car. No amount of electric power or corn oil is going to do; the car thing is just not sustainable for too much longer. We've got to start turning our cities into places of walkers and bikers and public transit riders.

The humane and green solution to this grocery problem is to provide grocery stores in neighborhoods. Period. Places we can each get to on foot, if we choose. But for that, we need to create and sustain neighborhoods that can support grocery stores, which brings me to my real fear for Pittsburgh: density. Will the city of Pittsburgh ever re-acquire enough density to do what cities do best--concentrate living and working and services in areas connected by real sidewalks, safe bike paths, and viable public transit? Just because we lost population in the steel industry downturn, doesn't mean we can afford to turn our city into a suburban carland indefinitely. Paul Krugman writes of a middle-class Berlin full of trains, bikes, and close local shopping, versus an "America stranded in suburbia — utterly dependent on their cars, yet having a hard time affording gas." What would it take to fill many more of Pittsburgh's beautiful old houses with residents, to make frequent, appealing light rail service reach many more outlying areas, to convince Southwestern Pa. to put less effort into maintaining the lifestyle of its suburbs and spend more effort to populate the energetic city those 'burbs revolve around?

Again, kudos to Right by Nature for their neighborly action. But in the larger picture, grocery delivery must be seen as a stop-gap solution to a problem of low-density, which threatens the long-term future of our city.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Really, Pittsburgh's Best Sale All Year, Highland Park Yard Sale, Tommorow Sunday June 6th

I have been to this for the last 3 years. It is amazing, junk to antiques. It's not publicized much, for whatever reason...maybe the residents want first dibs? Couldn't blame them: The info here is taken from iheartpittsburgh blog

Annual Highland Park Yard Sale and Bryant Street Festival

Sunday, June 6, 9 am
Giant neighborhood wide yard sale
maps will be available the morning of the sale at Negley & Hampton St., Highland & Stanton Ave., Tazza D’Oro, Stanton-Negley Pharmacy and the new Bryant Street Market.
Stop by the Bryant Street Festival from Noon-6pm for more family fun after you have finished shopping!

Terrific Warhol Photos (32!) on NY Magazine Site

I'm afraid I am at home on the internet instead of at the Unblurred Art Crawl on Penn Ave. Can't bring myself to brave the storm ( the literal storm )after getting caught in a bad one the other day..........
The photos are part of an exhibit in "the new Gladstone Gallery in East Hampton". NY Mag titled the slideshow "See Warhol and Friends on Set and In Their Element"

Ofcourse, Warhol and his gang were always photogenic, but I particularly enjoyed these photos.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Pittsburgh Art Events: 6/4-5/10.


The Three Rivers Arts Festival begins today with a "massive party beginning at Katz Plaza and spreading across the Pittsburgh Cultural District." I haven't made it a point to attend this event in a couple of years, so I have no idea what type of amusements or refreshments will be offered, or even if it will be worth your time to deal with the inevitably large crowds. Only you know how to figure out your risk/reward equation for this situation. I do know that DJ Zombo will be spinning tunes down at Point State Park at 5PM, which suggests to me that the egregious rape of our historical treasure has finally concluded (and naturally I mean no offense to Mike, who is a lot of fun behind the turntables). There's also reportedly a traveling fresh water aquarium and an "eco-arcade" down there.

Fifth Avenue Place hosts a show of work by those affiliated with Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Pittsburgh Filmmakers and the Pittsburgh Glass Center. Meanwhile the Three Rivers Arts Festival Juried Visual Art Exhibition will be located at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Arts Education Center (805 Liberty Avenue). If I do go downtown, I'll be sure to stop at these destinations. And the sculptural work of the recently-deceased John Metzler of the Urban Tree Forge will be prominently featured at the 929 Liberty Avenue Building. John was an immensely talented artist (as well as a truly outstanding individual), and attending this show will be a great way to commemorate his life.

Of course if you save the festival for another day, you can attend Unblurred on Penn Avenue (Garfield/Friendship) instead. At Modern Formations (4919 Penn) you can see "Quel Dommage!"- the Artwork of Siblings Beth and Charles Steidle, which the artists explain is inspired by "all the little sadnesses and minor disasters accumulated over time". And it's now (officially) the LAST show at Fast>>fwd (and I won't miss typing that awkward formulation in these posts), so I suggest you take the opportunity to wish the gallery a fond farewell during their reception for "Wallspace", a group show of paintings.

The annual Summer Social goes off between 5:30-9:30 at the Sprout Fund headquarters (5423 Penn). This is your chance to meet the board members of a community organization providing funding for some great murals around town, as well as a multitude of projects that would never get done if not for their generosity and hard work. Celebrate with live entertainment, drinks, and other quality refreshments, and stop by to see what's in the works.

Richard Schnap's collage is on the walls at Garfield Artworks, and there's a poster show at the space collective (4823 Penn). Really, there's always tons of stuff to do up and down the street. If you get hungry, stop by the Envy Lounge (4923 Penn) for their $7.99 buffet special, highlighting African/Caribbean and vegetarian cuisine. I've eaten there before, and it is delicious. Anyway- for a full schedule of events, you should visit the official page.

If you venture beyond the concentrations, you can still see some art. The aforementioned Zombo will probably be back at his gallery in Lawrenceville at some point to host Eric Luden's "In Stereo". Luden is a regular at the Zombo Gallery, and if you enjoy illustration you could do a lot worse than attending this "retro pin-up show". Apparently Luden will share the space with illustrator Kris Boban. It starts at 6PM. And the provocatively-titled "Secrets: Nudes from the Muslim World" by Greg Williams will have its opening reception at the Mendelson Gallery (5874 Ellsworth Avenue) from 6-8PM.

Finally (as if all of this weren't enough) there is an arts auction to benefit Walk Now for Autism Speaks at the Spinning Plates Artists Lofts (5720 Friendship Ave). DJ Malls is providing music, and you get food and drinks for the $5 door donation.


The place to be on this evening is the Panza Gallery (115 Sedgwick Street, Millvale) for an opening of Olga Brindar's charcoal drawings dealing with sleep and death. I've had an opportunity to sample a couple of these pieces, and they are simply breathtaking. The reception runs from 6-9PM.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Blog in Temporary Slowdown Mode

My personal posts will be in slowdown mode as I go through a period of "restructuring", and rethinking.

The current, goal of having an active group blog looking at the good and bad of the art scene here and the real economic and social impact of good and bad design on the lives of people in the Cleveburgh region isn't close to being met.

The bad news is that I just don't see much upside in investing too much of my time in a blog too few are reading and participating in. (You can see my comments in places like Urbanophile) The good news is that several new people may be coming on board in the next few months with wider views of urbanism and the Cleveland Art world.

Until then, things are most likely to slow down but not die out to a few posts a week. Of course, you could breath life back in by contributing posts.

If you have thoughts, events, insight or images you want to share about art, music, film, urban design, architecture, transit or history in the Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Youngstown, Erie, Morgantown, Akron, Canton region--Cleveburgh, email me We can hook you up to post.

This is not Hyper Local media, but regional media seeking local viewpoints.