Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tours of Ohio for political junkies

From NPR

What the hell, Ohio isn't likely to see many benefits from the swarm of political locusts that show up every four years. Might as well cash in by attracting tourists.
Tourism with a theme isn’t new. But former BBC and New York Times reporter Nicholas Wood felt there was something missing in the tourism industry. WOOD: “It struck me – if you can have art tours, history tours, why can’t you have serious political tours? So we give people, ordinary people the same opportunity you and I have had.” So Wood launched Political Tours, designed specifically for the political junkies. The company is bringing a small group to Ohio and Washington to look into the 2012 presidential election.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Retiring Stagehand Looks back on 40 Years of Pittsburgh Theater

The Trib has an amazing look at Ken Brannigan, retiring from The Benedum. (formerly The Stanley Theater)

Brannigans have been working Pittsburgh backstages for more than a century. The walls of Brannigan’s Benedum basement office display photos of union picnics and parades that illustrate the history of Pittsburgh theater, Brannigan’s family and Local 3.

His great uncle John Brannigan was an assistant electrician at the New Duquesne Theatre in 1910. During the years, Brannigan’s three great uncles, his father, his uncle, his brother and an assortment of cousins and their kids have joined the union and worked backstage.
Likly not gonna happen, but I wish he would write a book.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sometimes Better to do nothing part two: Cleveland's Warehouse District

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 I posted this before and after GIF months ago, which illustrates how little is left of the Warehouse district just west of Cleveland's downtown.

Truth is I don't know the exactly how or why these buildings were torn down- but given overall national history and the relative proximity to Cleveland's massive sports stadiums and I-90, I have an idea.

 Most, do not look like they were historic gems- some of those were saved. What one sees is blocks of solid, useful buildings, forming an urban, walkable fabric, perfect for gradual reuse- or even replacement.

 Michael Lewis, in Moneyball says it's not the great players or moves a team doesn't make that haunt as much as the disastrous gambles that don't pay off. The other thing one got from the movie- is that the temptation to swing for the fences and grab for the the trendy all star or latest urban fad is almost overwhelming.

We can see that in cities pretty clearly. Once, a massive destructive mistake like a West Side Highway or Allegheny Center is made, it's very hard to fix. Perhaps nothing hurts as much as a design that permanently breaks or changes the street grid.

Let's hear it for small-ball.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Cincinnati's Over The Rhine: Why It's sometimes best to do nothing has a nice story and photo essay on Cincinnati's Over The Rhine neighborhood, long considered one of the largest semi intact collections of historic buildings in the country.

Just a few years before, none of this would have been possible.

Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine area, just north of downtown, had become a wasteland, a desolate, scary place that most residents -- let alone tourists -- had no reason to visit except for occasional trips to Findlay Market and Music Hall.
Not familiar with the full story, but year after year, as the place suffered from decline and disinvestment, I'm sure many thought the city should "just do something", tear it down, build a new stadium or indoor mall or change the street grid or add lots of parking garages-- like we so often have done in Pittsburgh.
Over the second half of the 20th century, the neighborhood grew increasingly abandoned, was a magnet for illegal activity and became home to hundreds of vacant buildings. In 2000, the neighborhood was prominently featured in "Traffic," a movie about the failing war on drugs, as the place where the daughter of Michael Douglas' character, the national drug czar, goes to get high.
Easy to see now, that such a classic set of buildings and block grid so close to the downtown was an above average attraction but in the 50's, 60's and 70's most, "smart people", thought just the opposite. Sadly, Allegheny City's Central market area had many of the same attributes as OTR.
Buffeted by the urban problems common to most American cities after World War II, the renamed "North Side" was deemed blighted despite much evidence to the contrary, leaving it vulnerable to the gargantuan renewal schemes of the 1960s. A new highway thickened the isolation belt of the railroad, and north of this wall, in the old heart of downtown Allegheny City, the bulldozers arrived in batallions. With the smashing of the beloved Market House on the Diamond, and the raising of a massive and mediocre suburban mall, it was as if the soul of the city itself had finally been extinguished
Sometimes the best "plan" is to value what you have and just wait to see what happens.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Interesting "You Didn't Build That" backround story related to Pittsburgh and Roanoke

I am trying to only put up political posts that pretty closely relate to Pittsburgh's history and culture. This one is just an opinion- but I think I bring in perspective and backround.

He also- never mentions, that government can and often has disrupted and destroyed vital human connections or that government officials may be racist. The town where Obama made those comments, suffered badly from the same kinds of policies that tore down communities like The Lower Hill and the core of Pittsburgh's North Side business district.

What's interesting about Roanoke?

As the speech and location entered the national media- I thought, why do I know that place? Well, Roanoke along with Pittsburgh and Newark just happens to be one of three cities looked in Mindy Fullilove's book Root Shock, on the devastating social, economic and emotional effects of Urbam Renewal programs on black communities. From The Roanoke Times,
Urban renewal wiped blocks of Roanoke's black neighborhoods from the map and divided Gainsboro -- one of the city's oldest sections -- into a fractured patchwork of houses, industrial lots and splintered community groups. So while a proposal this month to end one of the last remaining relics of urban renewal has offered Gainsboro residents a chance for closure, it also has exposed frayed social ties.
In Pittsburgh, promises of better housing and community infrastructure resulted in a highway and sports arena- In Roanoke, a community was torn down to build a Coca Cola Bottling plant. In both cities, the programs left anger and a loss of confidence. "The legacy of distrust between the neighborhood and city government could make that difficult. In 1979, when the city council was considering a similar proposal, the Rev. Kenneth Wright of Gainsboro's First Baptist Church said, "It is imperative that the city not overlook the moral commitment that has been made to the people of Gainsboro."

Further on:
"The whole goal was to move low-income people out of these neighborhoods that surrounded the downtown, sell the property to commercial developers, so the city wins, the developers win. ... The only people who lose are those in the neighborhood, who still remain there," said Radford University professor Reginald Shareef. "The anger is, for those who remain, their quality of life in the neighborhood has gone." About 1,000 people live in Gainsboro, scattered across roughly 500 residential properties, nearly half of which are currently vacant, according to city real estate records. The housing authority owns about 85 of those vacant residential lots, most of which are concentrated on the neighborhood's north side."
In all three cities, the promised net improvements in the tax base also never quite panned out. It takes a real stretch to imagine, the Lower Hill or the Central Ward of Newark are better off today because this was done.

But, the thesis Mindy makes in Root Shock is that the destruction, in lost relationships is almost beyond calculation. In my opinion, these effects are a huge unexamined factor in recent urban, minority and American history.

Friday, October 05, 2012

A Busy Busy Arts Weekend in Pittsburgh

Somehow, John Morris and I are going to get to all of this..........and I am  sure we will misss some things that we don't even know are occurring!
Friday: Mendelson Gallery. James Nelson and friends. A great collection of artists:
Painter James P. Nelson exhibits recent work and welcomes friends and colleagues -

photographer David Aschkenas
painters Robert Qualters and Philip Rostek
sound artist R. Weis
mixed-media artist Carolyn Wenning
in an exhibition that explores the worlds within everyday reality.
October 5-27, 2012
Opening Reception: October 5th, 7-9 pm
Also Friday "Unblurred" on Penn Ave. The Unblurred just get better and better. More and more art, more and more people, more a mix of people on the streets. Among the many openings tonight is "Pittsburgh by Pittsburgh Artists" at Irma Freeman: Ad so much more. For details go here
Saturday and Sunday: "Figment Pittsburgh". The first time Figment, an interactive art exhibit has been held in Pittsburgh. Other venues include Boston and NYC. See the CP cover story "The Figment festival of interactive art makes its Pittsburgh debut Weekend-long fest brings local artists to Allegheny Commons" by going here
Saturday: "Wood-Fired Words- Braddock" I know it is autumn when this event occurs. Great readings and great wood fired pizza. From the Unsmoke website:
Saturday, October 6th

Readings, art, a pop-up bookstore, and wood-fired pizza

7pm - 10pm

Readings start at 8:30pm

$7 admission

Curated by Sherrie Flick

The 4th annual Wood-Fired Words will feature readings by: Sean Thomas Dougherty, Braddock’s 2013 Into the Furnace Writer-in-Residence; Sarah Leavens, Braddock’s current Out of the Forge Writer-in-Residence; and Salvatore Pane, author of the forthcoming novel Last Call in the City of Bridges, published by Braddock Avenue Books.

The event will also include The East End Book Exchange pop-up used bookstore, paintings by local artist Anna E. Mikolay, and wood-fired pizza baked in Braddock’s community pizza oven (with special chef appearance by Kevin Sousa). Drinks are BYOB, and an ongoing potluck will occur inside the gallery.

Into the Furnace is a writer-in-residence program in Braddock, PA. The selected writer is housed in a two-room suite in the former St. Michael’s parochial school convent, which is located beside UnSmoke Systems Artspace, across the street from the Edgar Thompson Works, and beside the community pizza oven. Into the Furnace offers an adventuresome creative person, whose work and work ethic can benefit from the energy Braddock has to offer, up to 9 months of creative work time at our urban residency.
Out of the Forge is a new writing residency for post-MFA graduates held in conjunction with the Into the Furnace residency. It allows time and space for an emerging writer to focus on his/her craft as well as engage with the Braddock community. Housed in the convent building next to UnSmoke for 6 to 9 months, the writer-in-residence becomes part of the heart of Braddock’s burgeoning literary community.
Sean Thomas Dougherty is the author of thirteen books across genres including the forthcoming All I Ask for Is Longing: Poems 1994- 2014 and Scything Grace. He is the recipient of two Pennsylvania Council for the Arts Fellowships in Poetry and a Fulbright Lectureship to the Balkans. Known for his electrifying performances, Dougherty has performed at hundreds of venues, universities and festivals across North America and Europe. He has worked as a lecturer, in factories, warehouses, as a security guard, in a bakery, a sawmill, and as a teacher of at-risk youth. He currently works at a pool hall and teaches creative writing part-time at Cleveland State University.
Sarah Leavens received her MFA in Poetry and Nonfiction from Chatham University, where she served as the Margaret Whitford Fellow. While at Chatham, she organized the monthly reading series Word Circus in collaboration with Most Wanted Fine Art Gallery and earned certificates in the Pedagogy of Creative Writing and Travel Writing. Originally from the middle of four cornfields in Indiana, she has lived at length in Ohio, where she coordinated an arts outreach program for at-risk youth and families in Springfield, and served as Vice President for the Yellow Springs Arts Council. Her recent work has appeared in Fourth River and Weave; she teaches writing and visual art in Pittsburgh.
Salvatore Pane was born and raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania. His novel, Last Call in the City of Bridges, will be published by Braddock Avenue Books this fall. His chapbook, #KanyeWestSavedFromDrowning, is forthcoming from NAP. He is an Assistant Professor of English Creative Writing at the University of Indianapolis. His fiction has been nominated or shortlisted for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Web, and Wigleaf’s Top 50 [Very] Short Fictions. He won the 2010 Turow-Kinder Award in Fiction judged by Stewart O’ Nan with an excerpt from his novel. His work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in American Short Fiction, Hobart, PANK, Annalemma, BOMB, The Rumpus, HTMLGIANT, The American Book Review, and many other venues.
Braddock Avenue Books is an independent literary press dedicated to publishing both new and established writers and graphic artists whose work engages honestly and meaningfully with contemporary circumstances. Braddock Avenue Books especially supports writers using literary fiction, the long-form essay, or graphic fiction and nonfiction for serious explorations of what it means to be alive today. Founded by local writers Jeffery Condran and Robert Peluso in 2011, Braddock Avenue Books is located in Braddock, PA.
Sherrie Flick is author of a novel, Reconsidering Happiness (Bison Books), and the flash fiction chapbook I Call This Flirting (Flume). Select anthologies include Flash Fiction Forward (Norton), New Sudden Fiction (Norton), and The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction. She has received fellowships from Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Atlantic Center for the Arts, The Ucross Foundation, and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. A recipient of a 2011 Work of Art Award for Artistic Vibrancy from the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, she teaches at Chatham University and (for 10 years) served as Artistic Director for the Gist Street Reading Series. Sherrie was instrumental in the creation of the Into the Furnace writing residency program.

The East End Book Exchange was founded in the summer of 2011 on two simple ideas: love of books and love of Pittsburgh. It is a pop-up used bookstore dedicated to connecting booklovers and books in the heart of Pittsburgh’s East End. Each weekend, The East End Book Exchange appears in a community space or local business in a different neighborhood.

Anna E. Mikolay is a painter and installation artist who lives and works in Pittsburgh, PA. She received a BFA from Edinboro University and maintains a studio space at Unsmoke Systems Artspace, in Braddock, PA. Upcoming Pittsburgh exhibitions include New Paintings at Concept Art Gallery, a site-specific installation at Future Tenant Gallery, and a solo exhibition at Unsmoke Systems Artspace. Recently, she was an artist in residence at the New York Student Art League's Vytlacil Campus, Sparkill, NY and a fellow with the 2011 Flight School Fellowship, Pittsburgh Filmmakers in Partnership with Creative Capital. Recent projects include, The Space Between, a solo exhibition at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, an installation for the 8 Hour Project, Allegheny College, Meadville, PA and paintings in the show, Minimalism in The 21st Century at the Woman Made Gallery in Chicago, Illinois.


Monday, October 01, 2012

September's Downtown Gallery Crawl

The Night Market

I love the Fall season. After the lazy summer days, everybody seems ready to get back to the serious business of putting on great shows and doing really fun art stuff. The Gallery Crawl in the Cultural District is no slacker when it comes to putting some fun stuff out there. I really enjoyed my evening out in the environs of Downtown Pittsburgh. That's not to say that there weren't some very serious exhibits going, but I think I'll save that for another day.

There were two artist markets taking place during the Gallery Crawl on Friday. The first one that I visited was ART Squared in Market Square, a loosely organized offering of DIY crafts, art and music. I was there pretty early, so I am sure that things picked up as the evening wore on.

I had a blast at the Night Market. It was on two short alleys off of Liberty Avenue and it was packed with vendors. Lots and lots of tasty victuals and even tastier crafts. Soy Sos was spinning some tunes, and there were people just starting to dance. Some of the vendors, like Tugboat Printshop, were familiar. Some were new to me; there was a vendor, Creative Customology that had the best floral jewelry. I loved the necklaces!

Another fun stop was the Handmade Arcade's DIY Portrait Studio The sort-of photobooth popped up in an empty storefront on Liberty Ave. There were backdrops and props. Sooo many feather boas!

Some stops to consider on your next trip downtown -

PNC Legacy Project, located om Liberty Ave.

Cell Phone Disco on Tito Way

Awesome Books, on Liberty Ave.

Enjoy the slideshow. I wish I had more picture to share, but it was dark and a LOT of my shots are just not worth sharing. If anybody wants to pass a digital camera on to me, you would have my undying gratitude.