BOOM

Thursday, 10 July 2014 01:29 PM Written by

boom400

 

On July 3rd and 4th, Boom Concepts, a new exhibition and art workspace in Garfield, kicked off their grand opening - a two day extravaganza featuring art, live music, free massages, and an Independence Day cookout. People from all over came out to join the Garfield community in welcoming their newest neighbor, Boom. Located at 5139 Penn Avenue, Boom Concepts is occupied by Pittsburgh based media company, Jenesis Magazine, and art duo, Magic Organs (D.S. Kinsel and Julie Mallis).

Boom Concepts is more than a workspace/studio/gallery, it’s also a hub for an underserved arts community. Boom is a studio where artists can congregate and create together. Visit Boom on any given day and odds are, you’ll see Magic Organs painting or Jenesis Magazine shooting an interview; you might also see Carnegie Mellon MFA students installing an exhibition or Rhinestone Steel hosting a vaudeville night. Maybe you’ll just see a bunch of artists shooting the breeze, eating Spak Brothers pizza, but it’s that kind of friendly environment that fosters connection and encourages collaboration.

On Thursday, the first part of the launch, Boom was in full-on gallery mode, exhibiting work from local artists during Garfield’s Unblurred gallery crawl. Upstairs, guests gathered to view the group exhibition featuring local artists: Applecubed, Mariann Colonna, and Makayla Wray. Downstairs, people toured the art studio where Magic Organs does their creating. Magic Organs is a multidisciplinary art team that uses paint, drawing, sculpture, music, video and performance to speak to and connect with young art enthusiasts and communities. Their studio, which houses D.S. and Julie's individual projects as well, was filled with painted canvases and unassembled installations being prepped for the next exhibit. Always busy, the pair had a retrospective exhibition at Bunker Projects on the same night and they had to pull double duty as hosts, going back and forth between galleries.

magicorgans300

Friday evening, the opening ceremonies continued with a cookout and live music showcase. Rising Pittsburgh musician, Tairey, set the tone for the evening as the opening DJ, while Thomas Agnew, D.S. Kinsel, and Julie Mallis shared hosting and grilling duties, welcoming everyone into their new space. As the night progressed, a certified masseur set up a station and provided complimentary massages to those in need. Songstress Anqwenique Wingfield serenaded guests, followed by Tairey’s stage return, this time performing his original songs. The night closed with DJ sets from Alexis Icon, and DJ DGAFunk, obliging my Prince request with “I Would Die 4 U”. It was a great night with good people, highlighting why a place like Boom Concepts is important for creative community.

Boom is a classroom, too. With upcoming classes on subjects such as finance, technology and health, they’re committed to serving not just the arts community but the needs of everyday people, too. Jenesis Magazine and Magic Organs feel a sense of responsibility to making life better, as artists, and they’re using their talents to help others and give opportunity to people who might not otherwise have it. They understand that it’s tough for even talented artists to find places that will exhibit their work, which is why they're always willing to give up-and-comers a chance. This kind of collectivism and shared concerns for the health and well-being of neighborhoods is what makes Pittsburgh strong, and it’s what makes Boom necessary and worthy of our support.

While some Pittsburgh art places focus on the work of national and international artists, other organizations welcome local artists with open arms. A lot of these local-art-friendly places reside on Penn Avenue in Garfield, which makes Boom’s location pretty perfect. Not only are these Penn Avenue galleries such as Garfield Artworks, Assemble, Modern Formations, Mr. Roboto and Most Wanted Fine Art showcasing art from locals, helping them to make a living, they’re building and repairing communities. It’s important that we support organizations that are making an effort to give back to this wonderful city. On the first Friday of every month, the Garfield area hosts a free gallery crawl called Unblurred that takes place between the 4800 and 5500 blocks of Penn avenue. If you haven’t been, do yourself a favor and check it out, and be sure to stop by Boom Concepts.

 

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Kliptown Photography Project: Growing Quickly

Thursday, 10 July 2014 11:07 AM Written by

This is the final post from the Kliptown Photography Project, a week-long teen documentary project led by Pittsburghers Linda Dukess, Jody DiPerna and photographer Heather Mull in South Africa, which just ended July 4. Zanele Mashumi, South African gallery owner and curator will exhibiting photographs from the workshop opening on July 25 at Mashumi Art Projects, her gallery in Soweto. 

Soweto woman

One does not pick up a camera, take a five day workshop and, on the sixth day, wake up being Teenie Harris or Dorothea Lange. That kind of skill is earned over many hours, many years behind the camera.

That said, our kids are seeing the camera, and the world around them, differently in a very, very short time. Whatever we're doing, we're doing something right.

At the beginning of this week, late Monday afternoon, when we gave the kids their cameras, our students started mugging and cheesing it up for the camera. It was fun for them, but they are very unnatural photographs.

Just a few days later, the kids are taking photos of different things, trying to capture different kinds of moments. Sure, some posed photos and selfies still show up -- after all, these are teenagers we're talking about. But their growth in a short, short time is amazing to witness.

Last night, we gave the kids an assignment to take two portraits -- one of a person they know (could be a family member, a friend, a close neighbor); and the second of a portrait of somebody they didn't know. They know their environment well enough to know who to steer clear of, but still, we wanted to give them a very professional photography assignment, the kind somebody like Heather would get. She told them that there are lots of ways to approach it, but being honest (explain that it's a school assignment -- it's not going to be in a newspaper or anything) is a good start. And that offering to show them the photo is a good way to gain trust, too. As with many things in life, being complimentary helps; simply telling somebody, "you have a great look" or "you have great style" is a good way to get a person to agree to let you photograph them.

This morning, the kids came back with great stuff. Some of them really got people to open up, connect with them. Which, although they didn't know it, was the point of the exercise. And they all really captured the person they know. Some took photos of cousins or siblings or grandparents. They were overall really wonderful shots.

Soweto portrait

Which is really a tremendous thing for us -- the entire team -- but particularly for me and Linda. I loved the idea of the project, but there were multiple points at which I wondered how effective the project would be? How much would we accomplish?

A month or so ago, I heard a TED Talk by Ernesto Sirolli, about the power of listening when going into a foreign location with the intention of helping. He started by telling a very funny story about when he worked for an Italian NGO in the late 1970's. They went to Zambia to teach the Zambians about agriculture. Being Italians, they arrived with tomato and zucchini seeds. (Sounds a lot like my family.) And they planted in beautiful soil and felt very good about the fact that they were there to help these Zambians who clearly didn't understand growing things. The tomatoes grew and ripened and just when they were ready to harvest, a herd of 200 hippos came through and ate them all.

The Italians said to the Zambians, "The hippos! Why didn't you tell us about the hippos!" To which the Zambians replied, "You didn't ask." Sirolli went on to say that he felt awful about the Italian folly in Zambia, until he learned of the follies of the Americans and the Brits and the French. At least the Italians, he thought, fed the hippos.

There were times when I thought to myself, "Well, we are giving our kids breakfast and a snack every day, so we may end up like the Italians -- at least we fed somebody for a week!" That was my baseline, the worst that I could expect from the week. Although I didn't really think that would happen. What I really thought would happen was that we could connect with one kid, maybe two.

I think we've connected with more than that. They are all very proud of their new knowledge and, though we've really just scratched the surface with them, I feel like a few of them may make photography a life-long pursuit (either as a vocation or an avocation). But for entire class, I believe we've planted a couple of seeds, cultivated an interest in looking at the world in new ways. For me, that's what education is all about. It's also what art is all about.

There are twelve students -- 14 to 16 years old, plus three members of the staff, all in their very early 20s. And I think we've really hooked many of them, at least two-thirds of our students. Maybe more.

Several of the kids, our high school students, show up early. After one day of seeing how we wanted the classroom set up, they set the classroom up. They tidy up. They help us get breakfast ready. As we're showing slides in a room without blinds, we have to block the light with cardboard. The kids set that up, too. When we give them breaks, at least five or six of them hang out in the classroom, talking to our instructors. One of our students even got work photographing this weekend -- she has been asked to take photos at a birthday party. She will be paid very modestly, but it is paid photography work. And she's also been asked to take photographs for her church, for which she will also be compensated.

Bear in mind, none of these kids had taken any serious photos. Some of them had not been behind a camera ever. It is an astonishing amount of growth in just four days. I am, quite frankly, blown away.

Is it possible we've been able to teach some young people to see and tell new stories? Have they learned that it's okay to take a step back (or a step forward) and open their minds to a new way of seeing?

And even though I had made my peace with the idea that we might just end up feeding the hippos, I think we may be able to do more than that.

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Soweto, Day Two: Using Light

Tuesday, 08 July 2014 02:18 PM Written by

 

Jody DiPerna is one of three Pittsburghers leading a teen documentary photography workshop in Kliptown, a South African township. Read more about the Kliptown Photography Project, here.

July 01, 2014  

We didn't know what we could reasonably expect. We really didn't. How could we? We were traveling to an informal settlement to teach students ages 14-17 who we didn't know at all. We were working with one very seasoned photographer who had no experience teaching. And three other photographers who we only knew through their work and email. All four photographers are wonderful. We loved their work. And I had worked with Heather, so I'd seen her connect with people. I think it's really a strength -- just set her loose in a place and let her talk and connect and use her camera.

But honestly, when I think about it, what were we thinking?

Fortunately for us, our instructors are incredible, intuitive teachers -- I think because they really love photography. It is evident how much joy they get from using a camera, problem solving, figuring out different ways to connect with a subject or shoot an object, how to use the light and any other material they have at hand. That passion is infectious and it turns out they are all natural born teachers.

We let our students take their cameras home last night. The instructors gave them an assignment:  simply take photographs of some people close to you and then show us your three favorite photos. This afternoon the instructors got to look at our students work. As we were working in the KYP computer lab, we broke into groups -- three students and one instructor. I floated around, checking in on some of the work. The kids did great. Each one had at least one really good photo. Many of them had more than that.

And to think, I was worried that we wouldn't have enough good stuff for an exhibition.

Soweto

Our kids are also amazing at taking in all kinds of technical information. I think I might have been inclined to dumb things down, or, at the very least, keep it very, very simple. Fortunately, I don't get to make those kinds of decisions. The instructors decided to throw a master class at the kids this morning, as a way to illustrate how a camera works the way that your eye works, which is to say, the interpretive engine of light.

Heather explained how a camera shutter works like your eye, opening in dark settings to let in more light, and closing in brighter settings to limit the light. And how a camera is just like that. She taught them how to make a make-shift reflector with cardboard and foil, so that they can reflect natural light onto a subject (could be human or inanimate) in a dim setting.

Patrick taught the kids how to use light on a subject -- front light, side light, and back light. I should add here, that while each instructor make take the lead for a short moment, the class is very interactive. All the instructors explain things, feeding off of each other, expanding on one thought or another.

They even taught the kids about the principles of photography -- ISO, aperture, shutter speed, film speed, etc. It was a master class and I have to admit, the kids were really keeping up with the ideas. In fact, during the classroom work, we thought we should give them a five minute break, just to stretch their legs and blow off some steam, but most of them stayed in the classroom, talking to Tila, Patrick, Jerry and Heather.

Admittedly, it's just fun to shoot pictures, but they're taking to all of it -- the theory behind it, understanding light and how they can use it, thinking about depth of field and framing (but we'll get to more of that tomorrow), and how photographers tell stories.

As Patrick told the students, "The writer uses pen and paper; but as photographers, we write with light."

 

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Soweto: Day One

Saturday, 05 July 2014 11:40 AM Written by

This is the first of a series of posts from Pittsburghers Linda Dukess, Jody DiPerna and Heather Mull, in the field in South Africa working with photographers and youth from Soweto on the Kliptown Photography Project.
 
Greetings from Soweto!
 
We are back at our home away from home, B&B Nthateng in Orlando West. Today, we got rolling at the Kliptown Youth Project. We met the teens and started the day with breakfast, which we will be doing every day. Today was simply rolls and cheese and oranges. Tomorrow, we are going to bring a local favorite called fat cake, which is a kind of fry bread. I have to admit, I'm quite intrigued to try them myself.
 
It was an exhilarating day for us! Read more about our first day here.
 
We've spent the last year of our lives talking about this project, the Kliptown Photography Project, examining it from every angle, working out details, prepping, fund-raising, traveling, researching cameras and on and on:  it felt a bit like looking for El Dorado or the search for the Holy Grail.
 
But today, to see it happen, to see the students engage, to see Julie and Heather teaching, watching Tila, Patrick and Jerry connecting with the kids, was truly phenomenal, one of the most rewarding experiences of our lives.
 
The kids have homework tonight and, I have to admit, I am very curious to see what they will bring back! Things are going really well here. My only regret is that we have only five days with our students. I'd like to stay indefinitely. 
 
It's hard not to think ahead, but when we get back from this amazing week, we have to continue our fund-raising efforts, so that we can pay for the exhibitions of the work. If you've donated to us, we cannot thank you enough. Please pass on this information, our blog, our site and our indiegogo information (below) to anybody and everybody. 
 
Ulwimi ululodwa alonelanga - One language is never enough


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 heather in the classroom final

As the region’s arts council, a membership organization comprised of many non-profits and artists, we receive calls and requests of all kinds, all in the name of helping our region’s arts community thrive. This spring, after having run into fellow photographer Heather Mull and hearing about her plans to go to South Africa, I received an email from Linda Dukess, Heather’s colleague, asking to talk about their wild idea to teach documentary photography in South Africa. Having taught media in the field in Northern Ireland, Jamaica, the Navajo Nation, and Alabama, my interest was piqued.

There is nothing quite like looking through the lens of a camera, in the field and working with young people, if you want to instantly cause intercultural learning, global awareness and serious reflection about one's place in this world. The photographs are usually good, even for a short term, immersive project, but the profound takeaways – compassion, humility, gratitude, and self-determination – are better than good. People think cameras are about the gear. Think, again - cameras are literally about seeing, teaching a person to observe, consider, and reflect.

Linda and I met, and she shared her passion project, the Kliptown Photography Project, involving herself, her partner Jody DiPerna, Heather, and their friend Juliana Kreinik. Moved to do something to help the situation in a South African shantytown, their plan is to work with South African photographers Jerry Obakeng Gaegane, Patrick Selemani and Tila Nomvula Mathizerd with South African curator Zanele Mashumi and let the power of the documentary image take hold. Together, they would enact a week-long photography program for teens in Kliptown, one of the most impoverished townships in South Africa. In the mix is the Kliptown Youth Program, helping the photography project work with teens in the area and providing a space for the project within the township.

Linda and her colleagues are in Kliptown, now, and I asked them to share their stories with The Arts Blog readers to raise awareness of their efforts to make a difference, and to broaden our understanding of how the arts function within a set of larger community concerns, such as poverty and racism. Find out more about the project, here, and we will post three blog posts from their adventures, today and into early next week. 

Jen Saffron, Director of Communications at the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council

 

 

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Ojo - Opening eyes with theater

Monday, 30 June 2014 11:47 AM Written by

One of the more evocative, challenging art pieces I have seen in years took place as an “immersive theatrical experience” during the Three Rivers Arts Festival a couple of weeks back, and my mind is still working it out.

Ojo Bricolage Production Company’s immersive theater piece created for this year’s Three Rivers Arts festival provided an exceptional sensory experience of the streets in and around the Festival. The journey began gradually, taking me from building to building, street to street, space to space – with actors asking me to listen for or memorize the clues that led me to my next destination, be it a person playing drums in the street or a payphone or a doorway. After about 30 minutes, the sensory scavenger hunt, including other languages being spoken at me and pedicab ride through an alley while wearing blinders, ended in a dark cozy bedroom where the adventure truly began.

After having a bedtime story read to me with an eye mask on, we left this safe interior bedroom space, eye mask intact, and until the cast bade us farewell, those engaged in Ojo either wore a light tight eye mask or were accompanied by a person who does not have sight, sharing their stories of finding their way through life and through art. This exceptional immersion theater provided us with a perspective on our city that most of us do not want - living, traveling, eating, acting - without sight.

Ojo cropped

As the leader of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council’s ”Increasing Accessibility to Pittsburgh Arts and Culture Initiative,” I spend much of my working life helping arts and culture organizations best serve people with disabilities, for example someone without sight, so that they can participate in our creative community. As a part of our 2014 accessibility work, GPAC highlighted the work of artists with disabilities, promoting the idea that art of all disciplines can shift opinions and attitudes simply by presenting a different perspective on our world.Ojo showed me that despite years of guiding people without sight through our world and specifically the Art World - I really have a lot to learn.

During the short 1.5 hour immersive theatrical journey, I was abandoned at a simulated crowded party by a “friend” after she asked me to hold her drink – except I was wearing a completely light tight eye mask and couldn’t see a thing.  My children, who journeyed together but separate from me were taken to the same party (also with eye masks) and invited to entertain themselves at the party by completing a number puzzle they could not see, and enjoy themselves by eating popcorn from a bowl they could not find. I strained to hear my kids’ voices - instinctively searching for some sign they were OK, but felt helpless and dumped off at a pretend lively party where no one wanted to talk to me.

These moments during Ojo, I realized with regret the memories of socializing with my friends without sight and some with sight, seeing myself in the actors who were “glad to see me” - the blind one - but didn’t really want to engage in my world.

Art can change our world for the better with beautiful experiences that shed some light on what it is like to be someone else. Looking at the world through another’s eyes builds empathy, reveals barriers, changes the way we see the world. Ojo did that by closing my eyes.

Read the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's review of Ojo, here
.

 

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These last weeks of the school year have moved me into a reflective state on my childhood school days. As my daughter and I dig into college planning I find myself trying to remember how I made such big decisions at a young age. How did I end up where I am right now – a Visual Problem Solver?!

I found part of my answer at an event for GPAC, the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, where I created visual notes for a roundtable discussion about Arts Education. I found the conversation interesting and important, but what was most serendipitous during that session is my art teacher from elementary school happened to be an attendee. We chatted for a bit about life, art and education before the session began. As the evening went on I had this feeling I couldn’t quite define. I said my good-byes and went home, but I could NOT sleep that night – I just stared at the ceiling trying to figure out that feeling which was bringing me to the brink of tears.

Emily Marko-1

How could a small interaction with a person I hadn’t seen since elementary school affect me so much? I also wondered how is it that I actually remember this teacher so vividly and not only her, but also a piece of artwork that I created in her class close to 30 years ago.

As I pondered this, I had flashes of more memories from my childhood and into my college years. It wasn’t a bad feeling at all. It was a mixture of gratitude, love and feeling so VERY fortunate – fortunate to have been influenced by some really Significant People.

So how did I get here? With a lot of different experiences – the great and not-so-great ones. Some experiences I fell into, others I was pushed into and there were a few I worked so hard to have. The combination of all of those experiences, plus Awesome Family and some Significant People is what got me to right now. Many of those Significant People were only a blink in my life. Some were teachers who I really only knew for 180 days or less, but left a lasting impression and truly helped carve out my path.

The Arts have always been prominent in my life in some form. My parents (part of the Awesome Family) raised me with craftiness. Who else had retro lamps made out of deodorant bottles or a one-of-a-kind RV made completely out of spare airplane parts for their Barbies?!

But I also realize now there was a huge influence in the Arts that came from those Significant People. They may not remember me, but I sure do remember them. So, Thank You….

  • Dr. Sarah Tambucci for fostering my creativity and independence in art at the very beginning of my school days.
  • Mr. Bowman for trying your best to teach me how to play the drums. Sorry I just did not have enough rhythm to get the beats down.
  • Mr. Edward Nemec for sharing your love of books, theater & jelly beans.
  • Mr. Robert Rodrigues for assigning visual projects like designing a newspaper so I could learn about history.
  • Mr. Hugh McGinn for teaching the skills of photography and the awesomeness of Hootie and the Blowfish.
  • Mr. Mark Barzan for giving me the opportunity to try out different art forms and the courage to choose art in college.
  • Mrs. Lisa Trainor for the opportunity to help create the school yearbook. Who knew that would be the start of my love for page layout & design.
  • Professor Rick Heisler for growing my photography skills and giving me an opportunity to teach others.
  • Professor Howard Lieberman for teaching me how to draw naked people with a three-foot stick.
  • Professor Lauren Lampe for guiding a lost transfer student through the graphic design journey.
  • Professor George Founds for scaring the bee-gee-bees out of me, but at the same time expanding my vocabulary and truly teaching great graphic design.

Thank You for helping me get to today. I have made my own mistakes, successes and decisions, but I believe the memories, lessons, and inspirations I took from all of you have added shape to who I am as a person and Visual Problem Solver.

So, how have the Arts influenced you? Who are your Significant People?

 

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Christiane and Edith

 

How do artists make art – what do they DO? At last week’s Living the Artist Life with NEXTPittsburgh, a sizable group gathered to explore that question at the Mine Factory’s gallery at 201 South Braddock Avenue – indeed, the entire Mine Factory building is chockablock rooms with artists holed up in their studios, working away – artists like Bill Miller, Barbara Weissberger, Alexi Morrissey and Carin Mincemoyer.  Within sculptor Ryan Lammie’s exhibition entitled Origins & Gravity, about 75 of us snacked and talked our way through creative conversations about “practice” – what we actually DO to make art. How does it happen? Artists Seth Clark, Fabrizio Gerbino, Dee Briggs, Ron Copeland, Ramon Riley and Ayanah Moor shared their practice and philosophies with us through their artist statements and projections of their work in various mediums.

 

At core, art is the exploration of space – of recreating a scene or person (landscape or a portrait), of building something (sculpture, public art), of exploring the relationship between 3D and 2D (photography), of making sound (music, moving through space) and the ideas that emerge from considering all of that. Sounds simple, and is not. Most artists spend their lives in raw, sometimes unheated spaces like garages, basements, attics, warehouses –the studio: where artists explore space and make things that hopefully communicate their ideas.

 

While some artists primarily work in studios, some also work in the field of “social practice” – that is, inquiring into social concerns, and making art in direct response to those concerns through methods that look more like anthropology or community process than art - gathering community input, exploring neighborhoods, researching historical events. Social practice artists like Naomi Natale and the One Million Bones project involve non-artists in art making, commenting on serious social issues and working collaboratively with citizens to produce and exhibit works outside of the traditional gallery or museum context. The art of the social practitioner is often seen within the fabric of a community or at a public venue, and viewers sometimes wonder, “Is it art?”

In Pittsburgh starting next week with the Three Rivers Arts Festival, two local artists, Christiane Leach and Edith Abeyta will showcase two works involving this kind of community involvement, both meant to bring awareness to the viewers about social issues in our own city.

Christiane Leach collected over 100 complaints about Pittsburgh from regular Pittsburghers – everything from potholes to racial equity issues – and together with her collaborators, Phat Man Dee, Andrew Laswell, Doug Levine and Deryck Tines, they wrote a song, the Pittsburgh Complaints song. Who will sing it? Well, the Pittsburgh Complaints Choir, comprised of citizen singers of all stripes and sizes. You can hear them sing and swing with lines such as, “Most livable for whom?” Look for them throughout the duration of the festival, on stages and bridges.

Edith Abeyta will raise awareness about water usage and the fashion industry in her piece, o:ne:ka, amassed from 3,000 t-shirts donated by Pittsburghers and transformed into a public installation in Point State Park. Her aim in installing this piece at the confluence of our three rivers is to bring awareness to important environmental facts such as the fact that it takes 700 gallons of water to produce a t-shirt. Look for her piece - you probably won't miss it as you enter Point State Park.

Pittsburgh, home to many artists – more per capita than other cities our size – and home to supporting entities such as the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival and the Office of Public Art, who helped support Leach and Abeyta’s involvement, is ripe for more interactive, social practice art making, and it’s without doubt that we can look forward to experiencing more of this kind of art, in the future. 

Photograph of Christiane Leach and Edith Abeyta, courtesy the AP Collector

 

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Poogie Bell

How do businesses work with the arts to attract cultural tourists and outside dollars? It’s a critical economic development question that has many answers.  Pittsburgh and Austin are cities that have attracted outside dollars to the benefit of its citizenry, but let’s get smaller, into smalltown America and a music festival in Indiana, PA, Jimmy Stewart’s hometown and birthplace of Renée Fleming. (No kidding.)

Let’s also work with a couple of basic assumptions. First, that arts non-profit organizations exist for the good of the community. That’s why we’re non-profit. If our sector earns more than a break even situation each year, that’s a plus. Let’s also assume that for-profit businesses exist to make that profit for the owners and investors. If they create additional good for the community, that’s a plus.  

The large, middle ground is where arts non-profits and for-profit businesses create opportunities that benefit their communities and frankly, create fun. Cultural tourism – which makes a tangible impact on local communities - is one of those opportunities.

Cultural tourism, people traveling to a destination to experience art, is probably as old as the cave paintings at Lascaux. It all starts with someone’s good idea for a good time. Who’s to blame for thinking that little old Indiana, PA could pull off a world class yet homey Jazz & Blues Festival, coming up later this month?  Local jazz do-gooders, Dad Band, and a small grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts got the ball rolling.

Getting more support meant convincing various folks that the event is really gonna fly. Core to our approach was embracing our ‘small town-ness’, also knowing that our town is planted in the midst of a potent region burgeoning with action and creativity and sustained with deep roots. Minnesotans make arts festivals on frozen lakes in winter? Then Indiana, PA can have jazz ringing off the foothills of our Appalachian town on May 24.

We positioned this idea to get further support from tourist bureaus, individuals, and a range of businesses from store-front family sized to multi-state corporate operations - all pitching in. And they do pitch in - look at Dollar Bank (Three Rivers Arts Festival and Three Rivers Film Festival) or Highmark (First Night) or Alloy Oxygen, sponsor of this weekend’s Pyrotopia - all great examples of business investment in regional festivals and how that  helps attract audiences and dollars spent on non-arts needs such as parking, hotels, food, and merchandise. In Allegheny County alone, 4 out of 5 jobs generated by arts and culture are in other industries.

We used these examples to extend opportunities to main street restaurants adjacent to the Westylvania Jazz & Blues Festival, positioning the arts as a positive business partner. At this point, seven locally owned and operated restaurants along with another six local businesses ranging from clothing resale to an orthodontic practice are supporting the festival.The Lively Arts at IUPcame on board with substantial support, and regional arts powerhouses like Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council and Pittsburgh JazzLive International, a program of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, embrace our idea.

These partnerships leveraged major support. Last week, Delaney Chevrolet, a family- owned business bolstered the festival with meaningful, multi-year support at the naming rights level. This $15,000 commitment spread over three years represents tremendous and important support for a small town festival just starting out. It also means that we can attract international sensations such as the Poogie Bell Band and Sean Jones and Sonny Landreth.

By partnering at this level, the arts community will put our town & businesses on stage as much as we will the remarkable jazz and blues performers. We are promoting the arts by creating bottom line opportunities for business owners that also align with their values- in this case that music in the streets is a good thing.

The outcome of all this is that on Saturday, May 24th, Indiana, PA will host the Delaney Chevrolet Westsylvania Jazz & Blues Festival, a free, outdoor festival.  And there will be Great American Music in a Great American Town. See you, there!

The Westylvania Jazz and Blues Festival is part of the Indiana Arts Council. Learn more about the Council, here.

 

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Why Give to the Arts?

Friday, 02 May 2014 04:04 PM Written by

 

WHY GIVE TO THE ARTS??

There are 350 arts and culture organizations in Allegheny County, and 143 more in the surrounding counties of Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Washington, and Westmoreland counties. 198 are in the performing arts (dance, music, theater, festivals, and presenters), 187 are museums & galleries (art museums, science and nature museums, and historical sites), 58 are community and school-based arts programs, and 38 are service providers.  Just six have budgets over $10 million. The majority, 160, are small arts non-profits, with budgets between $25,000 and $250,000.    

All of that is to say: there’s no limit to the range and types of area arts organizations that individuals can donate to - from the after-school arts program to the opera, symphony, or ballet, to a jazz preservation society, and everything in between. 

But WHY give to one (or more) of the many arts and culture organizations in our region on Day of Giving, this coming Tuesday, May 6th?  Many people donate because of a personal connection—maybe they took classes at a museum once, and want to make sure the museum will still be there for their grandkids. Other personal reasons to give to the arts: to change someone’s life, to feel connected to one’s community, or to leave a legacy. Some are motivated to give by the love of an art form, a tradition, an arts organization, or a particular artist.

Others donate to the arts out of self-interest: to receive a tax-break, to build a social network, to display good form to co-workers, or to be hip. That’s all OK.  People have different motivations. It’s the end result that counts. (BTW, there’s no shortage of hip arts & culture organizations in greater Pittsburgh.) 

Some calculate that ticket income, sales, memberships, foundations, and corporate support don’t pay for all the expenses an arts organization faces, so they donate to help fill in that gap. 

Others give to the arts after asking themselves, “Why not give to basic human service organizations instead?”  They resolve that dilemma by giving to both the arts and human services OR to one of the many arts programs dedicated to outreach to underserved communities.  

Finally, there are those who take the big picture view and give because the arts generate public value by: generating jobs, household income, and tax revenues; driving tourism; improving healthcare; increasing student academic performance; spurring innovation, and sparking creativity and innovation.  

Whatever your reason for giving, please consider donating to one (or more) of the many arts and culture organizations in the Greater Pittsburgh region on May 6thwww.pittsburghgives.org. There are lots of reasons to do it! Thank you! 

 

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