Have You Seen Me? A Memorial to Slavery. Artist Talk & Kickstarter Party

have-you-seen-mePittsburgh artist Alexi Morrisey is in the final 2 weeks of funding for his Kickstarter project for “Have You Seen Me? A Memorial to Slavery.” One of the reasons I think this project is worth a look is that it brings together several different types of story telling medias – milk bottles, advertising, oral history – to tell a story.

One of the many interesting things about this project is that it uses the 1980’s “kid on the milk carton” to create a memorial to slavery:

By putting the faces of real slaves on hand-crafted, archival, milk bottles, we are seeking to both repurpose the European obsession with pure white porcelain, as well as pay homage to the slave’s life – by attaching these precious images to a precious material we give the slave a dignified voice in a context historically unavailable to them.


You have not one, but two chances to meet the artist, and learn more about the project in person this week.  I am including the Kickstarter video below, but if you have some time on Tuesday or Friday, come meet Alexi and see his work in person.

Artist Talk: Alexi Morrissey will give an overview of his art practice and discuss in detail his most recent project “Have You Seen Me?”
Tuesday, July 7, 7pm @ Pittsburgh Filmmakers on Melwood
Free, please RSVP on Facebook

“Have You Seen Me?” Fundraiser Party
Friday, July 10, 7-10pm @ Union Pig & Chicken
Free, please RSVP on Facebook

Morrisey is originally from Boston but has been living and working in Pittsburgh for the past 2 decades.  His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally.  You can read more about his 2010 Artist Residency at the New Hazlett Theater in this Q & A from Pop City Media.

As of today, “Have You Seen Me?” is only 38% funded, with 11 days to go.  Each bottle is a limited edition and the milk bottles will sell for $400 and up after the Kickstarter campaign.  There are a handful of bottles left at the $300 level.  If $300 is bit much for your art budget this year, Morrisey has some prints of the bottle logo designs starting at $25.

Follow the project on Facebook & Twitter @MilkBottleProj.

Kickstarter Page: http://kck.st/1Usk8Hk

Project Website: milkbottleproject.com

Digging into the Data on Vacant Land on the North Side #HackforChange

Screenshot of vacant parcels from GTECH data set.

Screenshot of vacant parcels from GTECH data set.

Today, Saturday, June 6, 2015 is the National Day of Civic Hacking. Civic Hacking events are being held all over the country and here in Pittsburgh. For the afternoon we have split into groups and are working on different challenges with open data sets.  My group is working on comparing two data sets about vacant land on the North Side.  Here are some of the things we learned from the data about vacant land on the North Side.

  • Data Set 1: Survey of Vacant Land on the North Side conducted by GTECH. You can see a map of the GTECH data here.
  • Data Set 2: Allegheny County Assessment Data

Total Parcels of Land on the North Side = 23,000

Vacant Lots on the North Side:

Data Set: # of vacant parcels:
GTECH 6089
Allegheny County 8172
difference 2083





How many properties in the North Side are currently vacant but the Allegheny County Assessment file does not list that parcel as vacant?

  • 622 properties in the North Side are currently vacant but not listed by Allegheny County as vacant.


Walk, Don’t Drive Down Penn Ave. On Sunday Morning

I took this photo at the 2014 OpenStreetsPGH event.

I took this photo at the 2014 OpenStreetsPGH event.

This Sunday, May 31st, 2015, the streets from Market Square to Lawrenceville will be closed to traffic and open to people. Don’t panic, this is a good road closure.  Last year Open Streets spanned from Market Square across the Roberto Clemente Bridge.  This year, OpenStreetsPGH will be over 3 miles long from Market Square to Lawrenceville.

Paris, Bogata, Tucson and now Pittsburgh

Español: Ciclovia em Bogotá

Español: Ciclovia em Bogotá (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the ideas behind Open Streets is to give people an opportunity to interact with their city in a way that is not centred around cars.  This is an idea that has been taking hold in other cities around the globe.  The Paris Respire, which translates to Paris Breathes, closes certain roads to traffic on Sundays from 9am-5pm.  Cyclovia Tuscon takes place twice a year and has quite a following.  (BTW if you are interested in learning more about cycling in Tucson, check out Bicycle Tucson @BicycleTucson a great blog run by Mike McKisson who was kind enough to give me a tour of Tucson by bike when I was there in January.)

Open Streets PGH Locations & Schedule for May 31, 2015

The streets are closed to traffic and open for fun from 8am to Noon on Sunday.  There are events planned for the following locations along the route:

  • Market Sqaure
  • 8th & Penn
  • 23rd & Penn
  • Leslie Park (on Butler Street in Lawrenceville)

You can see the entire OpenStreetsPGH Schedule for Sunday, May 31, 2015 here.

Five Stops to Make at Open Streets PGH

With so many events happening on Sunday, its hard to know where to start.  Here are five events that we think you should check out along the route.

1. Pittsburgh Vintage Mixer Pop Up Shop at Wildcard

Pittsburgh’s most awesome gift shop has invited their vintage selling friends to set up shop on Sunday am.  Stop by and pick up some old and new gifts for an old friend and make some new friends with these vintage lovers.  Visit the Facebook event for more info.

Follow: @pghvintagemixer @wildcardpgh

2. The City Spree 5K & 10K

The City Spree is a unique twist on your road race.  You and your team pick your own course to run. Use the code OPENSTREETSPGH to register for free.  Register online here.  The 5k run is sold out but there is still time to register for the 10k run or the 5k walk

  • 9am – 10k Run
  • 9:30am 5k Walk
  • 10am 5k Run SOLD OUT

Follow: @CityofPlay

3. $5 Coffee + Fresh Cinnamon Roll @ Franktuary

Stop by Frankturary before brunch for coffee and a cinnamon roll from 8am-10am. Regular brunch begins at 10 am.

Follow: @Franktuary

4. Walking Tour of Downtown with PHLF

Learn about this history of downtown Pittsburgh on a walking tour led by Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation. Meet in front of the CLOCK in Market Square 10am.

Follow: @PHLF

5. Try Out the New Pittsburgh Bike Share

t-pittsburgh-bike-share-logoYou’ve seen the stations popping up.  The bikes are being rolled out today and the brand new Pittsburgh bike share, which is named HealthyRidePGH launches on Sunday. I’ve had the chance to try out bike shares in Denver, Chicago, Milwaukee and New York.  This is great news for the ‘burgh.  If you haven’t had a chance to use a bike share before, the bike share lets you “rent” a bike at one station and return the bike to another station. You can read more about how HealthyRidePGH works here.  A 30 minute ride is $2 or you can sign up for a monthly membership for $12 or $20 a month.

Follow: @HealthyRidePGH

Getting Around Town on Sunday Morning

OpenStreetsPGH has partnered with ZTrip app.  Use code PGHTours to get $15 off.  (If you want to try Uber or Lyft use code IHEARTPGH to get your first ride free.)

OpenStreetsPGH on Pittsburgh Today Live

Kim O’Dell from the Heinz Foundations and Mike Carroll from Bike Pittsburgh were on KDKA’s Pittbsurgh Today Live earlier this week to give a preview of OpenStreetsPGH.

Follow: @Pgh_Today_Live @BikePGH @KimODell412

Saturday, May 9: Wilkinsburg Vacant Home Tour

This Saturday, May 9th, is the Vacant Home Tour of Wilkinsburg. Tour takers will spend 45 minutes walking through Wilkinsburg, be shown five vacant historic homes by knowledgeable tour guides, then be able to sit in on a workshop to learn what goes into buying one. If you’re thinking “that sounds unique”, you’re right: it may be the first tour of its kind. And if you’re thinking “I should go”, then you’re not alone: nearly 500 people have RSVP’d on their Facebook page. Best of all, the tour is free for you to take because of a Small & Simple Grant from Neighborhood Allies, additional funding from the Fels Challenge and Carnegie Mellon University, and residents generous enough to volunteer as guides.

Vacant Home Tour Preview from Wilkinsburg CDC on Vimeo.

Five Carnegie Mellon University students were exploring ways of highlighting and alleviating urban blight when they came up with the idea for a vacant home tour. Kenneth Chu, a student in Public Policy and Management at the Heinz College, spoke on WESA this week about working with students in other programs including design and human-computer interaction during the semester long class. Knowing that they wanted to deal with urban blight, their research and personal connections led them to Wilkinsburg, where they worked with the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation (WCDC) and local residents to develop the program. The resulting proposal for a Vacant Home Tour won a cash award from the Fels Challenge, a national public policy competition.

Wilkinsburg Vacant Home Tour

Planning for the Wilkinsburg Vacant Home Tour

Ultimately, the designers of the tour want the people who take it not to see the vacant homes as blight, but as a possible home or an investment opportunity. To help change perceptions, docents at each of the five homes will be on hand to talk about the history of these properties. The houses were chosen without knowledge of their histories and residences have pieced together their histories through online records, physical archives and good old-fashioned oral history. Marlee Gallagher, Communications & Outreach Coordinator at the WCDC, says, “I do think that having the historical background increases the value by adding emotion and humanity to an otherwise vacant, blighted, inanimate object.” She’s seeking to capitalize on a growing trend of wanting to know the history of your home, something that cannot be maintained if you demolish and start over.

Sat May 9th is the @VacantHomeTour. A free event to check out some impressive houses in Wilkinsburg…

Click To Tweet

Poster for the 2015 Vacant Home Tour

Poster for the 2015 Vacant Home Tour

The task of restoring these homes will be difficult; in their current condition, they can only be viewed from the outside due to safety concerns. But it is not impossible. The neighborhood of Wilkinsburg has been looking for ways to deal with blight since the collapse of the steel industry. One such effort began in 2005 when Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation (PHLF) conducted a survey of vacant properties in Wilkinsburg, concluding a year later that about 70% of the housing stock could be restored rather than torn down. But PHLF does not have the resources to restore all of the properties on it’s own. Karamagi Rujumba, Director of Public Communications and Advocacy at PHLF, told me that “we cannot do all the work; we can only be leaders”. By way of leading by example, PHLF acquired a former auto repair shop at the nexus of Hamnett place. They restored that property and opened the Landmarks Preservation Resource Center in 2010, a program that serves to educate community members on how to restore, maintain and preserve their homes. They attract people from Wilkinsburg, the greater Pittsburgh area, and even as far as Ohio and West Virginia to take their workshops. They offer lectures and film screenings as well as popular hands-on carpentry and masonry workshops where people can see firsthand how to do the hard work of restoring a home. The final stop on the tour will be the LRPC where they will be offering a workshop for people who might be interested in acquiring a vacant home.

Wilkinsburg Vacant Home Tour

Wilkinsburg Vacant Home Tour Map

The project is poised for success. It has received international attention (Brussels has asked what’s up) and people are responding to the subversion of the typical home and garden tour, and uniquely honest approach of highlighting blight rather than hiding it. The [Your Neighborhood Here] Vacant Home Tour is about to become a thing, and you can still be a part of the very first one on Saturday May 9.

The tour is free to attend.  RSVP on Facebook here.

Please vote for Srvd as Pittsburgh’s Hottest Startup by 6pm today!

You can skip the mumbo jumbo if you want and just vote for Srvd, an app that makes it easier to order and pay for drinks at the bar, by 6pm today.

Pittsburgh river

One of the things we love about Pittsburgh (and one of the things that actually brought some of the I heart PGH team together) is the growing, vibrant startup community. Lindsay and I actually met and worked out at Thrill Mill, one the the local incubators, and you can usually find one or both of us at a startup or entrepreneur-related networking event each week.

Tonight, Pittsburgh is hosting its regional Tech Cocktail Mixer and Startup Showcase (tickets are still available), where startups from around the city will be demoing and pitching their ideas for the chance to go to the national showcase in Las Vegas.

The startup I’m a part of, Srvd, formed over a Startup Weekend in March 2014 hoping to ease the frustration of trying to get a drink from a crowded bar, while giving real value back to bars and alcohol brands. It seems we hit a chord, because we won second place and are kicking things back into high gear again to make this a reality. You can help by voting for Srvd at Tech Cocktail’s showcase now.

I truly feel fortunate to be part of such an enthusiastic and wickedly smart team that’s always believing in and striving to achieve our vision. Plus, it’s a super fun project and it allows us to connect with incredible local businesses to help them be even more successful.

Srvd logo

I say this often, but it’s hard for me to put into words just how life-changing the startup community has been for me, both professionally and personally. In just a short time, I’ve gained not only valuable experience, an incredibly supportive network, and multiple job opportunities, but genuine friends and even family.

If you’re looking to get more involved in entrepreneurship and startups, there’s a few places to start: attend events hosted by AlphaLab and Thrill Mill, join Meetup groups, or, if you really want to dive in (and I suggest you do) attend a Startup Weekend. Or you can always shoot me an email or tweet at me.

Please vote for Srvd!