A brief history of IheartPGH the t-shirt, the blog & the PGH t-shirt show

Thursday, April 23 is the 5th annual PGHTee, a celebration of Pittsburgh t-shirts. This event suits me to a T, well to a T-shirt.  Bad t-shirt puns aside, this blog is the direct result of a t-shirt.  Before I give you the not so brief history of why I love Pittsburgh t-shirts as much as I love Pittsburgh, here are the details on the Pittsburgh Tee Show:

PGHTee 2015 – A Celebration of Pittsburgh T-Shirts

An event showcasing the best t-shirts of the 'burgh

An event showcasing the best t-shirts of the ‘burgh

The PghTee is a T-shirt show and sale. This is one of the many events for Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week, so yes there will be beer.

  • Date: Thursday, April 23, 2015
  • Time: 6pm-9pm
  • Location: Commonwealth Press Warehouse, 2315 Wharton St., Pittsburgh, PA 15203
  • RSVP: Facebook Event Page
  • Cost: Free, unless you want to buy t-shirts, and you will want to buy a t-shirt.

In addition to displays some of the finest t-shirt vendors in town will be selling their wares…

Which came first the T-shirt of the Blog?

A brief history of IheartPGH the t-shirt, the blog & the PGH t-shirt show

The universe keeps bringing me back to Pittsburgh t-shirts.  Here is a brief history of how t-shirts are responsible for the creation of this blog and how the PGHTee t-shirt show came to be (which all goes back to a comment from a reader of this blog).

One of the first IheartPGH t-shirt

One of the first IheartPGH t-shirts

Back in 2003, in the days before blogs were even a thing, I was bored on a rainy Sunday afternoon and made a visit to the Andy Warhol museum.  Before I left the museum, I stopped in the basement to try screenprinting.  I left the museum, drove to the art supply store and decided I would teach myself to screen print.  The first t-shirt I printed was the “I heart PGH” t-shirt. I printed t-shirts in the basement of my mom’s house. I would make my sisters hold the screens while I printed  the shirts.  They still refer to the basement as my sweatshop. I am pretty sure the t-shirt in the photo is one of the first that I ever printed, I can tell because it was printed on a Hanes under-shirt that was most likely purchased at Gabes.

I went on to start a little t-shirt company and found a Duquesne student to build my first website. And in true Pittsburgh fashion, last year I worked on a big project and that same Duquesne student is now a big developer at a big Pittsburgh business.

My little business grew and I got a few orders and I needed a partner to print some shirts (my sweatshop crew couldn’t keep up with the demand).  One day I was leaving the Avalon Exchange, back when it was located in Oakland in the space that is now occupied by NoWait.  I picked up a flier for a screenprinting place located on the South Side.  Keep in mind, this was back in the day before Twitter, before Facebook, we are talking back in the era of Friendster and MySpace.  And people, certainly not me, did not use the internet to reach out to connect to strangers.  I emailed the screenprinter and we met for a cup of coffee. I am pretty sure we met at one of the Beehive coffee shops, this was back when there was a Beehive location in Oakland (which is now the noodle shop/T-mobile). That is how I met Dan Rugh, back when he was running his screen-printing shop was in the basement of his house. Today, Commonwealth Press has a storefront on Carson Street, a warehouse/production facility on Wharton Street, a t-shirt truck and employees at least a dozen people who are passionate about printing stuff.

Hand printed t-shirt from Bill Peduto's 2005 campaign for mayor

Hand printed t-shirt from Bill Peduto’s 2005 campaign for mayor

In 2004, I quit my job and went to work on the Kerry/Edwards campaign.  After that I worked on was Bill Peduto’s first campaign for mayor of Pittsburgh.  The campaign didn’t have any money, so we made campaign t-shirts by collecting old t-shirts, and then we headed over to AIR on the open studio nights. AIR is short for Aritst Image Resources, a non-profit organization located on the North Side that basically exists to help people print things.  I wish I had known about AIR when I was first learning to screen print.  We turned the old t-shirts inside out and printed the Peduto logos, designed by local artists, on the inside-out-t-shirts.  While working on this campaign, I met Dave Mansueto, who was just getting into podcasting and would spend hours trying to explain RSS feeds to me.  I knew how to build an HTML website and at the time, I was convinced that is all I would ever need to know.

In the fall of 2005, I was unemployed and using my big old desktop computer to build some websits. This blog started as a kind of a joke between Natalia Rudiak.  Natalia was another person who I had met while working on the first Peduto campaign.  We would talk about what politicians were saying about why young people wanted to move to Pittsburgh and how they were often wrong.  So in response, I built a website. I decided to give WordPress a try, seemed like a faster way to build a website than HTML, and IheartPGH was born.  A huge THANK YOU to Dave Mansueto for patiently schooling me on the virtues of the RSS feed.  If you are interested in podcasting, Dave is the person to talk to and you should check out his app, bossjock studio @bossjockapp , which is one of the best apps for recording a podcast from an iphone/ipad.

Never in a million years did I think that blogging would become my job. But thanks to one of our readers who left a comment on the blog, I learned that the t-shirt company Spreadshirt was hiring a blogger.  I applied and my official title was Wizard of Web 2.0.

In 2008, Spreadshirt launched a marketing effort to elevate the t-shirt by naming the first day of summer International T-shirt Day.  You can see the sad little blog post I wrote about this first t-shirt day on the Spreadshirt blog here.  July 2008 was a big milestone for this little blog. Thanks to the Pittsburgh t-shirt we were featured on the front page of the New York Times magazine section, along with our St. Louis t-shirt loving friends, STL Style. The article was about t-shirts and rust belt cities. (Should you ever find yourself in St. Louis and feeling a bit homesick for Pittsburgh, head straight to STL Style on Cherokee street and mention IheartPGH to Jeff and Randy Vines.  While they love St. Louis, I can assure you that they are solid Pittsburgh fans and will welcome you with open arms.)

IheartPGH in the New York Times

IheartPGH in the New York Times

This Year's T-Shirt
Image by mrdestructicity via Flickr

A few years later, I had been laid off from Spreadshirt. It should come as no surprise that when you have to have a round of layoffs the the first people to go are the bloggers or the people who had the word wizard in their job title, so I was doubly doomed. In what was probably yet another round of underemployment for me, I happened to be scheming, I mean meeting, with Dan Rugh and a host of other local bloggers who love Pittsburgh and t-shirts.  We decided that Pittsburgh needed a t-shirt day event too. Thus the Pittsburgh T-Shirt show was born (you can see a list of some of the vendors from the first PGHTee event here. Thanks to the first Pittsburgh t-shirt show, we met even more Pittsburgh t-shirt lovers like Dave White aka @MrDestructicity who was running his own t-shirt project wearing and documenting all of the t-shirts that he owns.

Thanks to the crafty thinking of Dan Rugh, the Pittsburgh T-shirt show is in its 5th year and now one of the many great events for Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week.

As I write this blog post, I am kind of amazed that I reached out to Dan in the first place. I was incredibly shy and I wouldn’t go anywhere by myself. I am thankful that Dan continues to be a sounding board and cheerleader for my ideas. Today, thanks to Andy Warhol, some t-shirts, a blog, I will pretty much go anywhere and talk with anyone.

I hope to see you tomorrow (or today, depending on when you are reading this) at the 5th Annual Pittsburgh T-shirt show. I will gladly be toasting the t-shirt, especially the Pittsburgh t-shirt.

Hacking a Better Pittsburgh – The National Day of Civic Hacking is Saturday

I am WAY late writing a blog post about the National Day of Civic Hacking, which is tomorrow, Saturday, May 31.  But I want to make sure you know about all of the great stuff that is happening in Pittsburgh around civic hacking.

Pittsburgh Event for the National Day of Civic Hacking

national-day-civic-hackingOpenPittsburgh Open House

Agenda for the Pittsburgh National Day of Civic Hacking Event:

  • 10 am: Coffee, Donuts and Introductions
  • 10:20 am Welcome and agenda overview (Bob Gradeck, Open Pittsburgh, UCSUR)
  • 10:30 am Why is the Library involved? (Toby Greenwalt, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh)
  • 10:45 am Neighborhood welcome, (Jerome Jackson, Operation Better Block)
  • 11: 00 am Project work – U.S. Open Data Census, Property Survey Training / data collection, and more!
  • (Lunches available 11:45am – 12:45 pm)
  • 1:30 Mayor Bill Peduto – Pittsburgh Data Forum Q&A
  • 2:30-3 (or when the Mayor is finished) Wrap-up

Loving Pittsburgh & Civic Hacking

What is civic hacking and why I think it is the future of Pittsburgh.  Civic hacking is a bunch of citiuzens who want to make their communities better by bringing technology and data together.  In some ways this blog was started as a way to hack the image of Pittsburgh.

I attended the National Day of Civic Hacking here in Pittsburgh last summer (you can read a recap of the 2013 Pittsburgh National Day of Civic Hacking event here) and I’ve been attending the now monthly meetups for the OpenPGH group.  The civic hackers in Pittsburgh are coming up with some incredible ideas and solutions for things happening in the city of Pittsburgh (and the country).

So much has happened in the past year and there has been a ton of momentum around open data in Pittsburgh.  A few highlights include:

open-pgh-logoLinks Civic Hacking and Open Data in Pittsburgh

OpenPGH – Code for America – Pittsburgh Brigade

I have been meaning to write a post about the last Code for America Pittsburgh Brigade Meetup which was held at the Studio for Creative Inquiry in February.  But is has been a busy month – I promise I will write more about my experience attending the StartingBloc fellowship in Los Angeles at the beginning of march.  I have lots of ideas to share.

At the February meetup the group decided to call the Code for America Pittsburgh chapter (other cities use the term brigade – so you will often see Pittsburgh bridgade) OpenPGH.

The February OpenPGH MeetUp is one of the best events I’ve attended this year.  It was great to see so many folks from many different areas of Pittsburgh come together to talk about how we can use data to make Pittsburgh a better place to live.  Connor Sites-Bowen was one of the presenters and shared some fascinating data and maps about hunger in Western, PA.  I feel like IheartPGH has been hacking together a story of Pittsburgh and it was exciting to brain storm with other people on how to use websites and apps to hack a better city.  I left the February MeetUp and said to a friend – what sort of job will pay me to be a full time civic hacker. [If anyone has any ideas on who might hire me as a civic hacker – please let me know. :)]

English: Code for America Logo

What is Code for America?

From the Code for America about page:

Code for America is a 501(c)3 non-profit that envisions a government by the people, for the people, that works in the 21st century.

Our programs change how we participate in government by:

  • Connecting citizens and governments to design better services,
  • Encouraging low-risk settings for innovation; and,
  • Supporting a competitive civic tech marketplace.

Bringing Code for America to Pittsburgh

There are several ways that Pittsburgh has been working towards more open data and civic hacking in the past year.

  • Last summer, Pittsburgh along with many other cities participated in the national day of civic hacking.
  • Mayor Bill Peduto has hired Laura Meixell, a Code for America fellow to work in his office.  You can read more about Laura and the projects she’s started working on here.
  • Pittsburgh has passed an open data policy.  Check out this blog post from the Sunlight Foundation for details on how Pittsburgh’s open data policy is different from other cities.

OpenPGH March MeetUp

open-pgh-logoWednesday, March 26th is the next meetup for OpenPGH.  The OpenPGH group meets every month at a different location.

Facebook event for the OpenPGH March MeetUp

Agenda for March MeetUp:

  1. Welcome and introductions 5 minutes
  2. Host’s welcome / presentation (Kostas Pelechrinis, Pitt Information Sciences) 10-15 minutes
  3. Quick updates (City legislation, state advocacy) 5 minutes
  4. Allegheny County GIS (Matt Mercurio, GIS manager) 15-20 minutes
  5. County election data – (Brady Hunsaker) 10-15 minutes
  6. Visual survey toolkit demo using LocalData (GTECH) 10-15 minutes
  7. Participant survey results 5 minutes
  8. Project ideas / open discussion / “planning party” ideas

OpenPGH and Open Data Links & Resources

Website Links:

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