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Pop Filter Hot Pick: Geek Out & Go Green at the GA/GI Festival!

Penn Avenue is not just for art anymore.

This weekend, Pittsburgh's first-of-its-kind GA/GI (that's GAH-gee) Festival will transform the East End thoroughfare into an urban laboratory for creativity, invention, production, and even some mistakes we can all learn from along the way.

We've all read about Pittsburgh being a pantheon of groundbreaking green technologies, now it's time to experience it.

Last year the event drew more than 3,500 festival-goers, setting attendance records for the Penn Avenue Arts Initiative's popular monthly gallery crawl, Unblurred, which has become home base for GA/GI's innovative programming.

So what's the 411? Set for April 1 and 2, GA/GI's second annual installment will again make history along the centrally located avenue, which unites numerous city neighborhoods and artistic scenes. And Pop City is proud to be a media sponsor

More than 100 artists, students, techies and eco-freaks will set up shop in 37 venues from 4900 to 5490 Penn Ave. A virtual tossed salad of artists, green innovators and techies, GA/GI will also feature live dance and performance, exhibitions and hands-on demos.

To coincide with the 2011 International Year of Chemistry, GA/GI is teaming up with Carnegie Mellon University professor Subha Das, who will whip up treats and concoct cocktails like the liquor-less Bloody Mary (aptly dubbed A Bloody Shame by his students!)

Friday night culminates with GA/GI's signature Eco/Tech Fashion Show, featuring wearable glass art, ModCloth fashions, recycled art, and nationally acclaimed organic designs from Jonano. During this year's kimono making workshop and fashion show, participants will have the opportunity to text donation to Red Cross relief efforts in Japan.

Learn about eco and solar news at the BGC Activities Center and Grow Pittsburgh, test your skills during an LED street night game led by Obscure Games, listen to iPad Jazz created by a local architect, and create community art with Awesome Books, Creative Reuse and The Schmutz Company.

On Sat., April 2, grab the entire clan and head to GA/GI's family-friendly activities, including an Open House at the Union Project, robotic play dates, and eco-story projects.

When discussing the festival's unique mission, founder/organizer Christine Bethea exudes a contagious energy and drive: "This is an opportunity for the public and for people who would normally never meet, to see the innovation and tech that is always talked about in the paper up close and personal. This is innovation as its happening. People get to see things here they only read about. The idea is to confirm the connection between art and science and liberate the forms from any misconceptions."

A Pittsburgh-based salvage artist, Bethea owns ARTica Antiques and Collectibles in Friendship/Garfield, and serves on the boards of Friendship Development Associates and The Union Project. Recognized by the Pittsburgh Council for the Arts for her work in forming arts and businesses collaborations, Bethea's quilting projects are archived with the Heinz History Center.

"We're sitting in the middle of all of these great communities. We're following up on the success of last year's World Environment Day, when we had unprecedented attendance on Penn Avenue. It felt like Manhattan."

The two-day event also provides plenty of opportunities for creative minds of all ilks--from the Ivory Tower to the art studio--to network, experiment and even test out new ideas. Pittsburgh's Quality of Life Technology Center will even bring a wheelchair they're currently developing for the community to test out.

What's new this year? Don't miss GA/GI's new collaboration with nomadic craft bazaar, I(re)Made It SMART!, which will feature 20 indie designers at the Glass Lofts.

Follow GA/GI's yellow "green" blog for a complete festival schedule

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