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Downtown Reflections. Photograph by Brian Cohen.
Downtown Reflections. Photograph by Brian Cohen. | Show Photo

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Pop Filter Hot Pick: Geek Art/Green Innovator's Festival (aka GA/GI) occupies Penn Avenue

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Penn Avenue is not just for art anymore.

The perfect place to celebrate long awaited Spring--and the season's spirit of renewal and regeneration--is at this weekend's Geek Art/ Green Innovator's Festival (GA/GI), which will set up shop in more than 30 sites along the Penn Avenue arts district.

Showcasing the Avenue as an urban living laboratory for creativity, invention and even mistakes we can all learn a lot from, GA/GI's fourth annual installment runs on Friday, April 5th (starting at 6 p.m.) and on Saturday, April 6th (starting at noon). Organized into three special Clusters, all events and venues are located between 4800-5500 Penn, in Pittsburgh's Friendship-Garfield neighborhood.

Dubbed GA/GI (that's GAH-gee) for short, Pittsburgh's one-of-a-kind art-eco-tech festival features free programming for all ages, including everything from fashion and music, to art and engineering. Riffing on Pittsburgh's reputation for pioneering green technologies-and its rich legacy in invention and innovation--GA/GI invites the public to experience and participate in a broad range of creative activities, experiments and connections firsthand.

To present the fourth installment of the unique showcase, GA/GI founder Christine Bethea has teamed up with the popular monthly gallery crawl Unblurred, making Penn Avenue the event's two-day HQ. Super-sizing Unblurred, GA/GI boasts programming across 48 action packed hours, expected to draw more than 3,000 festival-goers to the East End corridor.

Launched in 2010 as a key event of the United Nation's World Environment Day in Pittsburgh, and organized by Passports: The Art Diversity Project, GA/GI was created to give artists, eco buffs and tech innovators from Allegheny County and beyond a platform to present projects to the public within an urban arts setting. The Festival--which also serves as an educational forum--includes participation from universities, artists, corporations, inventors and designers, who are all invited to showcase their projects, people and programs in galleries, businesses and vacant spaces along the Penn. A vibrant and diverse range of music performances, art exhibition, children's activities, and alternative programming augments the festival each year.

"We have the opportunity to highlight new businesses on Penn, such as the TechShop in Bakery Square, as we expand our reach down Penn and find new cool venues along the Avenue. It's part of our mission to find new innovators and bring them into the community to showcase things whether they are completed or in process--that is what makes us different as a festival," says GA/GI director, Christine Bethea. "We are a test market and that makes us unique. The public is right there with new technologies and can can see things as they are happening. We are more about contribution than constriction."

Go green, get geeky

Ready to tap your inner engineer or eco-artist?

GA/GI kicks off on Friday night at Pittsburgh Glass Center (5472 Penn Ave.), where festival-goers will explore a new exhibition by glass artist Eunsuh Choi and attend Lights! Camera! Fashion, a fashion trunk show and sale. Attendees can purchase new wares made by local designers, while area photographers shoot models on site as they don festive garb at special paparazzi stations.

Ready to make your mark on public art? Head to Artica (5110 Penn Ave.) for a giant Meet & Make and Knit-in hosted by Knit The Bridge Pittsburgh, which will encourage attendees to create one of the thousands of panels needed for the group's upcoming yarn bombing public art project being designed for a Downtown Pittsburgh bridge.

The festival's impressive roster of participants also includes Tech Shop, High Point Pittsburgh USX Tower project, The Pitt Mobil Science Lab, and dozens of music, art and tech exhibitions and displays at galleries and businesses located throughout the Penn Avenue Arts District.

Also on Friday is the multi-media production, Body Mash-Up at 8 p.m. (ticket required) at the Kelly-Strayhorn's Alloy Studios.

"The Kelly Strayhorn has decided to parent with GA/GI on our next few events, to help us expand our partnering base and add some theater and dance programming to the overall festival, and bringing national talents," says Bethea, who hopes to add a lecture series to next year's festival.

Ready to be a gamer?

Saturday's action kicks off at noon with the Global Game Jam at Most Wanted Fine Art, located at 5015 Penn Ave.

The event will feature top video entries created by Pittsburgh artists for this worldwide event, which was held in January at the Art Institute. Test your skills as you play actual games on site and learn more about the industry of game design in the Burgh!

Also featured at Most Wanted will be the Impossebulls Digital Rap presented by Chuck D. of legendary hip hop group, Public Enemy.

Participating venues on Saturday also include more than 30 independent businesses and boutiques, coffee shops and restaurants, art galleries, public spaces, and more.

For a complete schedule of GA/GI events--which is updated daily--be sure to visit the festival's blog.
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