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Why I Moved to Pittsburgh--Twice: The Steeltown Anthem Blogger

Something was missing for Mundania Horvath.  While reading art and design blogs such as Design*Sponge and Apartment Therapy, there was scant coverage of Pittsburgh's creative class.  Determined to set the record straight, she launched Steeltown Anthem as a running commentary on art, architecture and design in the city of, well, steel.  With lovingly photographed features, frequent shout-outs to the letterpress class and ruminations on personal faves (like a wallet obsession), the blog and its companion Twitter feed are now bookmarked by young creatives like the ones on her comprehensive blog roll.

"I wanted to let people know about the amazing scene here, the energy. There are a lot of great artists and it's growing," says Horvath.

A recent blog entry focuses on her tour of the Carrie Furnace site, courtesy of the Rivers of Steel National Heritage, complete with a series of wonderful photos. (Don't miss the impressive and large deer head, made of wire.)

"No longer a dormant relic from our city's past, the Carrie Furnace site is an impressive reminder of where we come from and how we continue to change and grow as a city. I felt very proud of our Pittsburgh heritage after our visit and my respect swelled for the people who worked so hard to produce iron and steel in our region. It's important for us to progress while finding ways to preserve our history, especially since we played a vital role in the steel making industry."

An earlier blog post titled "Living Green in Highland Park" is a valentine to the house at 1422 Greystone Drive,"Pittsburgh's first total-gut green renovation in 2007."  Here, as with many of her posts, Horvath lets pictures tell a story and provides a running commentary. 

"The before and after photos of the outside of the house are the most shocking to me. I have been looking around at homes to buy in Pittsburgh and I always come across a house that looks exactly like the before photo above. Before seeing [this] home, I had hard time envisioning what you could do different to the outside of the house to give it a more updated look." 

Horvath is smitten the moment she walks in.  "Their living room has my all time favorite Barcelona chairs!"  

Falling in Love (Again)
Her love affair with Pittsburgh was borne in fits and starts.

Growing up less than an hour away in a coal-mining family in Uniontown, Horvath's childhood was rooted in small-town life and included but one visit to Pittsburgh.  It was enough, however, to prompt her to apply to Pittsburgh colleges while still in 10th grade.  After a stint at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in the late 1990s, Horvath, known as "Dane" to friends, bounced around between ad agency jobs and the occasional freelance design gig as she developed her portfolio.  Nonetheless, she was restless.

"It seemed a little stale here," she recalls.  "Nothing was happening on the queer scene and trying to find things was hard.  I was dating someone who was offered a job in Northampton and I jumped at the chance to move.  It was an awesome experience we could hold hands and it was okay!"

Several moves and one relationship later, Horvath started paying attention to the growing buzz surrounding Pittsburgh.  Visiting friends back home made her homesick as they opened her eyes to a burgeoning restaurant and gallery scene and the out-front sensibility showcased in "Steel Queer n'at," a queer cabaret.

"I wanted to find a really cool scene, something that I could be a part of," says Horvath.  "I wanted to meet people, find a house and settle down.  Suddenly, there was this burst of energy that I hadn't witnessed in Pittsburgh before and I was jealous that I wasn't a part of it."

Horvath returned to Pittsburgh in early 2009, landed a job and reworked her portfolio as Reconstructing Ideas, a one-woman art and design studio with a companion Etsy shop.  Next on the list was establishing a personal connection.  When a friend insisted on bringing her to the Lez Liquor Hour at the Firehouse Lounge, she met Kristy Lumsden, a photographer who also hadn't planned on being there that night.

"It took me a week to call her but we started hanging out right away," laughs Horvath.  "Kristy's very spontaneous and indulges my ideas.  She lets me get away with a lot."  The duo lives in the Spinning Plates Lofts in East Liberty, "a mix of artists and kooky people," and collaborates frequently at Steeltown Anthem, with Lumsden providing visual accompaniment to Horvath's musings.

A newfound enthusiasm for Pittsburgh led Horvath to the Pittsburgh Crafts Collective and inspired "Steeltown Stock," a poster show she curated for the C Space Collective in Garfield.  She's also the organizer of a web design meetup called "Ladies, Let's Talk Design," which held its first meeting in  September.

"It's great to show people all the cool stuff that's going on here and to also reach out to others on the East Coast.  I want to make Pittsburgh more visible.  We're not a smoky old town anymore.  We're more progressive than we used to be and while things may not be happening as quickly as we'd like, we're trying our best.  That's the point of doing [Steeltown Anthem] online it's vibrant here but that's not very well known outside the area."

What's with the blog's name? Horvath is happy to be associated with steel.  "We have a history here and people really respect that.  Pittsburghers are proud to have been a steel town.  It's not about 'I miss the past,' it's about moving forward and we're doing that."

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New Girl In Town Elaine Labalme dreams of oceans and lakes yet is perfectly happy with the three rivers of Pittsburgh.

Photographs copyright Brian Cohen
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