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STEM innovations, all in 7-minute bursts, at STEM Summit

ASSET, which helps school districts throughout the state implement programs for teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects within any type of class, is co-sponsoring the Pittsburgh STEM Summit this year for the first time. Because the summit was instituted by the Pittsburgh Technology Council, ASSET Executive Director Cynthia Pulkowski believes it's a good move for her educational nonprofit.
"We think it's important to get behind organizations like the Tech Council and their work" in developing ways to share tools and promising practices in STEM-focused learning.
The idea behind the Summit is to bring together school districts with businesses, nonprofits and other groups working to make sure local students are ready for college and careers. "Business is such a big stakeholder in the programs school districts are developing for career readiness," Pulkowski notes.
This year's event on Aug. 15 includes two keynote speakers and 14 very quick presentations – all seven minutes long – followed by Q&As, along with opportunities for participants to get to know other local organizations and their leaders.
The morning keynote speaker is Gil Taran, CEO of iCarnegie, a Carnegie Mellon University company that creates new educational and workforce development programs. The afternoon program features Mario Livio, a senior astrophysicist at the Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute and author of multiple books, including most recently Is God A Mathematician?
The brief presentations include:
  • Spooktacular STEAM with Specter Studios, about the Adventures in Technology program, which immerses students in tech business issues
  • Arts & Bots, from The Ellis School, about their use of the Hummingbird Robotics Kit to create interdisciplinary STEAM lessons (involving STEM subjects with the arts added)
  • Bots IQ The Smart Sport, concerning the Pittsburgh chapter of the National Tooling and Machining Association's creation of BotsIQ, a competition where students design and build robots for a gladiator-style contest and learn about associated careers 
"I'll be interested in hearing what everybody says," remarks Pulkowski. "I always look at the Summit as: How can we partner with the other presenters there?"
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Cynthia Pulkowski, ASSET

Build it and they will check stuff out

Tricia George was strolling through Millvale in 2007 with her landlord, Brian Wolovich, when they decided to do something about all the dilapidated buildings they saw in town.
They decided to start a library. It helps that Wolovich also happens to be a member of the borough council and a teacher.
"Outside of the Millvale High School library, Millvale has never had a public library," George says. "And Millvale High School shut down many years ago."
Plus, she says, the rates of local students attaining high-school diplomas and college degrees were also lower than those in the Pittsburgh metro area.
"It was a very small idea" when it began, George says. Now the Millvale Community Library will open on Aug. 18 with a day-long celebration featuring yoga, story time, bands, food and more.
It's really a community center "with the name of a library," she says, although of course it is a full-service library, offering books, CDs and DVDs to borrow. But it also has a wildlife habitat in back, as well as community garden spaces and a performance stage. "Eventually, there will be a tool library in the basement," says George, who is now secretary of the board of trustees, which Wolovich heads.
Their group raised enough money by 2009 to buy two buildings next to each other. The library is housed on the first floor of 213 Grant, with apartments above it, while 211 Grant is being renovated for artists, businesses and other renters.
"It's a relatively small library, especially for the Pittsburgh area," she admits – and especially compared to the Carnegie branches. But it already has several fall activities planned, including a woodworking makeshop by the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh and a children's arts and crafts program.
George seems most proud that the library was a community effort, with 1,000 volunteers who put in 5,000 hours over the past half decade.
"The library project has given them a place to come together and a purpose for coming together," she says. "It will go on as long as those people are involved. You can't look at any one group of people and say, 'They built this library.' It's been a gracious contribution from a large group of people."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Tricia George, Millvale Community Library

Changing the foster kid experience, one bag at a time

Bridgette Jodon's journey to July's $1,000 Awesome Pittsburgh grant began with a very simple idea.
Even when Bridgette was single, just a few years ago, she knew she wanted to become a foster parent. But several family members became ill, and she put the notion on hold.
Then she met her future husband, Jason, who said he was open to adoption. They married in March 2012 and live in Natrona Heights, where they decided to start a family. But Bridgette developed thyroid cancer.

That didn't stop her from becoming involved in her church's charity, which focuses on services for kids in the foster system. By the time she had finished her cancer treatment in January 2013 and was okay, she knew what she had to do.
"I had just sat and wept one night over these babies who are having a hard time," she recalls.
According to the federal Department of Health and Human Services' U.S. Children’s Bureau, more than 250,000 American children enter the foster care system every year, and half will remain there without reuniting with their parents. Every year, more than 20,000 children age out of the system without being adopted. Of those who leave the system at 18 (or age 21, in Pennsylvania), they are more likely than the average kid to have dropped out of school, be poor and unemployed and, for nearly 40 percent of them, to become homeless.
"I don't think any of us could rest on the statistics," says Bridgette Jodon, who is a special ed teacher in the Highland School District. But she admits she cannot fix the system. So she devised a small change.
Jodon had noticed that kids arriving at their foster homes usually carried their few belongings in a trash bag.
"Of all the things I saw, I couldn't get that out of my head," she says. "It was just inappropriate. I said, this is just unacceptable. It's something we can change easily and show the children that we care."
So she decided to begin purchasing sturdier and more appropriate cinch sacs for the children, which can also be worn as backpacks. She called them G.L.A.D. Bags, which plays on the trash bag brand but stands for God’s Love And Devotion. Then she began to raise money to fill them with items the kids could use: toothpaste, toothbrushes, hair brushes, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, socks, small fleece blankets, journals, pencils, small comfort toys and luggage tags. The Awesome Pittsburgh grant will allow her to buy the cinch sacs; she is still seeking donations of the items.
"It's so much more dignified than handing them a trash bag," she says. "We just want to change what we can for them, to be protective of their hearts and what they are going through. We want to say: 'Even though this is a difficult time, we are taking care of you,' and just giving them things that are theirs – 'This is your journal, this is your toothbrush.'"
The Jodons began welcoming their first foster children last week. The kids stayed for three days, then were reunited with a family member. "That was a heart breaker," Bridgette admits. "But that's the goal."

Do Good:
Interested in becoming a foster parent yourself? Learn about it here.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Bridgette Jodon; Awesome Pittsburgh

Visual art classes for the visually impaired: Touch Art to start

"For a lot of folks I talked to in the blind and visually impaired community," says Kristen Ervin, who has been an art instructor for people with disabilities for the last five years, "they had a great experience in school, making art, but they never had an opportunity again."
Ervin knows blind crochet and ceramics artists, but realized that most people with visual difficulties don't have access to traditional art resources, unless they use teachers and facilities provided by social services. In fact, she says, she has seen such individuals denied enrollment in regular art classes.
So, with partner Tirzah DeCaria, she set out to rectify the situation. They created Touch Art.  
Touch Art will offer tactile art workshops for adults at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts Sept. 20 through Oct. 25. The organization also plans a student exhibition and a seminar for teaching artists and arts administrators who want to learn how best to serve the visually impaired.
This fall's Touch Art workshops, funded by a $6,000 Sprout Fund grant, will teach students how to make paper, hollow beads in precious metal clay, ceramic sound sculptures and fiber art memory vessels. The latter class will involve taking personally significant fabric pieces – say, a part of a favorite dress that has worn out – and creating something into which they are woven. Amanda Gross, leader of Knit the Bridge, will teach this class.
Before the workshops start, Ervin will teach the teaching artists to use verbal descriptions and braille labeling, alongside setting up their classes to be more easily navigable.
"This isn't really hard," she says. "People who happen to have visual impairment really want to make things and be creative, and here is a blueprint on how to do it.
"In my experience, other than driving, I know people who are blind who do all kinds of things," she concludes. "Depending on the person and what they've been exposed to, the sky's the limit."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Kristen Ervin, Touch Art

What was born in the 70's and is still a kid at heart?

Where else can you hear someone say, "We have been doing a lot of neat things with bugs?"
Not a lot of places – except the Roving Art Cart, Citiparks' peripatetic tent city of art opportunities, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year with a big finish at all the regional parks.
What began as an actual cart – just a four-foot by six-foot wooden box with shelves full of art supplies – is now five or more hand-sewn tents (the number depends on the venue). There, kids can make papier mâché puppets, including lady bugs, as well as mosaic insects. They can pose in the digital photo station with flower leis, straw hats, mustaches and empty picture frames; decorate free t-shirts; paint on easels outdoors; and mold clay creations.
The spin-art bikes are back this year, offering three stationary bicycles, from tot-sized to adults, which turn the art. The canvases are recycled 45-rpm records. The bikes also power sewing machines used by Roving Art Cart to demonstrate fiber arts.
And, yes, it has face painting. The Cart's last hour every Friday is a birthday party with treats and extra art projects.
The "huge finale" this year, says Cart Manager Nancy Burns, encompasses the next few weeks, ending Aug. 16. The Cart will let kids fly kites at the Schenley Oval, see a potter in action at Frick, build kaleidoscopes at Riverview and create animal-themed art in Highland Park, just for starters. Some of the Cart art will join the puppet parade at the annual kids' reading event, Alphabet Trail and Tales, this year to be held at Blue Slide Park in September.
"It's a beautiful model," says Burns. "It's proven the test of time to survive 40 years."
And remember, she adds: "It's free, it's fun, and it's from 10 to 1." Tuesdays through Fridays, that is. See the schedule here.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Nancy Burns, Citiparks

2013 BikeFest offers more than 80 rides and events over three weeks

"If you're into anything cycling-related you can find something to ride at BikeFest," says Mike Carroll, Bike Pittsburgh's event coordinator.
Indeed, the ninth year of this annual three-week event should feature more than 80 rides, parties and other bike-y things, Carroll says. More than 60 of them are already up on the group's website.
This year's full calendar includes the Public Art Bike Ride on Aug. 13. It's a tour of public art in the city, starting at the Langley Observatory clock, sponsored by the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.
For more skilled riders there's the Royal Rumball on Aug. 11. This is an alley cat-style bike race, meaning participants won't know the full route, but will cycle through a series of checkpoints, starting at the graden at Highland Park's entrance. And the ride has a professional wrestling theme, and so, Carroll is betting, sites relating to Bruno Sammartino and Kurt Angle are involved. Also involved: 50 miles and 5,000 feet of climbing.
The 20-mile Cycling Through Samsara, which also starts in Highland Park on Aug. 11, opens and closes with yoga sessions. And Try a Bike is back for the third year, allowing riders to test recumbent bikes, tandems, unicycles, electric-assist bikes and high-wheel bikes at the Bud Harris Cycling Oval on Washington Boulevard.
Other events include:
  • Church Ride Revised
  • Troubled Streams Tour
  • Pinball Ride!
  • BikeFest Moonlight Ride
  • Trees of Pittsburgh Ride, 2013
  • Bike-in-Movie
  • Hello, Hill District!
  • The Every Pittsburgh Neighborhood Ride
  • 12 Bridges, 3 Rivers, 21 Miles
  • Lost Streams of Four Mile Run
"What's great is to see is the community getting creative to encourage others to explore the city in a safe way – to explore what makes Pittsburgh unique," Carroll says.
The event kicks off with a fundraising party at Pittsburgh Opera on Aug. 9 and closes with the 20th annual Pedal Pittsburgh's three rides, for riders of all levels.
"Everybody has a different idea of why they love riding a bike," he says. "If we can get them together to get them to share their ideas, that's what BikeFest is really all about."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Mike Carroll, Bike Pittsburgh

Green Workplace Challenge: back and greener than ever

Last year's PGH Green Workplace Challenge was such a success in helping local businesses and other organizations reduce their energy and water consumption that it's back and bigger than ever, with new categories for sustainable – and profitable – actions.
The 2013-2014 Challenge already has more than 45 places (including nonprofits, municipalities and universities) participating. The year-long contest helps them track and gauge improvements in their greening efforts, and offers a guidebook with bright green ideas, so to speak.
"They're all targeted so that the results can be measured, says Matthew Mehalik, program manager for competition sponsor Sustainable Pittsburgh. "It's not just 'Do this so you'll feel good.'"
Participants establish an energy-use baseline and earn points for the effects of their actions while helping the environment and saving themselves money in the process. Entrants who sign up by the July 31 deadline will be entered into a drawing to win their choice of an energy audit; a waste, recycling and green procurement assessment from the Pennsylvania Resources Council; a ZipCar credit account; a green energy voucher from Community Energy, supplier of Pennsylvania-generated wind and solar energy; and bicycles for a shared office bike program.
This year's contest adds transportation and waste management as new categories for companies to track and improve upon.
Last year, Mehalik says, lighting saw the biggest energy and cost savings for entrants, since lights operate 24/7 in most cases, or at least during business hours. Companies were helped by using more efficient lighting or sensors that turned lights on when a space was occupied, which worked particularly well for warehouses and other large areas. The more industrial companies worked on making their equipment operate at peak efficiency.
Mehalik recommends that participants take advantage of energy audits: "Businesses that underwent energy audits tended to be the best performing," he says. "The energy audits reveal what their opportunities are …."
Overall, he adds, companies would like to see more of their employees engaged in green efforts, so the competition guidebook offers them new ways to do so. The contest, he concludes, "is a way to do more creative things with your business operations that pay off."

Do Good:
Looking for additional ways to green your organization? Connect with Pittsburgh Green Innovators here
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Matthew Mehalik, Sustainable Pittsburgh

First Steel City Solutions Conference to bring HandsOn Tech to more nonprofits

HandsOn Tech is only in its second year of helping nonprofits, particularly the newer and smaller variety, take advantage of the latest technology. But the group has already designed the Steel City Solutions Conference as a management and technology conference on Aug. 9 in Garfield for local nonprofits to meet and learn from more than a dozen of the city's best business minds and nonprofit leaders.
Three nonprofit technology consultants with this AmeriCorps/VISTA program – E. Louise Larson, Annie Bontempo and Will True – say that their event will allow nonprofit staffers who can't attend one of HandsOn's normal educational sessions to gain much-needed knowledge in one productive day.
The speakers and keynote panelists will be:
  • Phil Laboon, founder of Eyeflow Internet Marketing
  • Christopher Whitlatch, who leads the social media and online efforts of The Pittsburgh Foundation
  • Craig Grella, founder and executive director of OrgSpring
  • Ben Weaver, community programs and technology coordinator of Pittsburgh Cares
  • Cynthia Closkey, president of Big Big Design
  • Bobby Moore, executive director of Pittsburgh Cares
  • Thor Erickson, community programs manager at the Design Center
  • Terry Doloughty, community development specialist at CTAC
  • Nicole Moga, community development specialist at CTAC
  • Andrew Butcher, cofounder and CEO of GTECH Strategies
  • Roy Cheran, vice president of marketing and sales at DonorPro
  • Mary McGlohon, software engineer at Google Pittsburgh
  • Marimba Milliones, president and CEO of Hill Community Development Corporation
"One of our goals is to get nonprofits talking to one another – all sizes of nonprofits – and for nonprofits to be talking to businesses and learn different ways to accomplish their goals," says Larson.
Participants will attend a panel by keynoters Erickson, Milliones and Butcher – an informal Q and A for nonprofit staffers – moderated by Colman Wolfson, Innovation Works' business development strategist. They will then split into three tracks – technology, management and outreach – at three different Penn Avenue art galleries: Irma Freeman Center, International Children's Gallery and Most Wanted Fine Art. The day includes sessions on everything from "An Office Culture of Innovation," "Donor Management" and "Accidental Techie Resources" to "Measuring Your Outreach Impact," "Social Media Strategizing" and "On the Importance of Branding."
"We wanted to have the conference in inspirational settings and we thought art galleries would be a good choice," says Bontempo. As an audience, "we are targeting smaller nonprofits who don't have a tech person," she adds. 
"The primary hope that I have," says True, "is that people come out with a tactical game plan or position they wish their organization to take."
HandsOn Tech is managed by Pittsburgh Cares.
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: E. Louise Larson, Annie Bontempo and Will True, HandsOn Tech

Pearl Club aims to help urban girls toward their goals, especially college

Tamasia Johnson is a Promise Coach, part of a mentoring program helping Pittsburgh Public School kids take advantage of the Pittsburgh Promise college scholarship program. But she thought an extra step was needed to help local girls become Promise-ready.
So Johnson started The Pearl Club as another mentoring resource for young women from Pittsburgh's inner-city neighborhoods.
The program was launched in May for high-school freshmen, sophomores and juniors at Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy 6-12 in Oakland and has already grown to include Pittsburgh Westinghouse 6-12 students in Homewood.
"What I'm trying to do is create a sisterhood for young women based on certain values: strength, empowerment and success," says Johnson. The program aims to encourage participants to graduate from high school and attend college. "A lot of young women aren't given a lot of opportunity or are in environments where they can succeed despite their situation.
"We just don't go in front of a group of students and say, 'This is what college is like,'" she says of Pearl Club sessions. "We're in the room presenting them with ways to solve problems. We give girls a mentor and we also focus on setting a goal." Each girl then posts her goal on the Pearl Club blog and tracks its progress there.
Club members, Johnson says, "learn together, build together and build trust. That's a support system that college women need and women need throughout their lives."
The Pearl Club will hold its first public event, called “The Pearl Club presents … Promise-ready Pearls, that’s the goal!” on August 17 at the Squirrel Hill branch of Carnegie Library to show girls of all ages the club’s fundamentals and opportunities.
Johnson hopes this fall to expand from the current 22 students in two schools to include meeting sites at two local churches. In the meantime, she is very pleased with the local response: "It's actually taken off faster than I thought it would!"
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Tamasia Johnson, The Pearl Club

Not meeting the right non-profits? Speed dating gives volunteers long-term relationships

Tired of hooking up with the wrong nonprofits? Left unfulfilled by encounters that take place only on the Web or phone? Just want to meet the one nonprofit who really wants you for you?
Pittsburgh Cares' second Volunteer Speed Dating mixer, on Aug. 5, is designed to connect 20 participating nonprofits with 100 potential volunteers, explains Amanda Trocki, the group's director of corporate programs. Hopeful volunteers will actually rotate between tables every five minutes, hearing from individual nonprofits and letting the nonprofits get to know them – a little. The volunteers will get a dating card to rate the nonprofits and request further info. 
"This is another way for nonprofits to share their mission with a new group of individuals," Trocki says. Among those signing up are some who have never volunteered before, long-time volunteers and "a lot of people we haven't seen in a while," she reports. "We're almost filled up volunteers, which is very exciting."
The event, at Wigle Whiskey in the Strip, will include new and well-established nonprofits in a variety of areas, such as environmental concerns, senior services, hunger and homelessness.
"We're kind of the matchmaker of the volunteer world at the moment," Trocki says. "Come prepared to get a lot of information very quickly."
The event is co-sponsored by Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project (PUMP). 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Amanda Trocki, Pittsburgh Cares

You know you want to get your brain wet: RiverQuest creates first RiverFest

RiverQuest has been taking kids out on our rivers for hands-on science experiences on its boat for 18 years now – more than 100,000 students – making it the largest such program in the country. It's also the only river-based science program in the region.
This year, Executive Director Gerry Balbier figured it was about time to help the public share kids' enthusiasm for our waterways.
"We really hope people begin to value our aquatic resources, and don't see them just as something that needs to be crossed on a bridge," says Balbier.
And so was born RiverFest, to be held July 13, 2-6 p.m., at the Fox Chapel Yacht Club's riverwalk and aboard the three-deck RiverQuest boat Explorer. Kids will have a chance to get their hands wet with explorations of aquatic life in on-board aquariums and labs. Each deck will be focused on a different aspect of riverine science: water chemistry, for testing water quality; macro-invertebrates, such as clams and worms dredged from the river mud, whose existence here signals a certain level of health in the rivers; and micro-invertebrates visible under microscopes. 
There will also be special activities brought over by the Carnegie Science Center; fishing instruction from Family Tyes; and a Fish and Boat Commission exhibit on fish that are common in local waters today: walleye, bass, catfish "and other species that are doing well in the three rivers," notes Balbier.
For the first year, RiverQuest will present awards to teacher-nominated science students who have participated in RiverQuest programs in three grade categories, as well as to science teachers the organization chooses to honor. There are also food and non-aquatic activities, such as a climbing wall.
Part of the group's mission is reducing their environmental footprint and increasing the use of green technology, a mission that RiverFest will also highlight.
"You'll walk away with a sense of your connection as a steward of the three rivers," he says, "not only as a wonderful recreation asset but a source of our water and many species."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Gerry Balbier, RiverQuest

Storytellers, comics artists, mad scientists: Do The LAB and Assemble have camps for you!

It may be July already, but there's still time to get your kids into some fun and useful (shhh!) camps.
Over at Assemble, the maker space in Garfield, Literary Arts Boom (The LAB) and Assemble itself are offering one-week camps that allow kids to discover just how far they can take the arts and sciences.
"We're trying to make it light-weight but educational," says Paula Levin, "lead experimentalist" of The LAB.
Each of the LAB camps will involve crafts, drawing, singing and movement. In the Comics Club Camp, kids can work on all sorts of pieces and processes, from penciling to inking, to create a portfolio for themselves and a group publication of selected items at the end. Held August 5-9, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at Assemble, the camp gives lots of time for drawing, writing and other activities. It emphasizes team-building and discovery, whether kids are talking about favorite superheroes or continuing each other's drawings without being able to see anything but the edge (known in art circles as constructing an "exquisite corpse").
"It gets the kids to see happy accidents, and we'll challenge them: here's the character, what's the deal with the character?" says Levin. The lead instructor is Juan Fernandez (www.crinkledcomics.com), who has taught at the Toonseum.
In the Storytellers' Studio, kids will work together and with camp leaders to create a story on day one, figuring out the characters and plot, and then build on it all week. On day two, they'll make puppets and scenery to act out the dialog. During day three, they'll adapt their story to comic-book form. Day four means adding raps or other songs with the folks from WYEP, whose Zoobeats machine allows for the creation of samples and mixes. Then they'll put it all together for day five.
"We want to really mix it up, because kids want to move," Levin says.
The Grable Foundation has funded LAB scholarships for the $50 cost of Storytellers' Studio for kids who qualify for free or reduced-cost school lunches.
Storytellers' Studio is already underway for the youngest kids, ages 5 to 7, this week through July 12, but there is another week for ages 8-10 (July 15-19) and one for ages 11-13 (July 22-26). The camp runs 3-6 p.m. on weekdays because it doubles as after-camp care for Assemble's Mini-Mad Science Camp, in which kids spend their camp weeks in hands-on experiments as well as art and writing.
Concludes Levin: "We want kids to have fun but still be creating and thinking over the summer."
Photograph by Alessandra Hartkopf

Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Paula Levin, Literary Arts Boom

Want to learn how to preserve historic pieces of your neighborhood?

How Pittsburgh-centric is this year's Statewide Heritage Conference, which arrives in Pittsburgh July 17-19? One of the sessions you can attend is called "Babushkas & Hard Hats."
Run by a multitude of statewide heritage groups, the conference focuses on the intersection of historic preservation, transportation and the environment. It is normally held in Harrisburg but last year moved to Lancaster, where the focus was on agricultural preservation. Here in Pittsburgh, the theme is industrial heritage, trails and rivers – particularly those that encourage economic development.
For neighborhood groups trying to keep historic bits of their landscape intact, says Jennifer Horn, program director for Preservation Pennsylvania, one of the conference organizers, "this is a great opportunity for them to get hands-on training and for them to interact with experts on the national level."
The Babushkas & Hard Hats session involves a tour of the Carrie Blast Furnace complex and the Bulgarian Macedonia National Educational and Cultural Center. Other sessions include:
  • “Preserving 19th and 20th Century Parks with a 21st Century Sensibility”
  • “Pittsburgh Underground: A Walking Tour of Pittsburgh’s Archaeological Past”
  • “Good, the Bad & the Uncertain: The Marcellus Gas Play and Pennsylvania Communities”
  • “Pittsburgh: Crucible of Modernism”
There will also be a "Transit and History Tour"; a celebration of Pittsburgh's top ten preservation opportunities by the Young Preservationists Association at Wigle Whiskey Distillery in the Strip; and keynote presentations from Arthur Ziegler and Michael Sriprasert of Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation and Matthew Christopher, founder of Abandoned America.
The conference attracts a largely professional audience, Horn says, including those involved in cultural resource management, history programs, archaeology, community and regional planning and economic and infrastructure development. "It's an opportunity for experts to share best practices … and through networking to bridge new partnerships," particularly between history and environmental groups, she adds. "We selected Pittsburgh because it really does demonstrate the power of preservation as an economic tool."
The conference is also sponsored by PennDOT, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Heritage PA and the Federal Highway Administration.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Jennifer Horn, Preservation Pennsylvania

Wag if you're going: it's the first South Side Dog Fest

Steve Zumoff, co-owner of Double Wide Grill on the South Side, was looking for a fresh, family-friendly event to bring to the neighborhood – and a way to use the restaurant's just re-opened dog patio.
"We wanted to have a more community-based event, something that wasn't crazy, without alcohol and loud bands," Zumoff says. "We wanted something that was mellow, but fun."
So was born Lucky’s South Side Dog Festival, to be held on June 30 from 11 a.m.to 3 p.m. on 24th Street between East Carson and Sidney. People and pups are invited for a variety of contests and to learn about local places that provide canine services.
Nonprofits taking part include local members of the Frankie's Friends, who support improving veterinary care and are bringing a mobile spay and neuter facility for free services, as well as Animal Friends, Western Pennsylvania Human Society, Animal Rescue League, local pitbull-advocacy groups Hello Bully and Biggies Bullies, local independent pet rescue group Wearwoof and others. Some of the groups will be bringing dogs as potential adoptees as well.
For kids, there will be a bounce house and of course many creatures to pet. For the adults, there are competitions for best owner/dog lookalike, furriest human, best-dressed dog, best trick, best owner/dog kiss and a doggie Simon Sez game. For dogs, there are many fellow canines to sniff and a dog menu on the fenced-in dog patio of hamburgers, chicken, tofu and dog biscuits. The area can also host "dog birthday parties, dog showers, any event" related to canines, Zumoff says.
Local companies collaborating on the festival are Big Dog Coffee, Urban Dog, Grandma’s Dog Daycare and others, who will join many other businesses having booths at the festival as well.
"We're just trying to do something new on the South Side so people see the South Side as a nice place to go," Zumoff says. "It's the first year, so hopefully it goes smoothly so we can do it again in the future."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Steve Zumoff, Double Wide Grill

Tour local artists' studios and help our health-care system

The new documentary on Healthy Artists' work shows Pittsburgh why it's important to keep reforming our health-care system – and how local artists' studios are very cool.
The 30-minute film "Healthy Artists (the movie!)" by Garret Jones and Anthony DeAngelis of the local Studio Corrida documents the participation of more than 30 Pittsburgh artists in the Healthy Artists Movie Poster Exhibition in January, which illustrated the need for health-care reform for artists and other freelance workers.

The Sprout Fund Seed Award-funded work features Seth Clark, Lizzee Solomon, Jim Rugg, Andy Scott, Steph Neary, Brett Yasko, Laurie Trok and others, including Julie Sokolow, head of Healthy Artists.
It will be shown as part of Film Kitchen on July 9 at Pittsburgh Filmmakers' Melwood Screening Room, with a reception at 7 p.m. and the presentations at 8 p.m. Accompanying the new documentary will be short works from Brooklyn-based comedian/filmmaker Travis Irvine, whose work has been featured on Funny or Die and The Tonight Show.

Next comes the debut of the four-minute "The Intuition Artist" by local filmmaker Tim Murray, profiling Gabe Felice setting up his psychedelic art show and explaining what it’s like to be uninsured. Sokolow's six-minute "Everything Will Probably Be Fine" follows, depicting CMU graduate Jenn Gooch's experience with bankruptcy due to medical bills.
The featured Healthy Artists documentary, says Sokolow, " is instructive about how to get a grassroots effort going and have it take off in a national way." It shows how, following the poster exhibition, her group was invited to blog for Michael Moore and won an Emerging Artist Award in the MacArthur Foundation’s June 2013 Looking@Democracy Competition.
"We've had our message resonate nationally," she adds, "but it's important to address the issue in Pittsburgh," especially given the controversy over health-care giant UPMC's role as a nonprofit in the community.
After the screening, pediatrician Scott Tyson, president of Health Care 4 All PA‘s Education Fund, will talk about a new economic impact study by Prof. Gerald Friedman at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. This research, Sokolow says, demonstrates how the state could save $17 billion a year while providing medical, dental and vision coverage to all residents and create jobs in the process. "Republicans can get behind this study because it's about getting financially responsible," she says; after all, former GOP officials, such as state House Rep. David J. Steil, are on Healthcare 4 All PA's board.
Current state Sen. Jim Ferlo will then speak about his recent reintroduction of Senate Bill 400 as single-payer health-care legislation for the state.
"Our big approach has been to address the health-care crisis in our quirky voices," says Sokolow, "so it's interesting to get a politician to step onto our turf. We think it will be inspiring to see somebody meeting us halfway like that."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Julie Sokolow, Healthy Artists
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