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Innovation & Startups

Kelly-Strayhorn Theater launches Penn Avenue Creative accelerator


The historic Kelly-Strayhorn Theater has honored its famous Pittsburgh-born namesakes -- Gene Kelly and Billy Strayhorn -- by enriching the city’s arts and cultural scene with dance, film, theater, and community events. This year, the East Liberty venue will expand its influence with Penn Avenue Creative, a new accelerator for emerging artists, social change leaders and entrepreneurs.

Created by Kelly-Strayhorn Executive Director Janera Solomon and supported by the Heinz Endowments, Penn Avenue Creative was inspired by a desire to see development in the East End reflect the diversity of the people who live there. The theater plans to attract six individuals who reside and work on Penn Avenue, and want to implement projects meant to serve the neighborhood.

Performance artist and Kelly-Strayhorn project manager, Joy KMT, believes the program is essential to encouraging positive change for the fast-shifting Penn Avenue Corridor.

"We hope to create a hub of conversation and innovation in East End neighborhoods that develops networks of sustainability and collaboration," says KMT. "Penn Avenue Creative is the groundwork that is necessary for building diverse and welcoming communities through tapping into and helping to support talented individuals who already live and work in the community."

KMT adds that desired applicants should demonstrate a "strong vision for themselves and their community, whose motivation for creating change is evident in their everyday lives, and whose generosity and unique perspectives will enrich the Penn Avenue Creative cohort." Chosen candidates will receive a yet undetermined stipend, and take part in a 12-week course that includes a retreat, professional workshops, and one-on-one mentoring with Kelly-Strayhorn's large network of artists, creatives and experts. Those who complete the program successfully will then present their projects to community leaders and benefactors at the Penn Avenue Creative Symposium.

While the program description targets certain creative types, KMT explains that proposals are welcome from anyone with a vision for the East End.

"We seek applications from artists and entrepreneurs, as well as people who may not think of themselves strictly as artists or entrepreneurs, but whose approach to engaging communities offers potential for unexpected impact," says KMT. "We hope to tap into leadership that may not be recognized by standard models."

Applications for Penn Avenue Creative are due by July 17. Further details are available on the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater website.  
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