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Pittsburgh rated a favorite foodie city

Pittsburgh comes in at No. 3 in Livability.com’s top 10 foodie cities for 2015. The reason: consistent rave reviews by local and national food critics, as well as recognition from the James Beard Foundation. 

Of course Primanti’s  is mentioned, but Livability also noted the top-rated local dining establishments posted on Yelp. The food spotlighted? The Liege waffle at Waffallonia, the menu at Gaucho Parrilla Argentina, and the cuisine at Cafe Du Jour French Bistro. And not to be upstaged -- the kebabs and kazandibi at Istanbul Sofra -- all testament to the diverse palates of local foodies. 

Pittsburgh was edged out of first and second place by Coral Gables, Fla., at No. 1 and Omaha at No. 2. 

See the full list of Top Foodie cities here.

Free jazz pops ups in unexpected hot spots

Pittsburgh's summer jazz scene just got a whole lot hotter -- and it won't cost listeners a cent.

A few surprising venues are popping up in Pittsburgh to draw jazz aficianados outdoors during July, August and September. 

Pittsburgh's Smallest Jazz Club was installed at a bus shelter on Liberty Avenue across from 9th Street in Downtown Pittsburgh on July 6 thanks to a $1,000 grant from Awesome Pittsburgh last year. 

MCG Jazz, which is a music program of the nonprofit Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, dreamed up Pittsburgh's Smallest Jazz Club as a bus shelter on Liberty Avenue across from 9th Street in Downtown Pittsburgh. Thanks to a $1,000 grant from Awesome Pittsburgh, the project was installed on July 6 and will run through the end of September. The shelter's interior walls feature photos of Pittsburgh's jazz legends, while speakers pump out a Grammy Award-winning recordings from MCG Jazz, which has hosted luminaries such as Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Williams and Stanley Turrentine through the years.

"The intent is to promote jazz music as Pittsburgh's greatest arts export, and to remind people that jazz music -- and art -- is fun, familiar, and everywhere," Kline says. 

A patron waiting in the bus shelter simply pushes a button, which connects to an iPod playing the songs. Lamar Outdoor, which owns the bus shelters in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, helped to put the idea into action. MCG Jazz, whose mission is to preserve, present and promote jazz, aims to introduce both national and international audiences to Pittsburgh's jazz legends.  

Meanwhile, across the Allegheny River on the North Side, City Of Asylum is introducing a series of free concerts from local jazz icon Roger Humphries and RH Factor every Wednesday from now through Sept. 16. 

Jazz Wednesdays are part of Summer on Sampsonia, the summer programming series from exiled writers sanctuary City of Asylum. The events will take place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. every Wednesday at the City of Asylum's pop-up venue, the Alphabet City Tent, at 318 Sampsonia Way in the North Side. 

The free tickets for Jazz Wednesdays are available online.

To learn more about Pittsburgh’s Smallest Jazz Club, visit the project’s Facebook page.

Hike through Pittsburgh's urban wilderness with the WALKATOP event

In the sparkling crown of Pittsburgh that is Mt. Washington, one little-known gem twinkles quietly amid the inclines, the upscale eateries, the breathtaking views. At just 10 years old, Emerald View Park is a relatively new and as-yet unheralded addition to Pittsburgh's collection of green spaces. But in some ways, the 257 untamed acres of vistas and wildlife has been there all along.

Now, one extended clan that has lived in and around Mt. Washington for generations has set out to share the Emerald View Park experience with all of Pittsburgh through a new event, WALKATOP.

Billed as an urban hiking adventure, the first WALKATOP event on Sept. 20 will offer curious Pittsburghers the choice of five routes to explore, from a child-friendly ramble to a leisurely 2.3-mile hike to a heart-pumping nine-mile challenge. Hikers check in at the parking lot on Grandview Avenue across from the Duquesne Incline, where they will receive maps for the routes, said Betty Kripp, one of WALKATOP's organizers. One immersed in the thicket of Emerald View Park, participants can get guidance from volunteers stationed along the routes.

"It always feels like home," says Kripp, who grew up in Mt. Washington and now lives in the South Side with her husband. "The park incorporated trails from many years ago. We were never allowed to go over the hill, but of course we did because it was part of our back yard."

The newest park in Pittsburgh, the scenic Emerald View Park wraps around Mt. Washington from Grandview Park near Arlington to Skookum Field in Duquesne Heights and back around to Mt. Washington Park near Grace Street.

Kripp has also helped to organize similar fundraising events such as StepTrek in the South Side Slopes and the Historic South Side Home Tour, which support neighborhood organizations. But she says she and her family members created WALKATOP to benefit The Thomas Brown Alton Foundation, which is dedicated to suicide prevention by helping those in need toward improved mental health.

"The foundation has been fortunate to find a partnership at UPMC Mercy in the psychiatry department to help with funding," Kripp says. "We want to make sure they have the resources to help with the areas of suicide prevention and improved mental health. That’s the goal for the work we’re doing."

Early bird registration is $15 and ends Sept. 1; advance registration is $20 from Sept. 2 through Sept. 19; and admission on Sept. 20 is $25 at check-in. Children age 10 and under are free. Advance tickets are available online.

NPR guides listeners through in-depth tour of the Mattress Factory

NPR reporter Bob Mondello recently visited the Mattress Factory on the North Side and described the unforgettable experience, installation piece by installation piece, for radio listeners. As a museum that hosts installation art designed to be not only seen, but experienced, the Mattress Factory received a surprisingly comprehensive review from Mondello's words-only report.

Free from visual cues, let alone experiential samples, the story, "Find Unforgettable Art In A Most Unlikely Place: A Pittsburgh Mattress Factory," tested the limits of listeners' imaginations. 

"Filled not with paintings or sculpture -- and certainly not with mattresses -- it is now four stories of ... well, of stories in a way," Mondello reports. "Installations that take you places you don't expect to go in an art museum."

Any visitor to the Mattress Factory can attest to the remarkable experience housed in an unlikely place. Now NPR listeners near and far can get an earful -- if not the experience itself -- of our most surprising museum.

Listen to the full NPR story here.

East Liberty redevelopment garners international attention

In an article last week, U.K. newspaper The Guardian asked its 9 million international daily readers: What can East Liberty teach us about the transformative power of regeneration?

The article, "How community-led renovation is helping a rundown Pittsburgh neighbourhood fight crime," focuses on the work of East Liberty Development Inc. (ELDI) for its efforts to revitalize and redevelop the East End community.

The article chronicles ELDI’s 1999 launch and ongoing investments to end the worsening crime and resident vulnerability, the organization's strategic purchase of real estate in the neighborhood's most dangerous blocks and the redevelopment of those properties into stable low-cost and market-value housing. 

The article also underscored East Liberty's the drop in crime, citing the results of a Numeritics study. The Pittsburgh consulting firm was commissioned by ELDI to track the incidence of crime against the sites where the group had intervened.

“Between 2008 and 2012, serious crimes against persons -- aggravated assault, homicide, rape and robbery -- decreased by 54 percent in East Liberty’s residential areas. Total crime -- including property crimes and crimes reported in the commercial center of East Liberty -- dropped from 221 crimes per thousand residents in 2008 to 164 crimes per thousand residents in 2012.”  

Read the full article from across the pond.

Local teen competes on U.S. fencing team at Maccabi Games in Germany

Squirrel Hill teen Guy Waks Beresteanu will compete on the U.S. Juniors Male Fencing team at the 2015 European Maccabi Games in Berlin this summer. The competition takes place every four years and represents Europe’s largest Jewish sporting event from more than 30 countries worldwide. 

For the first time since World War II, the games will be held in Germany. The event also occurs 50 years after the establishment of German-Israeli relations. This celebration of Jewish unity, culture and heritage takes place next week at Olympic Park in Berlin, the same location where Jewish athletes were prohibited from participating in the 1936 Olympic Games. 

“I am honored to have the opportunity to represent the United States and the Pittsburgh Jewish community at this historic world event,” says 14-year-old Beresteanu, who will attend Taylor Allderdice High School in Squirrel Hill this fall. 

Beresteanu has been fencing since he was 6 and has competed at the 2014 USA Fencing National Championships, where he earned a C15 rating. He has also qualified for the 2015 U.S. national competition in San Jose, Calif. 

“I love fencing because it is very intense,” he says. “You have to be extremely fast and accurate, and it’s also a mental game.”

The 2015 European Maccabi Games take place July 27 through Aug. 5. For more information, visit http://www.emg2015.de/en.

ARTnews recognizes Pittsburgh gallery

The nationally acclaimed publication ARTnews regularly scours the most notable exhibitions across the country and selects only one per day for its "Pictures of an Exhibition" section. Last week, this section featured work from James Gallery’s current exhibition, All Terrain Vehicle. 

The group exhibit explores contemporary landscapes via photography and abstract paintings. It can be viewed in person at James Gallery in the West End Village now through Aug. 2 or in ARTnews here.  

Images from All Terrain Vehicle are also available to view on the gallery’s website.

Art Institute alumni exhibit turns practical on its head

Each year, the Art Institute of Pittsburgh celebrates its alumni. This year’s exhibit, Impractical Magic: The Other Side of Practical, defies the expression long told to art students: “You can’t do that!”

Works from departments across the school will display the unusual and unexpected paths this group of alumni have paved. The disciplines represented include media arts and animation, fashion illustration, fashion and retail management, digital film and video production, industrial design, visual communications and game art and design.

Curated by Media Arts and Animation Professor Angela Love, the exhibit demonstrates achievements in different vocations, all built on a foundation learned at their alma mater.

Impractical Magic is showing now through July 22 at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, 420 Boulevard of the Allies, Downtown. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For more information about the Art Institute of Pittsburgh's alumni, call (412) 291-6200.

Two summer TV series feature illusionist with Pittsburgh roots

Illusionist and West Mifflin native Michael Grandinetti will appear on two television series this summer: "Masters of Illusion" on The CW and "Don’t Blink" on Pop TV. 

Grandinetti’s levitations and vanishing acts were popular with audiences in last year's "Masters of Illusion" series and will return for a second season. The 13 half-hour episodes will present such cutting-edge illusions as interactive mind magic and comedy routines, performed in front of a live audience in Hollywood. Hosted by actor Dean Cain, "Masters of Illusion" premieres at 8 p.m. on Friday, July 10. 

"Don't Blink" on Pop TV delves inside the world of underground street magicians as they perform publicly and before celebrity guests. Grandinetti, now residing in Los Angeles, carried out his illusions at Venice Beach, The Grove, Universal Studios and on Hollywood Boulevard for the series.

"I'm so proud of how both shows turned out and can't wait for people to see the new magic we spent the last year creating,” said the Duquesne University graduate.

Now 37, Grandinetti started practicing card tricks more than 30 years ago in his bedroom. He also performed in shows throughout Pittsburgh and has gone on to perform his magic on prime-time television, NFL and NBA half-time games, and as a headliner at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno, Nev.
  
View Grandinetti’s 2015 reel here.

 

Pittsburgh celebrates its champions

The inaugural Celebration of Champions reception and awards ceremony recognized six locals as leaders in Pittsburgh's industries on June 18 at the Station Square Sheraton. 

After the community nominated and voted on the winners earlier this year, the award recipients each received $1,000 to donate to their favorite local charity.

In addition to living or working in the Pittsburgh region, the winners were chosen for demonstrating excellence in their field through leadership, achievement and volunteerism.

The six industry categories included health care; technology; education; tourism and hospitality; first responders/military/veterans; and sports/arts and entertainment.

The following individuals accepted their awards:
  •  Health care: Nancy Stitt, co-founder of International Transplant Nurses Society
  •  Technology: Jim Jen, executive director and co-founder of AlphaLab
  •  ?Education: Cindy Bostick of Communities In Schools Pittsburgh Allegheny County, mentor coordinator within the Be A Mentor Program
  •  Tourism and hospitality: Sylvia McCoy, founder and owner of ‘Burgh Bits & Bites
  •  First responders/military/veterans: James O’Conner, veteran and local platoon leader of The Mission Continues organization
  •  Sports/arts and entertainment: Joe Negri, jazz guitarist and teacher at the University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University and Carnegie Mellon University

Additional information about the Celebration of Champions can be found here.

 

Pittsburgh to host national safety conference

Construction safety and health professionals from across the country are set to arrive in Pittsburgh next week for the annual Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) 2015 Annual Safety & Health Committee Conference. The AGC is the leading association for the construction industry, representing more than 26,000 firms.  

The conference will showcase new safety training programs and products. Attendees will receive updates on the latest initiatives from Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) and other industry experts.

“The AGC Safety & Health Site Selection Task Force chose Pittsburgh based on the reputable safety image that regional commercial contractors have built over the years,” said Jack Ramage, executive director for the Master Builders’ Association (MBA). The MBA was among the first trade associations in the country to place an emphasis on safety and hire a full-time safety expert in the 1960s, before the federal government’s launch of OSHA in 1971, according to Ramage.

The MBA and the Constructors Association of Western PA (CAWP) will co-host the conference, which unites construction industry professionals to participate in the development of regulatory and legislative activity on national and local levels. 

The AGC 2015 Annual Safety & Health Committee Conference takes place from July 8 through July 10 at the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center, Downtown.

Local chef hopes to conquer Cutthroat Kitchen

When Isabela on Grandview’s Executive Chef Jacqueline Wardle competes on the Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen on June 21, viewers will learn just how far she’ll go to create fine food.

Wardle caught the attention of the show’s producers through an Instagram photo that showed the duck specialty she created for the Mt. Washington restaurant’s menu. The producers selected her to join three other chef contestants from across the country to the challenge.

Wardle, an alum of The Art Institute of Pittsburgh's culinary program, will attempt to prepare the tastiest dish while outsmarting her competitors. In addition, she’ll be handed $25,000 and the opportunity to spend that money on helping herself or sabotaging her fellow contestants.  

"I enjoyed everything about being on set, meeting Alton Brown and competing with other chefs on a national level," said Wardle.

On June 21, fans can stop by the Bigham Tavern in Mt. Washington beginning at 9 p.m. to meet Chef Wardle and to see the show broadcast at 10 p.m.
 

National photo shoot shares local women's stories

San Francisco-based photographer Amy Friedman wraps up a weeklong photo shoot in Pittsburgh for A Day in My Shoes, a fundraising and awareness project for women of partner abuse. Friedman partnered with the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh (WCS) and the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office for the project.

Friedman traveled to Pittsburgh and to cities across the country for the project, whose mission is to support women of partner abuse and help them share their stories. In addition to posing in their favorite shoes, the women were asked to write a brief story about how they’ve discovered a sense of empowerment or achievement since the abuse. The photographs reveal none of the model’s faces to protect their anonymity. Their stories will accompany the photos in a book at an upcoming gallery show in October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.   

The project initially started as an effort to raise funds for the Asian Women’s Shelter of San Francisco. It then spread to organizations that support victims and survivors of domestic violence across the United States and Grand Cayman. Each photo shoot invites a number of shelter survivors to participate at no cost, while other participants donate to the project.  

Local contributions for A Day in My Shoes cover the costs of the photo shoots and include a donation to the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh. Donations can be mailed to: 

A Day in My Shoes Pittsburgh
40 Linden Place
Sewickley, PA 15143

All donations are tax deductible, according to Cynthia Liefeld of the nonprofit 501(c)3 organization A Day in My Shoes.

"Our proceeds will go to the women's center and shelter and perhaps another smaller shelter, depending upon our proceeds or if someone so directs," Liefeld added.

The City of Pittsburgh proclaimed June 19 as "Father's Day Pledge to End Gender Violence Day" and has planned a public pledge signing ceremony at 12 p.m. at the Allegheny County Courthouse Courtyard, Downtown.
 

Pitt ranks no. 2 worldwide in the discipline of philosophy

The University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Philosophy, which has long been recognized for excellence, placed second in its field by the QS World University Rankings. The rating system evaluated more than 3,500 universities in 36 disciplines for its 2015 subject rankings.  

Anil Gupta, chair of Pitt’s Department of Philosophy in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, credits the creativity of the faculty and their exploration of unfashionable ideas for the achievement.
 
The faculty’s research has made a significant impact as numerous authors worldwide have written about Pitt philosophy professors and their work. According to Gupta, 18 books have been published on Robert Brandom, 14 on Nicholas Rescher, and 11 on John McDowell beyond the hundreds of books published by faculty members themselves. He adds, “Pitt faculty, particularly Distinguished Professor of Philosophy Robert Brandom and Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy John McDowell, are among the most influential philosophers working today.”

Pitt placed second behind New York University but ahead of Oxford, Harvard and Cambridge universities. Read more about the QS World University Rankings criteria and the complete listing here.
 

Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh named among America's top 10 facilities for kids

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC has once again been named one of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals by U.S. News & World Report, making this the sixth consecutive year the hospital has been listed on the Honor Roll.

Children’s Hospital ranks eighth on the magazine’s 2015-16 Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals and also in each of the 10 pediatrics specialties ranked. These highlight the top 50 U.S. pediatric hospitals in each of 10 specialties: cancer; cardiology and cardiac surgery; diabetes and endocrinology; gastroenterology and GI surgery; neonatology; nephrology; neurology and neurosurgery; orthopedics; pulmonology; and urology.

In nine of the specialties, Children’s ranked in the top 25 including: second in gastroenterology and GI surgery; third in diabetes and endocrinology; sixth in pulmonology; and 10th in cardiology and cardiac surgery, neonatology, and neurology and neurosurgery.

The 2015-16 Best Children’s Hospitals rankings has been released online and will be published in the U.S. News “Best Hospitals 2016” guidebook, available in September.

Read the complete listing of all of the hospitals named on the U.S. News Honor Roll here.
 
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