Tomorrow’s the anniversary of the Allies taking Palermo (1943), the Pied Piper of Hamelin (maybe (1376), the death of John Dillinger (1934) and Switzerland’s Dornach Battle Commemoration (1499).  Birth anniversaries include journalist and etiquette expert Amy Vanderbilt (1908), artist Alexander Calder (1898) and geneticist Gregor Mendel (1822).

The art of American Modern Art and Design in Pittsburgh was pretty much headed by CMU professor Samuel Rosenberg in the 1950’s.  Professor Rosenberg taught at both CMU and the Young Men and Women’s Hebrew Association for about 40 years and personally created over 500 pieces of art.  His artwork was even displayed in the 1939 World’s Fair.  To teach his students, Samuel created pieces in this style to show them the technique.  A dozen of these works by him, his colleagues and students have been assembled at Concept Art Gallery in Regent Square that runs through September 20.  There was a lot of corporate money here in Pittsburgh before they all started to bail on us starting in the 1960’s, so there was a lot of artists and designers being brought in for corporate offices in the 1950’s and 1960’s..  In addition to the artwork, there is classic modern design in furniture and accessories from the period as well.  More info at their website or by calling 412-242-9200.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water is just an hour east of Pittsburgh.  A three hour trip to Buffalo, NY is home to a cluster of Wright’s masterpieces.  The sprawling Darwin Martin House, a series of buildings including the main house and out buildings, many of which are connected by cantilevered pergolas in the low slung Wright style.  The Martin family owned Larkin Soap Company in Buffalo and lived in the  house until they lost their fortune after the great depression.  A public/private corporation was founded in 1991 to save and restore the house.  Close by is the Martin’s summer house, Graycliff Estate overlooking Lake Erie.  Since 1997, that also is being restored after being the home to a group of Hungarian priests as a mother-house.  There are several residences designed by Wright In Buffalo that are still private residences.  But Buffalo has taken plans that never left the drafting board and have been recently brought to life.  Rowing Boathouse was completed in 2000.  And the stair step looking Mausoleum for the Martin family was never constructed for the Martins, but the president of Forest Lawn Cemetery was able to raise the funds and had Blue Sky Mausoleum built in 2004.  The Martins had all passed-on by that time, so the vaults are available for anyone.  And just opened this year is the gas station Wright had designed, but was never built for the Tydol Oil Station .  This was built in the Pierce-Arrow Museum and features copper roofed overhangs to keep the motorists dry in inclement weather, gravity fed fueling tanks, a second floor waiting area with a fireplace and you can watch them repair your car.

I like small businesses and the creativity we need to use to succeed.  I also like the impact small theaters can have on small business districts.  Combine all that and you have The Parkway Theater in Stowe (near McKees Rocks).  Owner Aaron Stubna bought the old theater (it had been vacant for 25 years), cleaned it up, did some remodeling and started showing movies in it in 2012.  Aaron is a full time barber at his family’s barbershop Lincoln Barber Shop in Bellvue, and a full time movie buff that’s working on a dream.  He currently has a snack bar that’s a lot more creative than those TUBs of popcorn drowned in make believe butter and super sized sodas.  His goal is to take half the theater out and make a restaurant and bar out front that he can run in conjunction with theater events or as a separate operation.  But he’s theming things up like running Spaghetti Westerns paired with a spaghetti dinner.  He’s had a Stooge Fest (who in theaters hasn’t had one of them?)  🙂  Other theme’s he’s looking into is a series of Martin Scorsese’s films, a family night with board games, even a gnocchi making class before the screening of Big Night, the story of two brothers attempting to run an Italian restaurant.  I would love something like that here on Western Avenue, what a great asset to the community.

Speaking of community, I heard an interview with Mayor Peduto the other day.  I miss Mayor Lukey, he was too easy to pick on with the ridiculous things he did, like sending a crew out to slap bicycle stickers all over the place with no thought to it.  It was just a numbers game to him so he could claim so many miles in Pittsburgh are “bicycle lanes” and he can get credit for making Pittsburgh “bike friendly”.  Mr. Peduto is looking to create official bicycle lanes and two are set to be in place by summer’s end, I believe.  These will be bicycle only lanes which dramatically increase safety for the bicyclist and motorists.  Mr. Peduto said he’s not looking for a quick solution, he’s looking into 5, 10 and 20 year plans and goals.  Did you know that in Copenhagen, 36% of their commuters use bicycles?  You can’t get much healthier or greener than that.  Yes, in the process we will loose parking spaces and other things, but to make traveling safe for cyclists would be a huge amenity to the city.

And now, speaking of healthy, did you know PNC Park came in #3 in PETA’s ranking of Vegetarian-Friendly Ballparks?  We were bested by Philly’s Citizen’s Bank Park and #1 San Fransisco’s AT & T Park.  Cited were options vegetable roll, BRGR’s veggie burger, seaweed salad, hummus and chips, veggie stuffed pita, grilled veggie toaster and select grilled flat breads.

The Frick’s showcasing their new Orientation Center (we used to call them Welcome Centers).  🙂  Pulling in to the parking lot, most people didn’t know where to find the Frick Art Museum, the Henry Clay Frick’s family home and museum, the Car and Carriage House, the Frick Cafe, greenhouse and park.  The Orientation Center is right there complete with a gift shop, resource center, information center on where and what is located on the 5.5 acre property.  This was the first of three phases of renovations they are planning.  The next phase will be to create a new building for the car and carriage collection and turning that building into an educational center.  And the third phase will be to create a community center where groups can be fed and meeting space for groups and the local community.  All toll, the improvements are looking at $15M.  More info on their website.

Northside’s City of Asylum is creating a River of Words public art project.  They will be hosting a community open house next Friday, July 25.  They are using this project to show connections between words, people and locations.  A quick synopsis, City of Asylum houses dissident artists of the written word in their Northside homes.  There’s several up on Samsonia Way, right down the street from The Mattress Factory.  One of them has a poem written in Chinese on the front of the house. CA acquired a vacant lot and was going to turn it into an event venue, but ran into resistance from residents concerned about parking.  CA altered their plan and are turning the lot into a garden near their other houses and plan on building a “trail” between their current locations and their new project Alphabet City in the old Masonic Temple on North Avenue next to the Garden Theater.  Three dissident arts have been working on words trying to keep in mind Pittsburgh’s unique character.  For example, several of the words they selected were zombie (for George Romero’s classic work), pirates in deference to the Bucco’s, and others.  They made these words out of vinyl, metal, acrylic and other media and the artists asked residents on the path from CA’s main campus to the new Alphabet City to allow them to place the words on their house.    The residents got to pick their words.  The kick off is from 6 – 8 pm next Friday at 318 Sampsonia Way.  More info at their website or by calling 412-391-2060.

Many of my guests have enjoyed visiting Randyland.  Randy’s houses are over by The Mattress Factory also and he’s painted them all kinds of colors and his Courtyard is filled with all kinds of eclectic pieces.  One of the highlights of Randyland is his map of the Northside that he created several years ago.  It’s pretty popular, but the paint he used is really tired, pealing and in need of replacement.  The vinyl he used to identify the Northside streets have pretty much pealed off.  So Randy started a Kickstarter campaign to raise $10k to make the necessary improvements.  He’s already met the minimum, but would like more to afford other upgrades.  His only source of income for the project (other than his regular income working as a waiter) is a tip jar in the Courtyard that most people ignore (or don’t notice).  If you would like to help Randy out, go to the Kickstarter link.

I understand what a mess the bloated Pennsylvania State Legislature is.  So I don’t blame republican Governor Corbett for failing to get the equally bloated and corrupt Liquor Control System privatized.  I give him credit for trying to enact pension reform, $50B in unfunded obligations obviously is not sustainable. And this is with a republican controlled House and Senate!  I blame him for not making any headway in actually creating a viable state budget and blaming his inaction on not getting pension reform. He’s the one that slashed state funding on education and blamed it on the federal government.  He’s trying to claim a balanced budget by relying on new revenue sources through letting the gas and oil drillers tap our state forest and game lands.  Not to mention his slight of hands use of one time income by tapping reserves and overly optimistic revenue collection rates that won’t bear out his claim.  No wonder he’s the most “vulnerable” incumbent governor in the country.  There’s even talk that the NRC won’t commit to funds to his campaign, that’s pretty bad.

On that negative note on the State of our State, I’m going to sign off for today.  I hope you are having a great and safe summer.  Enjoy,


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