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DATA Awards Recognize Art and Technology

on Mon, 04/29/2013 - 09:53

In 2008, the Pittsburgh Technology Council created the Art + Technology Initiative in order to showcase the connection between these two related disciplines within the region. “By exploring the various intersections of Art and Technology, and creating unprecedented strategic partnerships, the Initiative aims to enhance the productivity of both groups, while fostering this nexus to spur regional progression,” the Pittsburgh Art + Technology website states. “Founded on the idea that art and technology share the fundamental characteristic of innovation, as well as a synergy at the forefront of cultural innovation, the Initiative and its partners are dedicated to unearthing the possibilities of this leading-edge fusion.”

To facilitate their mission, the organization also launched the Design, Art and Technology (DATA) Awards the same year. The ceremony attracted over seventy-five artists to the 15 Minute Gallery on Technology Drive, and has continued to grow ever since. Luminaries such as Cirque de Soleil creative director Lyn Heward, The Sims video game creator Will Wright and J Moses, former president of MTV Russia, have been among the special guests at the annual awards ceremony. 2013 again sees the DATA Awards taking place on May 15th at a much larger local than the 15 Minute Gallery—this year at the Grand Hall of the Priory on the North Side—as well as local science author Chip Walter, whose latest book, Last Ape Standing, was released in late January, serving as presenter.

Monroeville Zombies Museum Shuts Down

on Fri, 04/19/2013 - 09:26

One fateful day in the early 1970s, Pittsburgh filmmaker George Romero visited Mark Mason, co-owner of Oxford Development Company, who Romero had met through a fellow Carnegie Mellon University alumnus. Oxford both owned and operated the Monroeville Mall, and Mason explained to Romero that the structure was honey-combed with multiple passages, making it the perfect place to hide-out during a natural disaster. Following the visit, Romero walked through the facility and noticed the blank faces and robotic-like movements of shoppers as they made their way from store to store. Romero had already found success—and reinvented the zombie-genre in the process—with his 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead, and immediately decided to transplant the narrative from a farmhouse in Evans City to the mall in Monroeville for his 1978 film Dawn of the Dead.

The above story is related on The Zombie Farm website, under a heading simply entitled “The Mall,” and within zombie lore, the Monroeville Mall is indeed iconic. In recognition of this fact, Time and Space Toys opened the Monroeville Zombies Museum in 2008, celebrating not only the groundbreaking works of George Romero but zombies in general. Over the course of five years, Monroeville Zombies stood as a testament to the “walking dead,” with displays of various props and memorabilia from Dawn of the Dead, a celebrity “Maul of Fame” and life-size replicas of many famous zombies from the realms of pop culture. Like all good things, however, the Monroeville Zombies exhibit must come to an end as their Facebook page announced in early April 2013 that mall management had found a new tenant for the space and that the current museum would be closing at the end of the month.

Book Buzz and Lawrenceville Zombies

on Thu, 04/18/2013 - 09:52

For Karen Brooks, part of her mission as manager of the Lawrenceville branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) is to engage young readers and make the public more aware of the library’s many attributes. “If you walk into most public libraries, you’ll see a lot of children, parents and older adults,” she explains. “What you see less of in many places is younger adults—the 18-35 demographic. We wanted to create some programs that would engage college students and young professionals. Personally, as someone who not only works but also lives in the relatively trendy Lawrenceville neighborhood, I wanted to raise Library awareness throughout the community. CLP-Lawrenceville has been on Fisk Street since 1898, yet I still regularly have customers who say, ‘I had no idea there was even a library here!’ I never want to hear that again.”

To facilitate these goals, Brooks and a group of fellow librarians launched Book Buzz, a book discussion group geared towards a younger demographic that takes place in drinking establishments, coffee shops and retail stores throughout the Pittsburgh area. “The first round of Book Buzz started in July 2012 and met at bars and restaurants in East Liberty, Polish Hill and Lawrenceville,” Karen Brooks says. “In October, we expanded our reach to Beechview, Highland Park and Mt. Washington, and did two book discussions each month. The relative success of these programs encouraged us to meet more often, hence the Book Buzz programs in the South Side and the twice monthly discussion in Lawrenceville.”

The Pittsburgh Venture Capital Report

on Thu, 04/11/2013 - 21:35

Over the course of the five-year period from 2008 to 2012, the Pittsburgh region saw 217 local start-up companies raise over $1.3 billion dollars in investment funds. Despite a national slowdown in seed financing in 2012, funding in the area actually increased from 2011 in regards to the number of start-ups that year. While different parts of the country are usually strong in one particular field, meanwhile, the Steel City’s entrepreneurial strengths are spread out over a wide variety of industries, including enterprise and consumer software, medical devices, heath care, biotechnology and energy. Pittsburgh start-ups are also finding “exit” success, with 28 companies being sold during 2008-2012 to the tune of over $2 billion.

The above statistics are the highlights of a report commissioned by Innovation Works—the largest seed investment company in Pittsburgh—and accounting firm Ernst & Young. Taken together, they paint a bright and promising picture of the region’s start-up community and point the way to an even more robust future. “If quality companies are created, someone will always fund them,” Kelly Szejko, president of the Pittsburgh Venture Capital Association, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “And I think the fact that we’re getting attention from (investors) from California, New York and Boston shows the word is getting out about the quality of Pittsburgh’s companies.”

Nikola Tesla Biopic to Film in Pittsburgh

on Wed, 04/10/2013 - 09:51

“Nikola Tesla is a wholly original and real-life mad scientist,” Daniel H. Wilson and Anna C. Long write in their book, The Mad Scientist Hall of Fame. “Although he died before the transistor was invented, Tesla used his formidable mind as we use computers today; he designed, constructed, and tested all of his inventions using only the power of mental concentration. Without making a single sketch, Tesla could build precise working models of his electrifying inventions. He spent much of his life working obsessively and in solitude; interacting with ordinary humans seemed difficult for him. Perhaps this is why, in his later years, Tesla claimed to have contacted the superior intelligences of beings from the planet Venus.”

Nikola Tesla was born in modern day Croatia in 1856 and is best known for his work designing the alternating current (A/C) electrical supply system. Tesla emigrated to the United States in 1884 in order to work for Thomas Edison, but an eventual misunderstanding led him to strike out on his own—a pattern that he repeated with numerous acquaintances throughout his life. Eventually Tesla’s work caught the eye of George Westinghouse, who hired the Serbian engineer in 1888 to help create an A/C-type system to power streetcars in the city of Pittsburgh. Although Tesla’s time in the Steel City was short-lived, it is fitting nonetheless that independent filmmaker Michael Anton will film his Nikola Tesla biography, The Mad Scientist, in Pittsburgh.