Posts Tagged ‘Pittsburgh’

7/14/09 – A few days after I wrote this, I happened to read an editorial by Museums President David Hillenbrand (written one month ago) about the fight to keep arts funding. Though Mr. Hillenbrand easily trumps me with his years of experience and know-how, we’re not so far apart in our thinking.

Often, I think back to a time when my parents had a dream of restoring the Levoy Theatre, an old, decaying vaudeville house in my hometown of Millville, New Jersey, to its former glory. I was young and didn’t understand why. I’d roll my eyes whenever they passed by it saying, “There’s our place,” and talked about maybe passing it along to me one day.

My parents, try as they might, never saw their dream become a reality – at least for them. Perhaps they would be leading the charge today if they had known more about fundraising and grantwriting. Perhaps I could have done something if I were older at that time armed with the knowledge that I have now. In any case, as I’ve grown older and personally invested in the arts, I’ve realized now that what my parents wanted to do was not just for their own or our family’s benefit, but to bring something back to a community that was in decline as the glass factories disappeared.

Fortunately, though my parent’s dream for the community didn’t come true (for them), it has not died as a group of individuals came together 14 years ago to make preserving and restoring the venue a reality. What’s even more important is that my hometown’s main “drag” has now been transformed into an arts district – one that made this once non-believer from afar a believer.

Millville’s story reminds me a lot of Pittsburgh, the city I now call home. Once a thriving city, thanks to the steel industry, it too saw its decline as the work dried up and the factories closed. It was the arts, in my opinion, that have helped to transform the face of Pittsburgh from the place once known as “hell with the lid off” to “America’s Most Livable City.” Many organizations have contributed to this transformation, but the two most prominent cultural institutions that stick out in my mind are The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and Carnegie Museums.



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This weekend, just hours before the Super Bowl, I got to witness a musical that has been bringing the house down where e’er it goes – “Jersey Boys.”

Mounted on Broadway in 2005, the Tony Award-winning production (Best Musical, Best Actor [John Lloyd Young], Best Featured Actor [Christian Hoff], and Best Lighting Design, 2006) has since expanded to companies across not only the United States, but also the world. The premise is simple: it tells the story of how Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, one of the best-known rock bands of the 1960s, came to be.

In addition to its standing engagements, “Jersey Boys” is now on tour, recently wrapping up a month-long engagement in Pittsburgh. Geared mostly toward an older audience (at least in my humble opinion), it incorporates a phenomenal score, cheeky humor (and colorful language!), colorful costumes and set design, and of course, an insanely talented cast.

As a born-and-bred Jersey girl, this musical reminded me a little of home. Though I’m from the (South) Jersey Shore area and I don’t have the accent and know all of the colloquialisms relative to North Jersey, home is home, right? Even at the age of 25, I knew almost every. single. song featured in the production thanks to growing up in a house that played a lot more of the old school stuff than giving in to the MTV generation.

What made seeing this performance even more special was to watch Graham Fenton transform into Frankie Valli right before my eyes. See, Graham and I went to high school together, sang in Choir and all that jazz. While we weren’t very good friends and I haven’t seen him since we graduated, I always knew that his voice – his talent could take him somewhere.

Every so often, I try to follow his career as we get older and I can truly say that I am not surprised he’s made it to this point, but I am just so thrilled for him all the same. I’m sad that I couldn’t get backstage after the performance to say “hello,” but I’m sure the opportunity to re-connect will come some day. Graham, you are truly amazing, and you have nowhere to go, but up. I tip my glass to you, Jersey Boy.

In addition, I would live to give many thanks to the people who made bringing this production to Pittsburgh possible. As I stated before, we’re very fortunate to have the arts programming that we do. Finally, thanks to the two folks who afforded me the opportunity to go. You know who you are. =)

If you have a chance to check out “Jersey Boys,” I strongly recommend you do so. It will just blow you away.

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My favorite blogger quit this morning.

“PittGirl” decided to pack-up and leave The Burgh Blog behind, with everyone’s favorite butler, Woy, breaking the sad news.

I’m still trying to process that I won’t be able to check it off my daily must-read blogs. In fact, it was the first feed I’d read out of all 50 million subscriptions. PG had this gift. Whether it was making me laugh hysterically over the antics of her self-united husbands or making me want to cry with her thoughts about people with cancer, I knew that the woman could tell a story. Boy, could she tell a story.

It was through these stories that I began to understand more about this city. I’m a transplant from South Jersey. I still don’t get things, but I feel that reading her blog helped me with the transition and I became comfortable enough to eventually call myself a Pittsburgher. As cheesy as it sounds, she made every day just a little bit better. She wrote about all of the good and bad in this city and through that, you could tell she dearly loved it at its best and worst.

She had the guts to say what many of us think, but might be afraid to say without facing repercussions. It was therefore understandable why she chose anonymity while constructing this community. I may never know who she really is, but I feel like she is the kind of person you could just be friends with instantly, knocking back a few Zimas and prattling on about the Steelers, that pigeons are indeed Satan’s winged Earth army (step off, PETA), and everything else.

It’s my honest opinion that both she and The Burgh Blog are one of the great treasures this city has to offer.

Thanks, PG, for the memories. I know we all hope you’ll return in some capacity one day. You may love Pittsburgh, but don’t forget that Pittsburgh loves you, too.

*pours Zima on the asphalt and stomps a pigeon in remembrance*

Forsooth, yo.


For those who have no idea who the heck PittGirl is, I can refer you to this lovely article in Pittsburgh magazine. It really can’t begin to describe the woman behind the blog. If you never had the opportunity to read her thoughts, you truly missed out.

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Mario “Le Magnifique” Lemieux, Pittsburgh Penguins hockey legend and the team’s current owner, is often quoted as saying, “It’s a great day for hockey.” But it was actually former coach “Badger” Bob Johnson who coined the phrase. Either way you slice it, for Pittsburgh, it truly is. In just three years, the Penguins (or Pens to the typical fan) have managed to turn around from a dying hockey club into a champion, almost tasting champagne from Lord Stanley’s Cup last year for the first time since 1992.

There are many tangibles that have factored into the Pens’ good fortune as of late and it all started with drafting Sidney Crosby, first line center and the youngest captain in the NHL, with the 1st-overall pick in the 2005 Entry Draft. He was hailed as “The Next One,” joining the likes of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (1st overall, 2003 Entry Draft) and forward Evgeni Malkin (2nd overall, 2004 Entry Draft), who jumped ship in 2006 from his Russian team to play for the Pens. Forward Jordan Staal (2nd overall, 2006 Entry Draft) made the big league last season in his first year turned pro and hasn’t looked back. Add some veteran grit to a talented, young roster and a strict disciplinarian coach in Michel Therrien, and you have the makings of a winning hockey club.

This year’s campaign, “A Great Day for Hockey,” is fitting when considering the past of the Pens and the immediate future during which Pittsburgh will say goodbye to its beloved Igloo (Mellon Arena) and welcome a new, yet-to-be-named facility currently under construction – a move that ensures the Pens presence in Pittsburgh for years to come. What I love most about the commercial is that it not only highlights what the Pens do on the ice, but also what they do off it and the thousands of dedicated fans who cramp into the Igloo or brave the cold to see their beloved Pens play (and hopefully win). Pittsburgh-based rock band, The Clarks, provide the vocals behind the action with their rendition of Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World” in a fitting homage to all things Pittsburgh.

Here’s the official link to the video: A Great Day for Hockey

You can also follow the Pens on Twitter @pghpenguins.

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While at the PodCamp Pittsburgh afterparty, I had the opportunity to meet David Fisher (@Tibbon) and have a chat about social media over a Smores martini (me) and a cheesesteak (him). As I recounted my own struggles the past year with consistent blogging, David offered up some great suggestions and advice to amp up my posting and continue to expose myself to different facets of social media while I’m looking for a new position. So, I’m starting another series called Social Media 101 (as I said – one of many) to examine how companies are utilizing social media or could they could be using social media to engage their stakeholders. Thanks, David!

My first topic is Kennywood Park.

Kennywood Park, located near Pittsburgh in West Mifflin, PA is one of the oldest amusement parks in the country. From its humble beginning in 1898 as a small trolley park, Kennywood has grown over the years to become a unique park marrying both rides from days of yore with those of the present and future. It’s an institution that conjures memories from Pittsburgh’s older crowd who now take their children and grandchildren, reminiscing of their youth while making new memories with the next wave of Kennywood thrill-seekers.

My goal is to share my thoughts about what I think Kennywood could use to its advantage when considering Web 2.0 community-building as part of its public relations strategy. Plans may already be underway, but I’m just going to pretend we’re working with a clean slate.


Twitter is probably the most popular microblogging site right now and allows its users to connect and communicate in real time. Most users are those who have a vested interest in social media and technology, but major corporations have also started to catch on to Twitter and utilize the service as part of their communications strategy.

Kennywood is on Twitter (apparently), but there are zero followers, zero following, and zero updates. It’s quite possible that the park decided to hold its name until it figures out a game plan, but the account may have been created by someone not officially affiliated with the park. Either way, it’s time to put the service to use. How can the park do it? Here’s some ideas:

  • Sneak peeks and major announcements – Include your friends. Announce a new attraction or initiative as it simultaneously goes out via traditional media outlets, OR build suspense and make your friends the first to know. This is going to help create buzz and establish a word-of-mouth movement both online and offline.
  • Trivia and fun facts – Capture the joy of the amusement park experience by creating a trivia contest or posting fun facts about Kennywood and the amusement park industry.
  • Make memories – Part of Kennywood’s messaging is about making memories. Encourage friends to share their stories and engage in conversations about what makes Kennywood unique and why they return year after year.


There are 116 groups on Facebook that make some sort of mention of Kennywood, yet none are officially administrated by the park. Instead, dozens of employees and fans have taken initiative to create community around the park, whether its a means of organizing trips or discussing favorite attractions and quirks. Hundreds of individual users also mention the name Kennywood in some capacity in their own profiles.

A close competitor in Ohio has a Facebook presence although I am unsure how many, if any, pages and groups are officially affiliated with the park. There is one page, however, created by a fan that is most impressive with more than 29,000 fans.

Here’s an opportunity. Fans of Kennywood are obviously there and would surely rally around an official page or group. All it takes is an intern, for example, to invite his or her friends and the power of word-of-mouth will take over. Facebook has the capabilities of importing information from other platforms, which makes it easy to link many social networks together.


You can also find a page on MySpace, but I’m uncertain if it’s official. It’s very bare-bones, but has the potential to reach the 18-34 demographic. The unfortunate aspect of the site, however, is that there tends to be a lot of spam at times (though it has significantly decreased in recent years) and the administrator of the profile will have to carefully monitor who is being “friended” since not all profiles are exactly “family friendly” or legit.


The site featured two podcasts, but they recently disappeared. What I do like is that Kennywood has its own video devices called KTube, which allows users to share their memories with others and K-Clips, where users can create their own “videos.” I would also recommend a presence on YouTube to allow for easy sharing and commenting. In addition, the Park can easily gauge just how many people are watching videos, subscribing and “friending” their channel.


Flickr – There are more than 8,500 tagged photos and one group dedicated to the park. A presence on Flickr would help contribute to that conversation and showcase fan photos on a consistent basis.

Blogging – Not every business has to blog, but it could be an opportunity for guest posts from fans, historians and staff so that everyone can learn a little more about Kennywood’s history and what makes it unique.

Social ads – Myspace and Facebook are offering ad placements, which could benefit the park. Maybe it’s a special promo code for discounted tickets, or a generic ad for Phantom Fright Nights. Either way, the appearance of the Kennywood logo is bound to attract more attention than most of the ads we typically see on these sites.


The important thing to keep in mind with any SM venture is that a little time and attention should be devoted each day to make the community better. It doesn’t necessarily mean that a dedicated position has to be created, but someone must be diligent in monitoring and contributing to the conversation. I don’t advocate deleting user-created content unless it’s spam, obscene or abusive toward other community members. It’s a learning experience for everyone. Positive comments generally outweigh the negative and there’s always a way to turn those negatives into positives. The trick is remaining open-minded and willing to implement change.

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The Pittsburgh Bloggers Facebook group extended an invitation to its members to blog about their neighborhoods and introduce them to the world. (Concept originally devised by the Rust Belt Bloggers). As a group of us are looking to promote the things we love about living in Pittsburgh (see OMGPittsburgh), I thought that participating in Neighborhood Walk would be an excellent opportunity to speak write further of where I live and why I love it here.

Living in the East End of Pittsburgh affords some pretty nice scenery. In addition to beautiful parks and residential areas, the East End is home to many world-renowned institutions. In Oakland alone, you’ll find the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, two Carnegie Museums, Phipps Conservatory and more.

I thought about what I wanted to write. Did I want to focus on the beautiful view from a bench at Schenley Park? Or, did I want to fawn over the beautiful architecture (even if half the pieces are replicas) that I looked at on my first visit to the Carnegie Museum of Art a few months ago? Then again, I could go on about the many shops that are unique to this part of the city.

It kind of became a no-brainer. Currently, Pittsburgh is in the midst of celebrating its 250th birthday. As part of those festivities, the city is hosting a “Festival of Lights,” which is supposed to be the largest lighting event in the United States. In addition to several well-known facades, such as the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning and Stephen Foster Memorial, many houses of worship are also lit.

Here are two examples of what you’ll see around Downtown and the East End:

A previous design on the Cathedral of Learning & Stephen Foster Memorial

A previous design on the Cathedral of Learning & Stephen Foster Memorial

(We’ll just overlook the fact that the photo is super blurry – I blame my lack of reading my camera manual).

The gorgeous Heinz Chapel all lit up

The gorgeous Heinz Chapel all lit up

I haven’t been able to check out everything, but there’s a comprehensive list of participating locations and a walking map. You’ll have to hurry, however. The “Festival of Lights” is scheduled to end on November 21, which coincides with Pittsburgh Light Up Night.

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PodCamp Pittsburgh was not only a public forum meant to talk about social media, but also create it.

While we were off learning in the Sunday morning sessions, Chris Brogan led the charge to create a community-oriented blog that would showcase the best of Pittsburgh from the perspective of its most ardent supporters – its residents. Enter OMGPittsburgh.com.

It’s still in the infancy stage with the lack of a unique header (it’s coming) and just a smattering of posts, but what I can tell you is that already, its authors are sharing community news and their views on what they believe makes this city so great. I even took a moment to briefly recount my little journey here and why I’ve come to adopt Pittsburgh as my home.

The great thing is that whoever wants to have a voice can sign up for an account and post away. I’m not sure how many are signed up currently, but I think it is the hope of the blog’s organizing team that there will be at least 100 contributing authors.

Wow. Think about all of the different viewpoints and stories that could be shared by 100 people. This is something that Pittsburgh needs – an active voice beyond the tourism bureau and tucked away forums. Pittsburgh still struggles, in a way, to position itself to those outside of the city as a place that is growing and thriving. We know it, but not everyone else does. Therefore, it’s up to us with this initial grassroots effort to get out the word and make a case for our city.

Pittsburgh was thrust in the national spotlight recently over the whole Ashley Todd debacle. People, upon hearing the initial story, might have been quick to judge our city as violent and unsafe, but sites like Shopping Bloomfield (the neighborhood where the “attack” happened) and OMGPittsburgh (among others) will tell you differently. Take a look and give us a shot.

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