Category Archives: Art

Cleveland's Kurentovanje — A Slovenian Carnival

So this happened last weekend in Cleveland:

I lifted this description right from the Cleveland Kurentovanje website, because honestly, I have no idea what’s happening here:

Kurentovanje (koo-rahn-toh-VAHN-yay) is the most popular carnival event in Slovenia and the central figure of the carnival, the Kurent, is believed to chase away winter and usher in spring. The day will be filled with costumes, a parade, food and drink, heritage and fuzzy Kurents.

Photos by Beth Pikowski.

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Documenting Pittsburgh's Labor Culture

Worker with United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America flag – Pittsburgh, PA

“There are no saviors, we are our own saviors. We have the capacity to save ourselves. Not individually no, but we have the capacity to band together, work together and understand that in order to create a better world, we need to create a world in where we all live better. If we create a world where only some live better, we haven’t created a better world.” – Mel Packer, Pittsburgh Activist & Community Organizer

When it comes to my work as a social documentary photographer, the image is secondary. Sure, I want my pictures to be clear and dynamic, but I need to fill the frame with interesting subjects in order to accomplish this. That’s why the experience comes first. Without it, I’m merely taking pictures.

Stephen Pellegrino, working class artist & musician – Homestead, PA

I count my involvement within the labor community in Pittsburgh to be a testament to this philosophy. Citizens of Industry, my first long term documentary project on labor culture and worker solidarity, has afforded me the opportunity to meet people that I wouldn’t have otherwise. The first installment of the project, Steel City Solidarity, uses photo documentation, interviews and various forms of multimedia to chronicle the state of labor and worker solidarity in the city of bridges. The current social and political climate of inequality has manifested itself into a complex struggle at the grassroots level; creating a strong base of community activism using alternative methods of cultivating advocacy and awareness. Pittsburgh has one of the strongest histories of unionism and civil involvement in the United States, and allows for an in-depth look at the inner workings of this ever-evolving movement.

Documenting labor culture has been a long tradition in the photographic community. Early photographers such as Otto Hagel, Milton Rogovin and Charles Rivers understood the importance of chronicling the strife of workers; not only as a historical document, but with an eye for artistic composition. Unlike straight journalism, documentary work allows for a more personal storytelling approach.

May Day March for Immigration Reform – Pittsburgh, PA

For the past year and a half, the work has allowed me to examine the industrial landscape of Pittsburgh and become acquainted with those who inhabit it. I’ve explored the roots of the region’s steel history through the ruins of its iron ore plants, and examined the essence of protest and advocacy by participating in area rallies and conversing with community leaders. I have talked with individuals who have lost their jobs by trying to unionize, and have learned about the cultural spirit of labor through the region’s artists and musicians. While these experiences have advanced my project, they have also influenced my own resolve. My confidence in the labor movement is stronger than ever.

With the first installment of Citizens of Industry coming to a close, the project will continue to grow as a multipart examination of worker culture throughout the rust belt region. It is the desire of all artists for their efforts to endure, and it is my hope that the work will not only serve as an educational piece, but as a creative narrative into the heart of the working class. Time will only tell.

– Andy Prisbylla

Visit Citizens of Industry at

Connect with the project on Facebook and Flickr.

Contact the photographer at

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Filed under Art, Editorial, Featured, Headline, Labor, regionalism

Ten Lessons from Boulder, Colorado


View of Boulder from the Flatiron Mountains - photo by author

I had the great pleasure of visiting Boulder, Colorado for the first time over an extended weekend. As an urban planner, I was able to take away many useful lessons for Rust Belt communities from the lovely city abutting the Front Range. Granted, not every place can be set aside majestic mountains, but every community does have unique attributes.

Here are what I would quantify as the top ten. Many of these are remarkably similar to the ten lessons from European industrial cities published earlier this month.

  • Cherish, protect, enhance, and enjoy your natural surroundings, attributes, and amenities.
  • Don’t worry, be active! As one of the healthiest and most active cities in the United States, Boulder residents practice this every day.
  • Active transportation (walking, hiking, cycling, mass transit) is absolutely key to a vibrant, healthy community.
  • Design the city to be human-scaled and pedestrian friendly.
  • There is a place for cars, but not at the forefront (both in the city and on college campuses) – the University of Colorado campus is amazingly compact and is only bisected by a few streets.
  • Skyscrapers and sprawl are not necessary for a healthy community – sprawl, in particular, is the antithesis of a healthy community.
  • Create third places and amenitiesdowntown Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall (a closed street) is an amazing third place filled with people and constant activity.
  • Embrace street art, performers, and vendors – they add life and vibrancy.
  • Preserve and protect your community’s architecture and cultural heritage – they’re the only ones you’ve got!
  • People will pay the necessary premiums (taxes, fees, rent, cost of living, etc.) to live, work, and play in a well-planned, diverse, eccentric, healthy, innovative, and sustainable community.

– Rick Brown

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Filed under architecture, Art, Brain Drain, Economic Development, Editorial, Education, Featured, Good Ideas, Green Jobs, Public Transportation, sprawl, the environment, Urban Planning

Ten Lessons from European Industrial Cities

Dublin - Soure:

I’ve had the distinct privilege and honor of visiting the great cities of Dublin, Ireland; Glasgow, Scotland; and Manchester, England over the past four years. All three of these industrial revolution-era urban centers can provide America’s Rust Belt with valuable insights about overcoming past malaise and degradation to chart a new economic paradigm. Here are ten lessons I have learned from visiting them and observing what makes all three so vibrant:

  • Cities can be reborn again and again, as long as they are not abandoned.
  • Discarding and demolishing a city’s physical history or its cultural legacy leave little from which to build a strong foundation for the future.
  • Plan and design every project with pedestrians, cyclists, and transit in mind.
  • Mixed uses are a great catalyst for rejuvenation, especially when residential uses are a part of the equation.
  • Density is imperative, provided it remains at a human scale.
  • Focus precious transportation resources on public transit, particularly modes such as commuter rail and light rail.
  • Government participation is critical – the private and non-profit sectors have a role, but they cannot do it all.
  • Art and cultural vibe – both traditional and trendsetting – are tremendously important.
  • Remain open to bold and possibly contentious new ideas, designs, and/or methods for accomplishing goals.
  • Accentuate the positive, but be sure to also address the negative.

– Rick Brown

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Filed under architecture, Art, Economic Development, Editorial, Featured, Good Ideas, Politics, Public Transportation, Urban Planning

Sign up for Park(ing) Day in Cleveland!

What are you doing September 20th? Do you plan on sitting in the street for an extended period of time, or how about establishing your very own public park? Why not do both?! At Park(ing) Day Cleveland you get to do just that. You might be scratching your head and wondering why anyone would want to do that, what is Park(ing) Day, and why don’t you spell things correctly. Those are all fair questions so let me explain:

Park(ing) Day, much like Critical Mass, is an international event held at the same time every year by a group of autonomously organized folks who find very specific issues to be very important. Critical mass rallies around cycling; Park(ing) Day’s rallying cry is access to public space. Park(ing) Day was started in sunny San Francisco in 2005 and has since spread across 100 cities in 35 counties. What is Park(ing) Day exactly though? Here is how it works: teams gather in a metered parking space, they can bring chairs, faux grass, a swing set, books, WHATEVER – just not a car. As long as you feed the meter, you can set up shop and have yourself a park.

So why do we want to do this in the first place? The goal of Park(ing) Day is to call attention to the important role that public space, and public parks play in the health and vitality of a city. Parks are gathering places, places to play, to relax, to exercise and to build community. Often times, cars and by extension parking spaces take priority to public health and the public’s right to access shared spaces. It is the goal of Park(ing) Day to start a conversation around public space and public parks. Public space and park access is a serious issue, but Park(ing) Day tries to make a very complicated issue approachable, enjoyable, and most importantly fun to engage with and learn about.

So if you are interested, please join us! Sign up, and meet us at the corner of Prospect and East 4th on September 20th around 11 AM. We will be hanging out, doing yoga, making zines, reading books, playing

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bocce ball, and reclaiming the streets while raising awareness about how awesome public space really is. We will be having our last organizing meeting Thursday, September 19th, at 5:30 in the offices of LAND Studio. We look forward to seeing you!

–Daniel Brennan Brown

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Faces of the Young, Rust Belt Dilemma

Cleveland painter Frank Oriti was featured in the New York Times last week because his portraits of young Cleveland-area adults are being featured at a gallery in the Hamptons. By Cleveland standards, being featured in the New York Times and showing your work in the Hamptons means you made it, or really by anyone’s standards. I had never heard of him until then though, but I’m oh so glad I did.

Oriti, who, the New York Times pointed out, once

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worked in a steel mill, has taken to painting portraits of his friends from Parma. I think he’s captured something pretty interesting here, looking at young adults from this place, facing uncertain futures, and the way they present themselves.

Here’s the way he described it on his website:

This body of work examines the culture of blue-collar, middle-class individuals returning to the hometowns and neighborhoods that they originally attempted to escape. Each portrait reveals the connect and disconnect between suburban landscapes and their residents, while also presenting questions such as “What has my life become?” and “What will everyone think of me now?“

Conveying portraiture against the repetitive quality of the cookie-cutter houses that surrounded this social group is my effort to present the faded memories and faded ideals that are so common with this cyclical experience. The sentiments about this homecoming are represented by facial expressions that mirror a psychological state of “settling;” an acceptance that they have come back to a place that they will possibly never leave again.

They remind me of people I know who grew up in the same places.

I don’t know, this just struck me as very perceptive. Everything is so fraught right now for young, working-class white people. The people in the portraits look tough, but they are extremely vulnerable.

Too bad these paintings are going to become some status symbol for rich jerks who vacation in the Hamptons, but that’s sort of what successful modern art always becomes.


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Scenes from Detroit: A Photo Essay

Rust Wire contributor Sean Posey spent last week roaming around Detroit, taking in the strange scenes that make up a city that has been unraveling.

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