Pittsburgh Technical Council

Co-CREATING at the 2017 CREATE Festival

Co-CREATING at the 2017 CREATE Festival

Article Published: December 19, 2016

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The CREATE Festival is gearing up for another exciting year in 2017. One of the first announcements for the festival this year, is the inclusion of a “demo day” for the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s pilot Co-CREATE Business Ignition Program. The cohort of 6 creative entrepreneurs will show their stuff throughout festival day at IdeaFest, the Innovation Salon, and the Creative Industries Awards party -- all taking place on Thursday, June 1, 207.

Each year, the festival features a full-day line-up of art, tech, workshops, panels, performances, awards, parties and opportunities to experience the newest trends in creativity and innovation. At CREATE you will find a mashup of inspiration, connectivity, and interactivity, while showcasing the the year’s most innovative work in the Creative Industries.

The festival is presented by the Pittsburgh Technology Council in partnership with the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival, and supported by Dollar Bank and Comcast.

 Some of the Co-CREATING you will find at the festival: a crafting party with Pop Craft; one-of-a-kind, hand crafted hats by milliner, Gina Mazzotta;  and CREATE Featured Artists of the Year, Lori Hepner and Ashley Cecil, exhibiting their current work along with special works of art to be presented to the festival award winners.

We wanted to talk with our Co-CREATORS to find out their thoughts on being a creative entrepreneur in Pittsburgh:

-Christine Bethea, GA/GI Festival



Why Pittsburgh? While born here, I have lived all over the world as the member of a military family and my decision was to embrace Pittsburgh, which I view as paradox, was a clear choice to tackle a creative challenge. To be in the mix of a time when this city is growing and changing, almost in spite of itself, allows for some very interesting opportunities and successes which might be impossible any other place in the country.  It calls for a pioneering spirit that I have. As do many other people of diverse ages and races who are staying, returning or moving into the city; up for the challenge. I think Pittsburgh is very lucky to have us.Christine

What space are you filling in the Pittsburgh Creative Industry? I will work to increase communication between the corporate sector and arts community. My intention is to create unique opportunities that expand corporate outreach and visibility through artists and the arts.

-Ashley Cecil, Artist


Why Pittsburgh? Having moved here in 2011 from London, I tried to make my career as an artist not specific to Pittsburgh. Becoming a mother in 2013 changed that. Participating in artist residencies was a goal of mine, but since most traditional residency programs are not conducive to being a parent, I had to figure out a way to do it close to home. It turns out that Pittsburgh is the perfect place for a flora and fauna painter to work, and so I created my own artist residencies at institutions such as the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. I haven’t looked back (or elsewhere since). This is exactly where I’m meant to be.

What space are you filling in the Pittsburgh Creative Industry? Art that communicates scientific concepts about our natural world (although I’m certainly not the only one in Pittsburgh working in the intersection of art and science). Working with and around scientists during my residencies has given me a seemingly endless amount of content to work from. A couple of the broader themes I’ve been draw to include how our swelling human population impacts the ecosystems we depend on, and drawing parallels between trends in nature and our own behavior. In some cases, my artwork can be translated into products that tangibly address these topics. For example, patterns fabricated as bird-safe window films that mitigate bird-window collisions.

-Lori Hepner, Artist

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Why Pittsburgh? I decided to start my studio in Pittsburgh primarily because the real estate market was affordable as I was starting my career as a visual artist. In Pittsburgh, I was able to buy property at the age of 26. I rooted myself into Brighton Heights, a somewhat hidden city neighborhood on the Northside. I can be downtown in 7 minutes which is great when it’s time for the Gallery Crawl!

What space are you filling in the Pittsburgh Creative Industry? My niche here is that of a hybrid digital artist where I am connecting high tech, but ephemeral mediums, computer programmed light, with the bodily actions that it takes to move myself through fragile landscapes of the world. Pittsburgh is now a hot spot for societal digital innovation (robots & driverless cars) and I can create my work within a mini-future that will exist here first. It’s my hope to pair artistic work alongside some of these innovations and to have some visual influence in these evolving landscapes.

-Gina Mazzotta, Milliner


Why Pittsburgh? I was working for Saks Fifth Avenue before they closed their doors in March 2012. While working for Saks, I learned about the clientele that attended the annual Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Hat Luncheon and that every spring, we (as visual merchandisers) put an emphasis on the hat collection and sold through it fairly quickly. When Saks closed, those women were clueless on where to get a hat for their spring luncheons and events. I saw it as an opportunity to build a clientele, and through keeping contact with my co-workers who moved on to other retail positions, I was able to do just that. Pittsburgh is also a niche market for custom hats. I looked at it as a possibility to stand out and become well-known in a smaller city as opposed to being one of hundreds competing in a bigger city like NYC.

What space are you filling in the Pittsburgh Creative Industry? That I know of, I am only one of two active milliners in the city. I am designing and creating custom made hats and headwear that are essentially pieces of art and it’s not something that is readily available in Pittsburgh.  

-Heather and Dave Wechter, tribepool


Why Pittsburgh? Dave and I have lived in many cities and have happily chosen Pittsburgh as our home. The Pittsburgh community has made working to create tribepool an incredibly positive experience.  We are in a town with world class universities which have provided us not only the option of staffing tribepool with educated talent, but also a community of educated and diverse party of mentors. Compared to other cities, Pittsburgh has a reasonable cost of living that allows us to focus our resources on developing tribepool, and not depleting our savings. Another great attribute is how Pittsburghers roots for one another.  Even when we compete with others for grants and funding, we cheer for those Pittsburgh companies and individuals that are making a positive impact. We have found that others in Pittsburgh's creative industries are willing to connect with us and offer help, advice, and time.

For many years, Pittsburgh provided a wonderful environment in which to raise our family. Through the years of our involvement in this community, we have developed an understanding of the merits and the challenges of Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh region is a host to many amazing organizations and events but, unfortunately, our mass transportation system is fractured and not able to support transportation needs of our community. Our hope is that tribepool will provide better access to our museums programs, concert events, sporting events, and our community events.

This appreciation motivates us in our creation of tribepool.  We love Pittsburgh for the culture, diversity, friendliness, comfort, pride, and opportunities it offers. Pittsburgh is perfect for us!

What space are you filling in the Pittsburgh Creative Industry? We are so grateful to the Pittsburgh Technology Council for including us in this year's  Co-CREATE Program. Participating in the program has included multiple opportunities to consider creative approaches to modeling our carpooling platform. The rapport we have been able to build with our fellow Co-CREATORS, and the access to a diverse group of mentors has helped us to consider multiple creative means of delivering tribepool's service options.

-Monica Yope, Pop Craft


Why Pittsburgh?Pittsburgh is an exciting place to be.  I did grow up here (South Hills), went to Pitt for college, and stayed for work and now to start my business, Pop Craft.  So, seeing where this city has come from makes it even more apparent that all of the changes it’s going through are special, and I want to be able to contribute to positive change in my city.  

 Pittsburgh has a strong identity that is a part of me, as it is with every other Pittsburgher.  We have traditions rooted in different cultural backgrounds that cause us to consume pierogis in mass, and bake hundreds of cookies for weddings.  We have a museum dedicated to Pop Art.  We are a city of do-ers who use their hands to make things.  We have pride in our blue collar heritage.  We are tough but friendly, educated but down to earth, and have uncommon passions for common things like football and ketchup.  Our strong identity is the foundation on which we are able to welcome the changes that will keep building our city, like growth in industries like tech and health care.

 In summary, I love this town and want to contribute to making it better however I can, but especially through making it a more creative and enjoyable place to live.

What space are you filling in the Pittsburgh Creative Industry? Pop Craft is a pop-up craft workshop business where you can get creative at a bar, event, or private craft party.  Pop Craft workshops are held friendly locations like bars so people feel comfortable being creative, and can have a great experience making things.  When people have a reason to gather as a group, Pop Craft parties make their time together more memorable.  Many people like to make things, but life gets in the way preventing them from being creating.  Pop Craft removes the barriers, give you a ton of encouragement, inspiration, quality materials, and relaxed settings to get your creativity on.  Pop Craft is here to give Pittsburghers with a creative itch a way to express themselves in fun social settings.

 Co-CREATORs will be at the festival from noon-9pm on June 1, at the August Wilson Center, which is free and open to the public without tickets from noon-5pm. See createfestival.org for full details.

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