Archive for July, 2009


Focus your art. Register for fall.

July 29, 2009


We don’t just show great independent and foreign films — our School of Film, Photography and Digital Media offers one of the most comprehensive artistic and professional media arts curricula in the United States.

We are an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), offering classes to university students and the general public. Because they are part of a fine arts program, all classes stress aesthetics and the use of techniques to create polished works of art.

Not currently enrolled in college? Register during August and save $40 on any course. Register online or by phone today. Call for a tour of our great facility, anytime. Photo by Richard Kelly.

Pittsburgh Filmmakers School of Film, Photography and Digital Media
477 Melwood Ave, Pgh 15213 / 412-681-5449


Arts Profile: Ryan Freytag Talks About Arts Advocacy

July 23, 2009

I’m sure by now all of you reading this are familiar with the fight over arts budgeting in Harrisburg. Just in case you aren’t, this week we spoke to Ryan Freytag, the Manager of Cultural Policy and Research for the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council. GPAC (and Ryan) have been incredibly involved in fighting for arts funding for Pennsylvania.

Ryan followed an interesting path to get to his position at GPAC. He did his undergraduate degree here in Pittsburgh at Carnegie Mellon, in Art.

One of Ryan's more recent collages.

One of Ryan's more recent collages.

Although he still enjoys producing work, his time at CMU made him realize how often “artists got the short end of the stick and didn’t know how to protect themselves legally.” He was inspired to look into going to law school, and earned his JD from University of Pittsburgh. Through a series of internships with local organizations, like the Cultural Trust, he “fell in love with working with the arts in non-profits” and applied to the office manager at the recently founded Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council. By the time they got his resume, the position had been already been filled, so he interviewed for a position in Development and Membership. From there, he moved into cultural policy, which is his current focus.

We asked him to tell us a little bit about what GPAC did in his own words, and he said “everything but put on art.” In addition to fighting for arts funding and raising awareness about the importance of art in the local community, they connect artists and arts groups with legal and business volunteers, regrant money, and run a ticketing service. They also have a partnership with the City of Pittsburgh through their Office of Public Art (funded by the Heinz Endowment), which helps with city planning and creating and preserving public art spaces. Current projects include a behind the scenes look at G20 for members, so stay tuned for info on that.

Ryan also gave us the lowdown on the current budget in Harrisburg. In short, the state House and Senate can’t agree on the budget to pass- the current Senate budget does not include funding for “non-essential” programs, like the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. The House budget does. Yesterday, the House voted to nonconcur with the Senate budget, which means it will go into conference committee, a place where Representatives and Senators will reach a final compromise on what is and isn’t in the budget. The current budget has been mostly split along party lines, with Democrats voting with Governor Rendell to keep funding, and Republicans slashing “non-essential” programs, like cultural funding.

Rally for arts funding in Harrisburg last week, partially organized by GPAC

Rally for arts funding in Harrisburg last week, partially organized by GPAC

What you may not know about the budget fight is that if the proposed arts-less budget goes through, Pennsylvania artists will no longer be able to receive national funding as well. The National Endowment for the Arts distributes money through the state arts council, and if it goes away, so does any chance of deserving PA artists getting federal grants. We would be the only state in the entire country without a arts agency. In short, this budget cut has real implications for every Pennsylvanian. Arts organizations would suffer setbacks from having to cutup to 30% of their staff to disappearing overnight.

What you should do is keep up the arts advocacy. As Ryan said, it’s “amazing how many people are now involved, and how much this brought people together.” However, what he stressed to us is that artists and organizations always need people who are willing to speak about how important arts are to their lives. Just because the budget fight is almost over doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still call your representative, stop by their office or invite them to your new opening. The arts always need defending, so as he said, “stay involved.”

For more info on the budget and for updates, you can go to the GPAC website ( You can also follow them on twitter at PGHArtsCouncil. You can follow Ryan at stormy7.


Arts Profile: Patty Burk

July 17, 2009

This week, we spoke to Patty Burk, the Vice President of Housing and Economic Development at the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP). She’s been with the PDP since 2001, and is responsible for the coordination of the Downtown Living Initiative in addition to being an avid theatergoer and supporter of the arts. She first became involved with the PDP as part of an initiative to focus more on the housing market downtown. Previously, she worked in site acquisitions and development, and lived in Columbus, Ohio.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, it is responsible for a lot of the great development in the “Golden Triangle” (bounded by the two rivers and I-579). Their incentive is, as Patty put it “making downtown a better place to live, work and play.” Most of their initiatives center on keeping downtown clean and safe, as well as keeping the office market vibrant and revitalizing Pittsburgh’s downtown treasures, such as Market Square. In 1997, the PDP created a Business Improvement District, which allows property owners to put money towards the general marketing and upkeep of the area.

Patty has become is a huge proponent of downtown housing, and puts her money where her mouth is, as she’s lived there for two years. Her favorite things about it are the lack of a commute to work, and the opportunities it allows for her and her four year old son, who she walks to school. As she put it, “you are close to all the action, you can just walk out your door and eat or go to the theater.” She’s also a big fan of cultural landmarks like Katz Plaza.

The PDP also has done extensive work with the local arts community- especially with Filmmakers. The Harris theater, located in the heart of downtown is what they consider a resident amenity, and they co-sponsor films at the theater every few months. Also, they routinely sponsor a gallery for the fall gallery crawl. As if that wasn’t enough, Brian Holderman, a local artist, did some amazing sidewalk paintings for them as part of their Downtown Living Exposed campaign. Each painting highlighted some of the unique characteristics of downtown living, and was created outside various residential buildings in the Golden Triangle.

Brian Holderman creates sidewalk art.

Brian Holderman creates sidewalk art.

But back to Patty. When we asked her about some of her favorite things about downtown, she spoke about the great urban view of “wrought iron and brick buildings” that she has from her apartment balcony. She also talked up kayaking on the Pittsburgh rivers with her son, playing in the fountains and being able to walk to the grocery store and the farmers market, and last but most certainly not least, heading down to Market Square to sit in the park and get work done. Sounds like a pretty convincing ad for downtown living to me.

She also enjoys seeing movies at the Harris, having recently joined a group of fellow downtowners to see Anvil! Primarily, she goes to the movies to be entertained, and is looking forward to seeing O’Horten and Objectified later this summer. A little different than her all time favorite of Groundhog Day, but whatever works.

Currently, Patty is working on a resident newsletter/blog for downtown residents called “Vertical Life,” which should be getting started in August. Since it plans to include reviews for the Harris, you can bet we’ll be reading it! Also, possible upcoming projects include an no leash dog park and new exciting programming for Market Square. For more information on about the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, you can visit their website at, follow them on twitter at DowntownPitt or check them out on Facebook. Oh, the wonders of modern social networking.


Art Profile: Dylan Vitone

July 13, 2009

This week we are highlighting Pittsburgh Filmmakers Adjunct Professor Dylan Vitone, an exceptional photographer who has shown work all over the country, and is about to show some work in the upcoming Cultural Trust Gallery Crawl on Friday, July 17th.

Dylan grew up in Austin, Texas, a world away from Pittsburgh. He took a photo class at Saint Edwards University in photography, and it was pretty much love at first sight. From there he went on to Boston, where he used photography to document inner city life from many different angles. He creates incredible black and white panoramic photographs that are rich with activity and interesting composition. No matter how long you look at them, you keep on discovering new things. Their size and scope make you feel as if you’re at the very street corner in the photo. The people in his photographs look placed, perhaps because they are looking at the camera so directly, but somehow they also look candid. Dylan said he achieves this by just telling his subjects to look at him, but not to smile. He doesn’t place people.
We owe Dylan’s presence in Pittsburgh to his wife. In a true example of marital compromise, they made a deal that she would go where he wanted to study for two years, and then…he was at her mercy for two. So he picked Boston, and then she picked Pittsburgh, which Dylan was not initially that excited about. But after being here for a few years he has come to appreciate the decision. When we asked him if he thought Pittsburgh was a good place to live and work as an artist he first responded with, “It’s a very good community, and what really matters is your ability to pay the bills.” He is referring to the low cost of living here, which means that as an artist you don’t need to spend as much time in your place of work, which frees you up to work on your art. Even though he does express mad love for his places of work, as a professor at both Carnegie Mellon University and Filmmakers, he says he sincerely loves “the energy in the classroom.”
So whats coming next for Dylan? Right now he plans to remain in Pittsburgh. He is being touted as the emerging artist of the year at the Center for the Arts in the fall, where he’ll show work he did in Miami. He’s also getting a Heinz Endowment grant to document downtown Pittsburgh over a two year period. He’s entering his second year of that project now. Stay tuned for upcoming showings and for now come get a sample of his work at 937 Liberty Avenue during the Cultural District Gallery Crawl on Friday, July 17th from 5:30 to 9:00pm . Did we mention that the gallery crawl is FREE?

Can’t make it to the gallery crawl next Friday? Check out Dylan’s work online:


Filmmakers’ Cafe in the News

July 9, 2009

Dave Harris!

Food meets film at Cafe Obscura:

“Mr. Harris runs Dave’s Cafe Obscura out of the Filmmakers building at 477 Melwood Ave., in a corner of the main lobby. Although quite small, the cafe has some devoted followers …”

Read this great feature at


Arts Profile: Kim Chestney Harvey

July 2, 2009

This week, we’re profiling Pittsburgh notable Kim Chestney Harvey, the Director of the Art and Technology Initiative for the Pittsburgh Technology Council.

Kim got her start as good old fashioned artist, with a background in oil painting. She moved into graphic design and became involved with the Pittsburgh Technology Council as the creative director of their magazine. She conceived the initial idea for the Art + Technology Initiative, and with President Audrey Russo’s backing, made it an essential part of the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s mission.

As she put it, “The Art + Technology Initiative supports regional artists, culture and commerce, and works to enhance the cultural tapestry of Pittsburgh.” One of Kim’s first efforts was to increase the amount of local art exhibited in businesses and workspaces, which was the inspiration behind the 15 Minutes Gallery (named after the famous Warholian phrase). Since last year, the Pittsburgh Technology Council has sold over 4000 dollars worth of local art by using their headquarters to advertise and exhibit artists.

Kim also organizes and hosts the Annual Art + Technology exhibition (going on now at the Technology Council’s 15 Minutes Gallery) which works to introduce businesses to local artists of all mediums. This year, they partnered with the Carnegie Mellon CREATE (Community Robotics, Education and Technology Empowerment) Labs to work on the BurghBot Project, what she calls “a next generation manifestation of robots, something you’ve never seen before.” This intersection of art and technology had adult artists learning new techniques by programming and coding robots, and featured primarily artists from the Pittsburgh area.

Kim Chestney Harvey with CREATE Labs' Ian Ingram
Kim with CREATE Labs’ Ian Ingram.

When asked if she found forging connections between businesses and artists challenging, she replied that “It’s not that challenging, sometimes business people don’t get how art is relevant- but they realize that there isn’t going to be business in city without a strong art culture.” The Art + Technology Initiative is definitely helping to make connecting Pittsburgh’s disparate interests easier.

Finally, we asked her about her personal tastes in art and, of course, movies. She enjoys traditional art, but feels that “new technology can add to the aesthetic experience” and anything that “creates a compelling object” is worth looking at. She also enjoyed The Piano Story which showed at the opening for the annual exhibition. As she put it, “Film is like having an opportunity to merge art and music and the dimension of time, an extra way to reach out to people and share the human condition.” She’s looking forward to the upcoming gallery crawl films, and Séraphine, showing at Regent Square at the end of July.

For more information about the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s Art + Technology Initiative, you can visit their website. You can also see the Annual Art + Technology Exhibition through August at the 15 Minutes Gallery. Kim can be followed on Twitter at KimChestney.

If you know of any companies doing an excellent job at combining arts and technology, the 2009 Tech 50 Awards are looking for nominations until July 9th.