Monday, July 27, 2009

Cultural Entrepreneurs

The extent of my Pittsburgh residential experience is the latter half of 1997. I was a twentysomething and I remember the twentysomething scene being better than I expected. For reasons not worth sharing, I was a peripheral member of the young filmmakers community. Pittsburgh wasn't THE place to be, but it served as a niche location. Even then, I could sense the rumblings of something bigger in the works.

Two years ago, Adam Atkinson, a high school creative writing teacher, was driving on the interstate to his job in Midland, engaging with his colleague Scott Andrew in what he called a bit of "gap analysis."

"We would talk and talk and talk about what we wanted Pittsburgh to be for us, looking around to see what isn't there and what could be there," said Mr. Atkinson, an exuberant 26-year-old graduate of Carnegie Mellon University who, in addition to his teaching job, moonlights as a comic with the Irony City Improv Troupe.

"We love it here and we're young. I'm a writer and Scott's an artist, and there are so many great independent small presses here, but there's no easy entry point for any of us to know about each other."

So Mr. Atkinson and Mr. Andrew decided to make one: Open Thread (, which they describe as a kind of clearinghouse/aggregator/gathering point for the region's thriving, if Balkanized, arts and literary scene.
You have people committed enough to a place, anything can happen. Even in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh?

Generally, critical mass is lacking. Rust Belt cities have to overcome the legacy of the Balkanized political geography. It starts with a clear vision and the energy of one or two young adults. And presto, Pittsburgh is the next Minneapolis.

No comments: