enjoy unique local art? get to know Kurt Shaw’s downtown Pittsburgh gallery

Living downtown, Jess and I have gotten to know Kurt Shaw – owner of Liberty Avenue’s Shaw Galleries. His shop is one of my favorite places in downtown for Pittsburgh history and local cool art. I’ve recently purchased an old Pittsburgh deed from 1869 and a panoramic painting that Mr. Shaw found in 84, PA.
You can occasionally see him on KDKA’s Pittsburgh’s Hidden Treasures as an antique appraiser.
He was kind enough to do a brief email interview with me.
Shaw Galleries Pittsburgh
In a recent article, you state your gallery is “another way to create.” What are your thoughts on the current “creator’s culture” in the city?
Pittsburgh has changed tremendously for creatives since I started my career here in 1989. There is a lot more opportunity and exhibition space available to visual artists. And the public is much more receptive to seeing and experiencing art. And there are still pockets in communities and places where you can develop and grow an idea or project economically, whether it is related to the arts, business or both.What did you think when your photos of the city became so popular? Did it seem you tapped into the Pittsburgh pride that is so evident now?I honestly didn’t expect them to become as popular as they did. It was just something I did for fun, reaching out to a larger audience through social networking. Of course, it helped that I had 5,000 Facebook friends. When the number of “likes” started to grow into the hundreds, I realized I was on to something.What kind of feedback do you hear from non-Pittsburghers that visit your gallery?Most are happy to find a store unlike anything else in Downtown Pittsburgh. Especially Europeans and the well-traveled, because our shop is a lot like the antique print and map shops that can be found throughout England and Scotland.

What’s the most unique piece you’ve found locally?

Probably Middleton’s map of Braddock’s Road from 1847, which details General Edward Braddock’s (1695-1755) military route from Cumberland, MD, to Braddock, PA, where he died and was first buried. We sold it within three weeks of procuring it.

What would be your first piece of advice to a young Pittsburgh artist?

Work as many angles of your talents and abilities as you possibly can. When I started, Pittsburgh was a much more difficult place to make a living as an artist. So, I drew cartoons for ad agencies and design firms, did illustrations for newspapers and magazines, and even drew caricature portraits at kid’s Birthday parties. Being diversified was the key to making sure I could make a living as an artist.What is the biggest change in the city you’ve witnessed over the last 25 years?
It’s been amazing to see how much attention Pittsburgh has garnered recently on not only a national, but international scale. This can only bode well for the future. Having been in business since 2007, I for one have seen an uptick in people from other countries traveling here for various reasons. We have to pay attention to this trend, as those numbers will likely grow. And we want to make sure Pittsburgh is an interesting and fun place to visit for those people. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy having my unique business located Downtown. I feel in my own way I am adding texture to the experience of our Downtown. I think every Pittsburgher should have an interest in making our city a compelling, fun and interesting place.
Here is the gallery’s website.
Here is the Facebook page.

“We need to see the entire city out” when the team takes the playoffs in Pittsburgh in March

People always ask why a sports town like ours doesn’t have a professional basketball team. They don’t always know that Pittsburgh has experimented with semi-professional basketball in the past.

The Pittsburgh Pipers played in the original American Basketball Association and eventually morphed into the Condors…
The Pittsburgh Piranhas played in the Continental Basketball Association…
The Pittsburgh Xplosion also played in the Continental Basketball Association…

We now have the Steel City Yellow Jackets of the current American Basketball Association. The Yellow Jackets’ owner – local hip hop mogul Tjuan Benefactor –  was kind enough to do a brief interview with me. I wanted to talk with him since since they play at the Community College of Allegheny County Campus in Pittsburgh’s North Side and are getting ready for the playoffs the weekend of March 13,14 and 15.

courtesy of catchthebuzz.net

courtesy of catchthebuzz.net

How did you become part owner of the Yellow Jackets?

I was contact by the owner of one of the California teams to go out there and perform at halftime. At that point I didn’t even know the ABA was around any longer but I did remember the stock footage from the 70s. I asked the owner of that team what he had to do to own a team. At that point he connected me with the league co-founder and then CEO Joe Newman and here we are.

What did you feel like being part owner of the town’s only basketball team?

I love my city, I love basketball and I love helping others pursue their dreams.

How did you recruit?

We recruited through a series of preseason tryouts, We also recruited a couple players like Lamar Castille and Antonio Reddic. It’s been really important for us to recruit local talent.

Has the ABA treated you well?

Yes very much so, they have given us a solid set of tools to work with, they gave us a couple ESPN3 games this year, we actually had the most ESPN3 games of first year expansion teams and solid refs to call the games. The ABA have also booked me to perform in Vegas at the Orleans Hotel & Casino which I did May 31st 2014, they also booked me to perform on ESPN3 halftime shows and varies other ABA halftime shows.

What kind of reaction did you get at the start?

The reaction has been mixed from the start. There’s a good bit of people who have given a chance from day one and there’s been a good bit of people who are right with the stigma previous ABA teams in Pittsburgh have created. The season opener was packed, the fans where live, the national anthem singer Angee Gonzalez was amazing, the halftime performer Yung Bru rocked the crowd, the game was great and we won.

Even though the news reports say the crowd isn’t there, how proud does it make you feel to have this kind of quality team?

It feels great to know our staff has a great eye for talent and that Pittsburgh truly has some of the best basketball players in the country.

If you could tell one thing to the city, what would it be?

You’ve been missing out, the talent levels crazy and every game is exciting if you see us play you will be proud of your city’s basketball team. #CatchTheBuzz

Congratulations on hosting the playoffs! What kind of response do you need for them to be financially successful?

Thank you!! We need to see the entire city out when our Steel City Yellow Jackets take the court for the most part, other than when we are on the court we need about 100 in attendance per game. There will be 2-3 games a day so we will have all day passes, all weekend playoff passes & tickets for individual games available.

NOTE: the playoffs will be March 13, 14 and 15

Make sure to follow them on:

the web



make sure to follow their owner – Tjuan Benafactor on Twitter here.

the Carlyle – world class luxury from the former Wall Street of Pittsburgh

Jess and I were recently treated to a tour of the building that sparked Pittsburgh’s downtown living boom.

The Carlyle was bought by the EV Bishoff Company in 1992 while it was accumulating properties in other cities like Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati. Mr. David Bishoff’s company – which has local roots dating back to the 1800s – understood the potential of the formerly high flying financial district.

photo courtesy of Wikipedia

photo courtesy of Wikipedia

The Carlyle – formerly the Union National Bank Building – at the corner of 4th Ave and Wood Street houses 61 upscale condominiums in a setting that one would normally find in Manhattan.The district used to be the “Wall Street of Pittsburgh” which makes it absolutely fascinating for me. According to this PDF of a Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation downtown walking tour:

“One of 17 National Register Districts in the city, Fourth Avenue showcases

buildings designed by more than a dozen distinguished architects in styles

ranging from Greek Revival to Post Modern, constructed between 1836 and 1984.”

What makes it truly unique is that downtown Pittsburgh is currently the destination of choice for many young professionals – I count at least 11 luxury apartment buildings in the urban core. This has, in turn, made downtown the center of a burgeoning restaurant scene that accompanies the famous Cultural District. In what other major American city can someone purchase luxury like this, walk out their front door and be at a trendy restaurant and/or a show within a ten minute walk? Nowhere. As the developer of the building – Mr. David Bishoff –  told me in an interview, “The downtown core is the best example of a downtown neighborhood I’ve ever seen.”

Our tour began by meeting the building’s RE/MAX agent Lauren Klein in the lobby of the building. Even though it was a chilly, rainy Sunday she greeted us enthusiastically and mentioned she was going to take us up to the 6,000 square foot penthouse for a tour. First, though, we’d have to stop in the sales office on the 20th floor.

This is the doorway to the Carlyle's lobby. photo courtesy of the Director of Sales, MaryKay Zombeck.

This is the doorway to the Carlyle’s lobby. Photo courtesy of the Director of Sales, MaryKay Zombeck.

Here is the ground floor of the Carlyle. Just look at the beauty and the history in the building. Photo courtesy of MaryKay Zombeck.

Here is the ground floor of the Carlyle. Just look at the beauty and the history in the building. This is available for a retail lease. Photo courtesy of MaryKay Zombeck.

Lobby photo courtesy RE/MAX listing information

Lobby photo courtesy RE/MAX listing information

We saw the Park Avenue, Grand, Ambassador, Townhouse (!!) and Penthouse floor plans and absolutely loved each. The tons of space, quality furnishings and quiet floors made us feel like a visiting king and queen. There is a parking facility, cinema room, workout room, common room and a 4th floor rooftop terrace that also works as a pet walking area.

Here is an example of the space available with the floor plans. This is an Ambassador. Notice the curved wall and windows.

Here is an example of the spacial floor plans. This is an Ambassador. Notice the curved wall and windows at the far end.

As we walked from floor to floor, it quickly became apparent that Mr. Bishoff wanted to showcase the history in the building by transforming each floor into a work of art. Long before the tour ended, my wife was talking about our move in timeline.

You can see the floor plans and their availability at the Carlyle’s website. It’s even possible to invest in a condominium at the Carlyle and be a landlord in the building! Call the Director of Sales – MaryKay Zombeck – with any general questions at 412.235.6030.

Make sure to call Lauren Klein for specific interest in units 1701, 1902, 1603, 1403 & The Penthouse. Here is her personal website – the Pittsburgh Property Diva.

Now back to the fantastic views and interior photos:

How AWESOME would it be to see this every day

How AWESOME would it be to see this every day

I have always looked up at the Arrott Building...love the intricate work at the top levels!

I have always looked up at the Arrott Building…love the intricate work at the top levels!

One more view from the Carlyle of the beautiful Arrott Building...

One more view from the Carlyle of the beautiful Arrott Building…

This is one of my favorite picture from the tour...

This is one of my favorite picture from the tour…

Love this view of the new PNC Building!

Love this view of the new PNC Building!

I would never get tired of seeing this every day!

I would never get tired of seeing this every day!

The Penthouse was an experience all in itself. Here is a description of the floor directly from the Carlyle’s site:

“The PENTHOUSE of The Carlyle offers beautiful sweeping views of the City of Pittsburgh. Included in the 6,000 square foot Penthouse offering is the creation of a magnificent sun room located on the mezzanine level, perfect for your entertaining needs. Entertain in a truly one of a kind Pittsburgh penthouse while overlooking both rivers and the majestic Pittsburgh skyline. Included in the Penthouse offering is:

  • Two parking spaces
  • Electronic card key access from building lobby
  • Flooring allowance of $15,000
  • Sunroom Allowance of $20,000
  • Plumbing to accommodate one kitchen, four bathrooms and the laundry room
  • Plumbing fixture package for four bathrooms
  • Mezzanine and stairway
  • HVAC units and related ductwork
  • A second stairwell
  • Sprinkler system
  • Smoke alarm system
  • Kitchen package including granite countertops”
Photo courtesy of MaryKay Zombeck - Carlyle Director of Sales

Penthouse view photo courtesy of MaryKay Zombeck – Carlyle Director of Sales

Imagine having all this space available to you.

Here is the same area in the Penthouse from another angle. Photo courtesy MaryKay Zombeck

Here is the same area in the Penthouse from another angle. Photo courtesy MaryKay Zombeck

This view speaks for itself. This would be the ultimate in downtown Pittsburgh living

While Ms. Klein was giving us the tour of the building, her pride in the opportunity and the building was evident. Being able to showcase a space that like this – one that is unique in the country – would be a dream job.

With the expansion of Point Park University, the Carlyle (and Mr. Bishoff’s continued investment in his family’s hometown) and countless other residential investments going up downtown is ripe for a boom that it hasn’t seen in decades. It will lead to a continued expansion of the tax base, more civic services, an improved school district and ultimately a continued flight *to* Pittsburgh.

The Carlyle has been a sign of Pittsburgh’s renaissance and will be a benchmark of its success the further the 70s and 80s steel industry collapse moves into the rear view mirror.


A HUGE thank you to each person listed below for their time spent with me while I wrote this blog post:

Thank you to Mr. David Bishoff of E.V. Bishoff Company. Here is his company’s website.

Thank you to RE/MAX agent Lauren Klein. Make sure to stop by her website here.

Thank you to the Carlyle’s Director of Sales, MaryKay Zombeck. If you have any questions related to living in the building, call her at 412-350-8050.

my first downtown Pittsburgh based contest – you could win $50 to use at Boutique La Passerelle

UPDATE 2-13-2015: The ladies from  Boutique La Passerelle in downtown have been kind enough to work with me on something I’ve been wanting to do for a while – a downtown cell phone photo contest. Take a cool picture with your phone and tag the @thejunctionman and @bout_passerelle on Twitter and you could win $50 to use in the store! They’re going to be stocking up with brand new spring items from Europe soon so let’s show some downtown Pittsburgh love!

Check out my first post about the store here.

Here is the store’s website.

undiscovered downtown Pittsburgh fashion boutique

boutique la passerelle sign
Jess and I recently discovered her new obsession: Boutique La Passerelle in downtown Pittsburgh. You can visit their site here. It’s a unique boutique that sells reasonably priced one of a kind high fashion items only available in Europe. Here is my wife wearing a dress that no other boutique in the country has:
Jess wearing a one of a kind dress she bought at Boutique La Passerelle in downtown Pittsburgh

jess modeling skirt pittsburgh Jess wearing a one of a kind skirt she bought at Boutique La Passerelle

The owner of the shop – Adele Morelli – was recently kind enough to do an interview with me:
Tell me about yourself…how long have you been in Pittsburgh? How long have you had an interest in fashion?
I am a Pittsburgh native, born and raised in Shaler.  I moved downtown in 1999 and lived there for 15 years.  I recently moved back to the ‘burbs to live with my partner and his kids.  I’ve had an interest in fashion since I was a little girl.  My mom worked in retail and would take me shopping to find good deals with her discount and coupons.  I learned to appreciate fashion, and calculate discounts, at an early age.
Tell me about the first time you went into the shop.
The first time I went into the boutique was shortly after it opened in 2010.  I read an article in the Post-Gazette about this fabulous boutique in downtown Pittsburgh with European fashion at reasonable prices.  I fell in love with the clothing and made fast friends with the owner and manager.
Now, tell me about your purchase of the shop and the history you inherited.
The original owner Cidalia Duarte had boutiques in Portugal and brought the idea with her when she moved to the U.S.  She traveled to Portugal twice a year and imported clothing from Portugal, Spain, France and Italy to ensure that BLP carried lines found no where else in the U.S.
I like to patronize and support small businesses and BLP was my go-to shop for clothing – most of my wardrobe was from here.  Cidalia and I were both at a crossroad in our lives in 2013, and when I found out she was selling the boutique to take a different path, I jumped on the chance to buy it.  Cidalia trained me and Anna (manager) very well – she took me to Portugal for two weeks and both of us to New York twice to show us the ropes.  When Cidalia finally left to move to Florida, I knew we would be able to continue the model she created.
How proud are you to be the only shop in the area (isn’t it the country) to have the fashion line you were telling us about?
I’m very proud to carry unique pieces found no where else in the States because it’s really what sets BLP apart from other boutiques – that and the fact we have limited sizing so our clients feel as unique as the pieces they’re wearing.
What do you hear from people that come into your shop for the first time? What would you like Pittsburgh to know about the shop in general?

Most first-time clients will ask if BLP just opened and are always surprised to find out the shop has been here since 2010.  A lot of folks also comment on how cool the space is and how good it smells.

I’d like everyone to know that when you shop at BLP, you get personal attention (if you want it) and we will be honest about how you look in our clothing.  After all, our clients represent us when they go out in our pieces so we want them to look awesome.  And because of our limited sizing, you won’t see yourself coming and going.
What would you like to see happen on Wood Street and in downtown?
I’d like to see downtown return to the shopping destination it was when I was little girl.  My mom and I would take the bus downtown, have lunch and spend the day shopping.  I have great memories of those trips and would like to see it happen again.
I think Wood Street is already happening!  Hello Bistro, Katie’s Kandy, Point Park University and the soon-to-be PNC tower have Wood Street abuzz with activity.  Once the construction is done, everyone will want to visit Wood Street.  Of course, more retail couldn’t hurt.
You can see the owner and manager wearing any of the items available in the shop via their social media profiles:
Here is their Facebook page.
Here is their Twitter page.
Here is their Instagram page.
UPDATE 2-13-2015: The ladies from the boutique have been kind enough to work with me on something I’ve been wanting to do for a while – a downtown cell phone photo contest. Take a cool picture with your phone and tag the @thejunctionman and @bout_paserrelle on Twitter and you could win $50! They’re going to be stocking up with brand new spring items soon so let’s show some downtown Pittsburgh love!

I LOVE this: the downtown Pittsburgh concert series at SPACE Gallery is back!



2015 CONCERT SERIES beginning February 27

SPACE | 812 Liberty Avenue

Pittsburgh, PA—The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust announces its 2015 Music SPACE concert series lineup through May 2015. These monthly all-ages performances take place the last Friday of each month and showcase downtown Pittsburgh and its Cultural District through inviting community members to experience music after hours in a visual art gallery. Tickets are $5 at the door, and doors open at 8 p.m., with music beginning at 8:30 p.m., unless otherwise noted. All concerts feature Pittsburgh-based artists and take place at SPACE gallery, 812 Liberty Avenue. Music SPACE is organized by Wood Street Galleries Curatorial Assistant Amy Staggs and Andy Mulkerin, best known for his years of work as Pittsburgh City Paper’s Music Editor.

Live performances by Roger Harvey and Paul Luc kick-off the 2015 Music SPACE series Friday, February 27.

“Any opportunity to merge visual arts and music is exciting to me,” says musician Roger Harvey. “Being a part of the Music SPACE series just makes sense. It’s so cool to see people in our community coming together to curate events that are more dynamic than your standard rock show or art opening. Sometimes it just takes a little bit to make something that’s really special.”


February 27: Roger Harvey and Paul Luc

March 27: Majeure and RIVKA

April 24: The Early Mays and Ben Shannon

May 29: The Garment District and Butterbirds

Friday, February 27

Born in Pennsylvania, Roger Harvey began songwriting in his early 20s as Dandelion Snow, while laying down new roots in Kings County, Brooklyn. Returning to his home state in 2010 to form the punk act White Wives, he quickly began collecting new material. After befriending producer/multi-instrumentalist J. Vega in 2012, the two holed up for more than a year in Vega’s The Wilderness Recording Studio to piece together their album Twelve Houses, with the help of nearly a dozen friends and local music makers. The album is a case study on nostalgia, perspective, and transformation, and it veers effortlessly from guitar rock to psychedelia.

Paul Luc is a Pittsburgh-based folk/Americana songwriter who is currently supporting his new release Tried & True. He began to pursue music fulltime in 2012 and has toured the East Coast and supported national acts like Rhett Miller (Old 97s), Jenny Owen Youngs, and Ivan & Alyosha. ​His respect for the history of the American troubadour and belief in the grassroots do-it-yourself approach to music are evident in his work.

Friday, March 27

Majeure is the alter ego of A.E. Paterra, one-half of the progressive krautrock duo Zombi. More dance-oriented than Zombi, Majeure combines the dark Moog-driven film scores of composer Vangelis with the relentless drive of the band Can and the transcendent minimalism of Steve Reich and Philip Glass. The mix of live and electronic rhythms is the heart and soul of Majeure’s music, which has a way of making time seem to either speed up or stop entirely.

Pittsburgh-based electronic band RIVKA features Reggie Wilkins and Rebecca Dulberg, who met while attending the University of Pittsburgh. The duo released two digital albums, in 2011 and 2013.

Friday, April 24

Folk music group The Early Mays is comprised of Judith Avers, Emily Pinkerton, and Ellen Gozion. The group’s love of American folk tradition is conveyed through three-part singing with fiddle, banjo, and guitar, bringing the audience Appalachian-inspired folk songs built on deep country sensibilities, ballad singing, and old-time sound. Avers was among the winners of the national Woody Guthrie Songwriting Competition, Pinkerton took third place in fiddle at the West Virginia State Folk Festival, and Gozion was an American Music Abroad finalist with the U.S. State Department.

Ben Shannon is a writer who scours the current singer/songwriter repertoire and illuminates the cracks and crevices that have not yet been sung. His dynamic guitar work in various open tunings and his strong vocals provide a fine setting for his polished and layered lyrical content. Shannon was a showcasing finalist in New York’s 2010 SongCircle competition. He released a self-titled EP that year and followed up with a studio album, Move On, in May of 2011. In 2012 and 2013 he was a finalist at the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival in Colorado and a main stage performer at Pittsburgh’s Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival. In 2014 he completed an ASCAP Los Angeles Songwriting Invitational and is now finishing a studio album for release in 2015.

Friday, May 29

Pittsburgh-based The Garment District is multi-instrumentalist Jennifer Baron, a founding member of Brooklyn’s The Ladybug Transistor (Merge Records), with contributions from family and friends. Her debut tape, Melody Elder, was released on Night-People Records in 2011. In summer 2014, The Garment District’s debut full-length LP, IF YOU TAKE YOUR MAGIC SLOW, was released on Night-People. The band’s 2012 7” (La Station Radar) features a remix by legendary English musician/producer Sonic Boom (Spacemen 3, Spectrum, E.A.R.). The Garment District has performed at the VIA Music & New Media Festival, been filmed for The Andy Warhol Museum’s Silver Studio Sessions, and participated in acclaimed artist Doug Aitken’s Station-to-Station project. In 2015, The Garment District releases a new album via the Texas-based experimental label, Kendra Steiner Editions.

Butterbirds has been playing in different incarnations since 2009 when its four members met up with each other at the University of Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh-based alt country group’s first album Sweet Little Honey-Nothin’ was released in 2013, and the band continues to record in Wilkinsburg, PA.

During each performance, guests experience the visual art exhibition currently on view.

UNLOADED, on view February 13 to April 26, 2015, is organized by Susanne Slavik and explores historical and social issues surrounding the availability, use, and impact of guns in our culture.

Repetition, Rhythm, and Pattern, on view May 15 to June 28, 2015,is organized by Lindsey Landfried and explores artists’ use of rhythm, repetition, and pattern as elements to investigate the possibilities of abstractions.

SPACE is located at 812 Liberty Avenue. Gallery Hours: Wed & Thurs: 11 a.m.–6 p.m.; Fri & Sat: 11 a.m.–8 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.–5 p.m. The gallery is free and open to the public. SPACE is a project of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. For more information about all gallery exhibitions featured in the Cultural District, please visit TrustArts.org.

Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has overseen one of Pittsburgh’s most historic transformations: turning a seedy red-light district into a magnet destination for arts lovers, residents, visitors, and business owners. Founded in 1984, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is a non-profit arts organization whose mission is the cultural and economic revitalization of a 14-block arts and entertainment/residential neighborhood called the Cultural District. The District is one of the country’s largest landmasses curated by a single nonprofit arts organization. A major catalytic force in the city, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is a unique model of how public-private partnerships can reinvent a city with authenticity, innovation and creativity. Using the arts as an economic catalyst, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has holistically created a world-renowned Cultural District that is revitalizing the city, improving the regional economy and enhancing Pittsburgh’s quality of life. Thanks to the support of foundations, corporations, government agencies and thousands of private citizens, the Cultural Trust stands as a national model of urban redevelopment through the arts. For more information, visit TrustArts.org.

Follow us on Twitter @CulturalTrust, and like us on Facebook.