By Susan Constanse


The Geek Art/Green Innovators (GA/GI) festival returns in April, enlivening the monthly Unblurred event along Penn Avenue. Now in its third year, the festival celebrates and explores the intersection between art, technology and eco practices. At GA/GI, these intersections come alive through interpretation, application and innovation. You’re likely to find comic book artists in proximity to an application of green energy in streetlighting.

The festival founder, Christine Bethea, had an early interest in green practices like recycling and energy conservation. In the early 1980’s she began to explore the many possibilities of recycling consumer goods into objects of desire. Old clothing became quilts, printed materials became collages, and everything else was incorporated into sculpture. Christine has worked with community organizations and schools throughout the Pittsburgh area, including two years as Artist in Residence at Construction Junction, to produce interdisciplinary workshops and classes that explore recycling and re-purposing of salvaged objects.

In the fast-moving world of technological advances, Christine saw that arts practitioners were being left behind and that technology was serving the function that art used to serve in our culture: a rallying point for change and a starting point for discourse. This shift to technology was the original impetus for the development of the festival.

Keeping It Local

The first festival of its kind in Pittsburgh, GA/GI showcases geeks working in the art + tech + eco sectors from a grassroots perspective. Through its inclusive and inquisitive character, GA/GI attracts a broad group of practitioners. During the 2011 festival, exhibitors included Quality of Life Technology who exhibited a prototype of a device to assist with reduced mobility. Students from Carnegie Mellon University explored the chemistry of cooking, and Cheryl Capezutti did a lint-puppet making workshop.

Christine continues to showcase the talents of local artists and developers in the most recent edition of the GA/GI festival. At the festival, you’ll meet Pittsburghers that are experimenting with the application of new technologies in energy, re-use and products that employ new technologies. The first two festivals blurred the line between art and technology by emphasizing their common ground: a creative approach to problem solving and investigation. The festival returns this year with street performers from Speak Life Storytellers and sidewalk chalk art from CAPA students. The festival’s central hub will be the Pittsburgh Glass Center, but many of the venues along Penn Avenue will be hosting events themed around the festival. This year, the GA/GI festival will be emphasizing animation, whether through exploration of character or through the techniques of animation.

GA/GI 2012 Festival Highlights

The festival extends throughout the Penn Avenue Arts corridor, from its hub at the Pittsburgh Glass Center to the further end of Penn Avenue at the Pittsburgh Beautification project.

There are a couple points of interest for green arts as you travel Penn Ave. Located on Penn near Winebiddle is a solar and wind powered sculpture that provides lighting from stored energy. The sculpture was created by Art Energy Design with the ecoDesigners Guild of Pittsburgh. Another ecoDesigners Guild project was installed last fall, in the 5200 block of Penn Avenue along the parking lot of Schaedler Yesco. The screen is waist height, and is an abstract map of the Penn Avenue arts district illuminated by solar cells.

Most wanted Fine Art will be exhibiting work created at the Edinboro University Print Shop, led by John Lysak and inspired by the festival theme. The Irma Freeman Center will also have dedicated exhibits: Bionic Beings, featuring the work of Suzanne Trenney, and Ryder Henry’s installation, 4 Lydia model city and Spaceships.

Two events at the GA/GI festival cater to those with an interest in comic books and animation. A fashion show, combining the work of emerging designers with that of CAPA students, returns to the Pittsburgh Glass Center, themed around animation and collaboration. The Toonseum, Pittsburgh’s cartoon museum, will be holding a mini comic book convention at the BGC community center off Penn Avenue on N. Atlantic Avenue.

An Artists Market will be housed at the Pittsburgh Beautification Project at 4800 Penn Avenue. Crafters and artists working with recycled materials will be presenting their work in a fair atmosphere.

The GA/GI Festival

Friday, April 6
Beginning at 6PM
Various locations along Penn Avenue
Check the GA/GI website for schedule and additional details
Highlights from GA/GI II

Susan Constanse is a painter, living and working in Pittsburgh. Examples of her work can be viewed on her site.