Award #22: Cupcakes & Culture Series

30 Aug

Jasmine Cho decided to ride the wave of cupcake popularity by putting her own Asian-American spin on things, and the payoff has been quite a surprise to the Korean-American, Los Angeles, CA native.  To raise awareness of Asian-American culture in Pittsburgh, she began the Cupcakes & Culture Series, the first of which was held in late July at Biddle’s Escape, a coffee and bead shop in Regent Square (Wilkinsburg).

DSC01716Jasmine has three goals for the series:  to bring the local Asian American community together, to bring the wider Pittsburgh community in touch with Asian-American population and culture, and to build retention of young diversity in Pittsburgh by enriching its multicultural atmosphere.

With more than 200 people attending, the first event was a complete success. Three weeks later, Jasmine found out that Awesome Pittsburgh had awarded her idea with our most recent $1,000 micro-grant. She had applied for the grant at the same time as planning the series, and the timing could not have been better.   Says Jasmine,

“After the initial shock [of winning] faded, I was totally ecstatic and giddy.  Afterwards, I was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion. I’ve been working so hard and trying to overcome certain challenges coming at me at every angle, so when I found out that I won the grant, it felt like that toil paid off. Overall, I was just so moved that my efforts are being recognized and supported.  Right now I’m just so grateful and want to live up to the awesomeness!”

She’ll use the $1000 grant to help transform each of the future venues into something spectacular.

Jasmine Cho moved to Pittsburgh from Hawaii in 2009 and soon afterwards, formed the Pittsburgh Asian Network with a vision to strengthen the local Asian American community as well as raise the network’s visibility in the mainstream. Through her business, Yummyholic, she hopes to enhance Pittsburgh’s multicultural atmosphere with Asian-inspired fun and sweets.  Cho believes that the Cupcakes & Culture Series can blend education and entertainment together into something fun, vibrant, and enlightening for the city of Pittsburgh; her primary target audience is college-aged students and young professionals.  The series’ five events will each feature a different element of Asian-American culture, free cupcakes and finger foods from Asian eateries, free music and entertainment, and free information and literature from local Asian diversity organizations.

The next Cupcakes & Culture Series event will offer an Asian horror theme and take place on Thursday, October 24, at Cavo (Strip District).  Jasmine hopes to find volunteer artists or art students who could build décor, and would also appreciate help with set-up and break-down duties on the day of the event. Potential volunteers, partygoers, and partners can contact Jasmine through Facebook or email helloyummyholic [@]


Award #21: G.L.A.D. Bags, a Project for Foster Children

26 Jul

Bridgette and Jason Jodon recently underwent the arduous process of becoming foster parents.  Having learned the intricacies of the system, they decided to not only become foster parents (hosting up to two children at once), but also to effect change in the lives of as many children in foster care as possible. Thus, their $1,000 award winning idea was born.

Their idea is simple yet profound.  They want to create a “comfort bag” for each child who is removed from a home, as opposed to a standard trash bag which is the current norm.  The Jodons will purchase as many cinch sacks as possible and fill them with necessities and objects which might bring comfort to the child during a difficult transition time. They named their project G.L.A.D. Bags, an acronym for God’s Love And Devotion and a play on words on the name of a popular trash bag The grant money will go directly to the purchase of the bags.  The Jodons will then work on stocking those bags, by asking various businesses, churches and organizations to help with the labor involved.

Bridgette explained the origins of their brainstorm: “This project was designed with the hope that this small gesture will trigger positive change in foster children’s’ lives. Over 1,500 children are in Allegheny County’s foster care system. Often times when children are removed from foster care, they are handed a trash bag for their belongings.  To me this is very unacceptable.”

She continued, “When our first placement came to us, his belongings were brought in two plastic grocery bags.  As foster parents, we were instructed to pack his belongings in case of a quick move back to his biological family, and my husband and I insisted that he not return with grocery bags.  We purchased a duffel bag for his belongings, not for the purpose of protest, but out of respect for the child.  There is a level of respect and dignity that must be integrated into this difficult process.  We want them to know that while we don’t necessarily understand what they are going through, we care, love and value each of them. We want to keep the integrity of the children intact and show them that they matter in this world.”

The Jodons currently do not have a web site specifically for the project, but Bridgette maintains a blog site ( which she updates weekly. The blog is public and expresses her thoughts, feelings, and faith regarding her and her husband’s personal journey through foster care.

Awesome Pittsburgh trustee Carolina Pais-Barreto Beyers believes that “G.L.A.D. is remarkable initiative.  The Jodons identified a need and transformed it into an opportunity to show these children that they are valuable.  We hope that the Awesome award helps bring more awareness to this effort.”

G.L.A.D. Bags will be an on-going project. In the future, the project plans to incorporate a suitcase, duffle bag and backpack drive. Until then, the Jodons will seek donations for the contents of the bags, which include tooth paste, tooth brushes, hair brushes, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner, body wash, socks, small fleece blankets, journals, pencils, small comfort toys, and luggage tags. Inquiries about the donation process can be made directly to Bridgette (bridgette.depew1 [at]

Come meet the Jodons and other recent $1,000 awardees at our Awesome Awards and Networking party Monday, July 29!

Put Some Awesome on Your Calendar

23 Jul


Awesome Pittsburgh Awards and Networking Party

Monday July 29, 6:30-8:30pm

Bayardstown Social Club, 3008 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh PA 15201

Join Awesome Pittsburgh at Bayardstown Social Club in the Strip District to celebrate our recent winners, applicants, and all the awesome projects and ideas in Pittsburgh! While you’re with us, meet our Trustees, learn more about Bayardstown, and feast on some of the fruits of our previous winners – Tea Pops from Healcrest Urban Farm, tasty juice from Juice Up 412, and filling crepes from the Creped Crusader! The fun folks from City of Play will lead us in games and other frivolity.

Bayardstown is BYOB, so we encourage you to bring your favorite beverage (and cash for the treats). But, leave some space to try the brew of Roundabout Brewery, which will be bringing samples of two of their craft beers for everyone to try!

And if our party wasn’t enough, there’s plenty more awesomeness for your summer calendar:

  • By July 31 – nominate someone for one of the last slots for a free skydive with 60 Seconds of Pure Freedom.
  • Through August – stop by Bricolage downtown on a Tuesday or Wednesday at lunchtime and become part of an ongoing epic poem with Alexi Morrissey’s First Editions project.
  • August 12 – Sept. 6 – check out the Andy Warhol (7th Street) Bridge as Knit the Bridge‘s team yarn bombs the bridge with the work of hundreds of volunteers.
  • All summer and more – find amazingly tasty treats by finding Healcrest Urban Farm’s Teapop cart (Facebook and Twitter), Juice Up 412′s Juice Crew (Facebook and Twitter), and the Creped Crusader (Facebook and Twitter)

Award #20: Carrie Deer Salvage Art Workshop

26 Jun
The Carrie Deer - Hard Hat Tour, Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area / Photo by Sharon Brown, GLYPH INC

The Carrie Deer – Hard Hat Tour, Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area. Photo by Sharon Brown, GLYPH INC



While most Southwestern Pennsylvanians believe the deer population to be a detriment, they could hardly argue that the 40-foot Carrie Deer Head, constructed from recycled steel objects, has not been a boon to the region.

The Carrie Furnaces, located in Rankin, PA along the Monongahela River, were built in 1884, operated until 1982, and were part of the larger Homestead Steel Works.  In the late 1990s, inspired by abandoned industrial sites, a group of artists completed the deer head sculpture on the grounds of the former Carrie Furnaces. By 2010, the Rivers of Steel Hard Hat Tours had become a popular historic and cultural activity.

Building upon this storied history, Awesome Pittsburgh awarded a $1,000 grant this month to the Carrie Deer Salvage Art Workshop, a project engaging 12 students from community schools in artistic collaboration with Pittsburgh artists, via the creation of a sculpture garden.

The Workshop begins on August 3 with a site tour led by Rivers of Steel for the students and their families, followed by three hands-on Saturday sessions in which students collaborate with mentor artists. The Salvage Art Workshop will use the same techniques that built Carrie Deer (same basic hand tools and similar found materials). Students will learn the history of the site, the region’s industrial heritage, and what inspired the Deer artists – all while working in this unusual environment to explore their own ideas of public art and salvage sculpture. Presentations by the Sprout Fund will introduce them to the complexities of large-scale works, public installations and community interaction with public works.

Awesome Pittsburgh Trustee Jeb Feldman shared his enthusiasm for the project:

“The Carrie Furnace industrial site and its Deer Head art piece represents an enormous opportunity to educate, engage and excite a large audience not just from within the region, but nationally and internationally. Rivers of Steel’s magnanimous efforts to raise awareness of Carrie Furnace’s preservation and Southwestern Pennsylvania’s industrial heritage while promoting the local arts and culture community is uniquely Pittsburgh and regionally important. The Awesome Foundation is proud to assist with the Carrie Deer Salvage Art Workshop which highlights a legendary piece of salvage art, focuses on the Carrie Furnace site’s preservation, and promotes the reuse of reclaimed materials.”

On-line registration (here) for the Carrie Furnaces Salvage Art Workshop is made possible by The Sprout Fund’s HIVE Days of Summer; Alloy Pittsburgh will provide instructors for the workshop.  In addition, associated instructor and metal artist Tim Kaulen of the Industrial Art Co-op will provide unique insight into the site and development of the collaborative artwork.

You can learn more at the Carrie Deer website, on the team’s Facebook page, or by contacting Sharon Brown at sb.msb [at]


Award #19: First Editions, Bespoke Poetry for Pittsburgh

1 Jun
Man at typewriter

First Editions – bespoke poetry for Pittsburgh

The month of May was merrier for Alexi Morrissey, founder of “First Editions” project, after learning that his idea was chosen to receive an Awesome Pittsburgh grant from a pool of April applicants.

“First Editions” is an audience-generated artwork of short poems created live and on-site at Bricolage Production Company in Downtown Pittsburgh. The artist uses the public’s life experiences as the main content for the poems.  The project allows people to become instant art patrons when they walk in off the street on Liberty Avenue downtown – on their lunch break most likely – and sit with artist Alexi Morrissey in a private, one-on-one session, commissioning a poem from him based on something that is special to them.

“Whatever is important enough to be written about in verse and cast in words” will be interpreted and typed by the artist in a relaxed and personal atmosphere. The poems are typed using a manual typewriter, in real time, on pure cotton, in the presence of the patron and given to the patron upon departure. A digital scan will be made of the cloth with permissions given to the artist for certain usage. The entire process will be a private affair that takes a short amount of time. You can read more at Morrissey’s promo PDF.

Having exhibited nationally and internationally, Morrissey is primarily a collaborator whose interest in technology, public space, and the function of language is highlighted in this project. He holds degrees from Carnegie Mellon University and the Kansas City Art Institute, and lives and works in Pittsburgh, PA. When asked what is unique about his project, Morrissey replied, “Most people do not have the opportunity to commission a new work of contemporary art from an artist directly.”

Beginning on Tuesday, June 11, 2013 at Bricolage Production Company (937 Liberty Avenue, Downtown Pittsburgh), “First Editions” will run on a consistent schedule twice a week, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and remain open throughout the summer. Cost for patrons is $20.

Award #18: The Creped Crusade

22 May

Good citizens of our fair Pittsburgh. Imagine a world without tasty fillings wrapped in a thin French batter. A dark, depressing world with ne’er-do-wells attempting to serve you sub-standard treats. Holy horrible hotcakes – that’s awful! 

But now, citizens, there’s hope. A vigilante. A creped crusader. Not the crepes this city deserves, but the crepes this city needs right now.

Mike Good at the Union Project

Mike Good at the Union Project

Meet Mike Good, “a pretty simple guy, in name, body, and spirit – by nature entrepreneurial and socially conscious.” With his new $1,000 Awesome Pittsburgh award, he’s turning into the Creped Crusader complete with a custom push cart and extra equipment. His new Creped Crusade will make crepes more easily available, partly through partnering with local coffee shops.

Mike said, “There is still a void of crepes in the Golden Triangle. This is the greatest city in the United States and it must offer easy access to crepes.” He promised, “If there ever was, there is no longer any shred of doubt – whether you crepe at noon, or crepe at night, any crepe is indeed a great crepe when you crepe with Mike.”

The Creped Crusader and his sidekick Batterboy made their public debut (in street clothes) at the Union Project’s Flat Floor Fiesta on May 17 and will next save our city at Artists Image Resource’s June 1 fundraiser. Watch the Crusader’s website and Facebook page for future dates!

Announcing Winner #17: Share Closet™

22 May

Bringing the culture of sharing that she learned in Botswana, Share Closet’s co-founder Andrea Wetherald created a social media platform that facilitates the process of sharing clothing, shoes, and accessories among friends. The early-stage startup is led by two female entrepreneurs determined to grow their business in Pittsburgh.

“Sharing is a more sustainable way to enjoy fashion,” said Sara Longo, co-founder of Share Closet. “We are thankful to the Awesome Foundation for supporting our startup,” she added.

Share Closet award micro-checkIn her application to Awesome Pittsburgh, Andrea wrote that friends will be “able to browse the closet to choose items they would like to borrow. Share Closet™ keeps track of who has borrowed what, and sends reminders to friends on the users’ behalf. Users set their own lending terms (e.g. whether clothes may be taken on vacation, whether clothes should be dry cleaned prior to return), to which friends must agree prior to borrowing.”

Andrea and Sara will use their $1,000 award for alpha testing of the site. They were recently featured in Pop City and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and you can follow their progress at their website, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Have an idea that makes the Pittsburgh area stand out in the global economy; celebrates art or technology; makes the city a better place to live, work and play; or simply surprises and delights your fellow Pittsburghers? The deadline for our easy application is the 1st of each month and we’d love to hear your idea!


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