Award #67: Allentown Then and Now

Armed with cameras and tripods, groups of elementary school students from the Allentown Learning and Engagement Center (ALEC) joined Ryan Haggerty and other local photographers for an art project they call Then and Now.


The mission: Capture modern day images of the Allentown and Beltzhoover neighborhoods, and display the recreated images of these neighborhoods next to its historical counterparts. Haggerty, along with the Center, hoped that through photography, students would form a deeper connection to the history and identity of their neighborhood.  Allentown is one of 11 city neighborhoods that comprise the Hilltop community of South Pittsburgh, and the center creates learning opportunities for Allentown families.


“This project empowers students to express themselves through visual literacy while learning about their neighborhood’s place within Pittsburgh’s history,” Haggerty explained.  Haggerty runs a digital media production company out of the cooperative co-working space, Work Hard Pittsburgh. The project was made possible through the Arts MODE programming of New Sun Rising, and students were granted permission to use the historical images by the University Library System at Pitt University.  Haggerty says the new photos will contribute to Allentown’s history as the photos will be added to a curated image archive.

Awesome Pittsburgh Trustee Mike Capsambelis noted that documenting Pittsburgh through photographs provides a great retrospective into the city’s history.

“Awesome Pittsburgh is proud to support a project that records our history, especially by our youth. It’s important to see where we’ve been, where we currently are, and where we are able to go. It shows how important it is to make an investment in one’s own community.”

Upon winning the Awesome Pittsburgh grant, Haggerty funded the professional printing and framing of the photograph display. Going forward he will make the photos available for non-commercial use by non-profit organizations, schools, as well as the general public, giving credit to the student photographers. For more information, email