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fiberarts, Pittsburgh, cultureWinters in Pittsburgh can be a gray affair but one local arts group—the Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh—is doing their part to brighten our days.

Their idea? Plant oversized, colorful and handmade flower displays throughout the city. Right now and until March 8, Arsenal Park blooms with the first bouquet.

The Lawrenceville display is the test run for the Guild’s big event—the Fiberart International 2016, a conference that is held every three years. For the 2016 gathering, the plan is to have several neighborhoods around the city feature these giant splashes of flowers “to draw attention to the conference,” says Susan Swarthout, co-director of the Pop des Fleurs project and president of the Fiberarts Guild.

The Guild has not yet selected which communities—nor how many—will feature these pop-up gardens for winter 2016. First, they wanted to focus on the test installation.

“We wanted to see how the structure will hold up, how the flowers will withstand the weather and we wanted to go through the city’s permitting process,” says Swarthout.

Lessons were learned, such as this one: The leaves in the Pop des Fleurs’ display—paper bags painted green—were waterproofed with paverpol, which as it turns out, doesn’t like the cold. After exposure to the frigid temps, all the green leaves turned white as if they got frostbite.

“It was like the Pittsburgh winter striking back—Oh! You think you’re going to make it nice and bright? Ha, ha, ha … I’ll trick you,” laughs Swarthout.
The Guild’s last outreach project, Knit the Bridge, did make the city nice and bright—plus it garnered all kinds of press for Pittsburgh, including international. These fiber enthusiasts don’t think small.
“Knit the Bridge took it to another level,” said Swarthout. “It became an entity itself.”

From start to finish, the Andy Warhol Bridge installation took 18 months and the power of 1,800 fiber artists. “That project drew people together,” says Swarthout, “and still continues to have a life.” Knitted or crocheted panels that covered the bridge were laundered and given as blankets to people in need. Other pieces that cloaked the bridge’s railings were given as scarves to area shelters.

Response to the project “was huge,” says Swarthout. “Well, the bridge is huge,” she says with a laugh.Not surprisingly, Knit the Bridge won Mayor Peduto’s 2014 Award for Public Art.

From that project, local artists and others expressed enthusiasm to participate in the Guild’s future events—and that fervor now fuels Pop des Fleurs. Since October, Pittsburghers have been learning how to knit and crochet flowers from plastic yarn, weave freeform wire flowers and create puffs from plastic bags. All the materials used for the flowers are repurposed—think plastic bottles, bottle caps, donated yarn, plastic bags, wire hangers—and brightly colored.

The idea for Pop des Fleurs resulted from a call to Guild members asking the question: “How can we brighten the gray, dark winters?” The answer came from a place faraway from our three rivers—in the land of fjords.

Guild member Annette Sandberg, who was born in Oslo, Norway, tried to recall how her friends and family remained “upbeat and connected” during the Scandinavian winters.

Sandberg remembered her family home filled with flowers and warm conversation—and she imagined “bringing delight to Pittsburghers by creating huge flower displays installed in various locations around the city during the cold, gray season.” Her dream of warm conversation was realized when Pittsburghers came together to make the flowers. Workshops were held around the city and involved all age groups. A March 3 upcoming workshop at the Carnegie Library, Lawrenceville is aimed at tweens.

“There is such enthusiasm for this type of project,” says Swarthout. “And it’s not just because it’s big in scale—it’s because of the community involvement.”
Many communities have expressed interest in being chosen to feature one of the installations during the 2016 Fiberart International—but one group on the South Side decided to jump in and try their own test installation this year.

The South Side Community Council’s Green N’At Committee asked for the Guild’s help, and are hosting flower-making workshops on February 24 and 26—check here for details. Their bouquet is set to bloom March 1 at the Carnegie Library—South Side.

“We are now realizing this could be like a tidal wave,” says Swarthout “And we don’t want to dampen that enthusiasm—if it’s catching people’s imagination, let’s let it bloom.”

If it’s caught your  imagination, sign up to make flowers here—because there’s more work to be done for next year. “We’ve only made a drop in the bucket,” says Swarthout. “Next year, we’re going to explode all over the place with flowers.”

If you’d like to check out Pop des Fleurs, Arsenal Park is just off the 40th Street Bridge and the bouquet is visible from 40th Street.
As one passerby said upon seeing it: “It’s just one more thing to love about Pittsburgh.”

Zersha Munir

This Valentine’s Day, find the love of your (professional) life. Your perfect job is out there, and where better to search than on the job search engine, a one-stop aggregator of career postings updated daily from nearly 900 corporate and government websites and job search engines. Forget about Monster, Career Builder, LinkedIn and Craigslist. Just tell us what you like and we’ll play Cupid.

For starters, here’s a few that may pique your interest:

Director of Business Platforms at Highmark

UX Designer at MARC USA

Executive Assistant at Bayer

Environmental Coordinator at EQT Corporation

Certified Coding Specialist at UPMC

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Check regularly for more career opportunities and news about the region. You can also sign up for our monthly eNewsletter, or follow us by RSS feedFacebookTwitterLinkedIn or our other social media channels.

Zersha Munir

A city comprised of 10 counties, and an aggregator that pulls from more than 900 job boards to bring you its 22,055 jobs. makes your job search easier than ever by perusing, picking and posting the most recent and versatile listings in your area. Here is a tiny sampling:

Audit Specialist at Bayer

PC LAN Analyst at Dollar Bank

Administrative Technician at FirstEnergy

Finance Project Manager at PNC Financial Services

Administrative Support at University of Pittsburgh

* * * 

Check regularly for more career opportunities and news about the region. You can also sign up for our monthly eNewsletter, or follow us by RSS feedFacebookTwitterLinkedIn or our other social media channels.

speakers cropped
Covey’s Vanessa Jameson, Romeo Delivers’ Anne Lopez and Astrobotics’ John Thornton at the September 2014 + NEXTpgh event, What’s NEXT in Tech.

Join and NEXTpittsburgh on Tuesday, Feb. 24 for a networking happy hour and to hear from individuals who are innovating across communities to create a more welcoming, connected Pittsburgh. They include:

Debra Lam, chief innovation and performance officer for the City of Pittsburgh, a North Hills native who returned to Pittsburgh after working in New York, the United Kingdom, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong

Bill Generett, Jr., president/CEO of Urban Innovation21, which helps entrepreneurs in underserved communities participate in the region’s innovation economy

Jesabel Rivera, president of the Latin American Cultural Union, which works to better connect members of the region’s small-but-fast-growing Latino community to each other and the wider region

Diwas Timsina, founder of Children of Shangri-Lost, a youth-run nonprofit raising awareness of the Bhutanese community through short films and blog posts

Nathan Mallory, owner of Cannon Coffee in Brookline and president of the Brookline Chamber of Commerce

Doors open at 6 p.m.; panel begins at 6:30 p.m.; refreshments/networking at 7:30 p.m.

The event is free of charge but registration is required at

Bonnie Pfister

The Pittsburgh region’s unique combination of geographic density, a deep pool of talent emerging from its universities and friendly people have made it an alternative to Silicon Valley for technology startups, The Atlantic recently reported.

Reporter John Tierney talks to Alpha Lab Gear’s Ilana Diamond, Innovation Works’ Rich Lunak and Andrew Moore, the new dean of Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science, to get details on how thePittsburgh region has become such fertile ground for new tech companies.

Read the full story here.


Bonnie Pfister
athena-pittsburgh, UPMC, Diane Holder, Amelia Papappetropoulos, energy, medicine, health care, insurance
2014 ATHENA Awards Recipients Diane Holder (left) and Amelia Papapetropoulos.

Diane Holder, president and CEO of UPMC Health Plan, received the 2014 Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Award Sept. 29 at the 24th Annual ATHENA Awards luncheon at the Westin Convention Center Hotel.

Named for the Greek goddess of strength and wisdom, the ATHENA awards are unique among regional honors for professional women because of the focus on developing the next generation of leaders through mentorship. They are convened by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, of which is an initiative.

Described as a woman with “grit, courage and balance,” Holder has led UMPC’s insurance division, as well as strategic and business operations, for 15 health-related insurance and health management companies. She focuses on helping people live longer, healthier lives and advocating for good health for all members of the community. Holder serves on numerous boards, mentors groups and individuals, and lends her support and guidance to the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Women Work and Standing Firm, among other organizations. She is a mother of three children.

“Through their examples, inspiration and mentorship, ATHENA Awards recipients make a difference for countless women from many walks of life,” said Allegheny Conference Chief Financial Officer Janel Skelley. “That’s what distinguishes such ATHENA award recipients as Diane Holder, who today joins the ranks of 23 other remarkable women we’ve been privileged to recognize with this award.”

The other 2014 finalists, chosen from among 25 nominees, were:

  • Linda Croushore, Executive Director, The Consortium for Public Education;
  • Susan Kirsch, Shareholder-Tax Advisory Services, Schneider Downs;
  • Karen Larrimer, Chief Customer Officer and Chief Marketing Officer, PNC; and
  • Suzy Teele, Chief Operating Officer, SnapRetail.

Recognizing a leader age 35 and younger is the ATHENA Young Professional Award. Begun in 2011, this award celebrates excellence among the growing population of younger women who will be the changemakers of tomorrow. Recognized as one such individual with the 2014 ATHENA Young Professional Award is Amelia Papapetropoulos, Sales Manager, Lightning Energy Services.

As founder of Young Professional Women in Energy, Papapetropoulos works for equity and greater visibility for women in that sector. She is a serial entrepreneur, president of Amelia’s Elegant Catering and developer of fire-resistant clothing for women fieldworkers. She is a member of the region’s Young Professional Board for Junior Achievement, an evaluator at the University of Pittsburgh’s national entrepreneurship completion and has been named one of Pittsburgh Magazine’s “40 Under 40.” She is a contributing author to the book Empower! Women’s Stories of Breakthrough, Discovery and Triumph.

The other 2014 ATHENA Young Professional Award finalists, chosen from among 25 nominees, were:

  • Stephanie Garbe Compliance Senior Specialist, PNC; and
  • Sabrina Saunders, Executive Director, Strong Women Strong Girls.

Said 2014 ATHENA Host Committee Chair Beth Marcello: “I am proud to be part of a community that demonstrates such tremendous support for women in leadership. Nearly 900 guests gathered to recognize these remarkable nominees, finalists and recipients and to celebrate how women are significantly shaping Pittsburgh’s future. Women are most definitely making their mark on this region.”

The Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Awards Program Luncheon is one of the largest stand-alone events of its kind among some 500 presented annually across the globe in affiliation with ATHENA International.

The program is made possible thanks to Presenting Sponsors UPMC Health Plan; Citizens Bank; KPMG LLP; FedEx Ground; Pittsburgh Magazine; Williams and WTAE-TV Pittsburgh’s Action News.

Thanks also to Sponsors Bayer MaterialScience; Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC; Carnegie Mellon Leadership and Negotiation Academy for Women; Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote, PC; The Ellis School; Fox Rothschild, LLP; Meyer Unkovic & Scott LLP; NEXTpittsburgh; PPG Industries, Inc. and The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. Learn more at

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The Allegheny Conference on Community Development and its Affiliates – the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, the Pennsylvania Economy League of Greater Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance – work in collaboration with public and private sector partners to stimulate economic growth and improve the quality of life in southwestern Pennsylvania. Learn more at