Zersha Munir
Afternoon Yoga in Market Square
Afternoon Yoga in Market Square

In a region that routinely – and this year especially — suffers through nearly interminable winters, what better way to celebrate summer than to take traditionally indoor workouts outside?

How about yoga? There seems to be a growing number of al fresco offerings throughout the warm-weather season at locations such as Schenley Park, Squirrel Hill, Southside Works and Mount Washington. Offered yoga sessions across the region are taught by local instructors and last for one to two hours, with small donations requested.

Market Square’s Sunday morning sessions are particularly popular, drawing roughly 100 participants weekly. These sessions are a collaboration between Lululemon Athletic and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, meant to encourage physical and mental stimulation – and highlight the many post-workout eateries in the square and across downtown.

On July 26, WHIRL Magazine is holding an all-day Yoga Fest and Healthy Lifestyle Expo at Point State Park. The event is designed to attract yogis and the mildly interested for an intensive crash course in several types of fitness regimes and teachings. Beginning at 6 a.m. with a sunrise salutation, more than 30 classes in yoga, meditation and chakra workshops more will be taught by nine experts from local studios. The itinerary includes sessions on breathing, backwards bending, pelvic stability and healing trauma. Throughout the day, event goers may purchase goods and food from vendors including Aerie, The Pittsburgh Juice Company and Bend Yoga.

Registration is required, with general admission tickets priced at $35 each. Deluxe ticket packages include subscriptions to Edible Allegheny, WHIRL Magazine and other WHIRL publications. Event sponsors (also ImaginePittsburgh.com Featured Employers) include UPMC Health Plan, Giant Eagle and Lamar, among others.

Pack your yoga mat and invite a friend! Hope to see you there!

Know of any outdoor yoga sessions in the Pittsburgh region that we missed? Let us know via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Ruben Rincon

The Travel Channel recently named Pittsburgh among the 10 best “All-American Vacations” for 2014, calling it “one of the hippest cities in America,” an arts destination in recreation-rich western Pennsylvania that’s “bubbling over with young people helping to redefine the city.”

They’re not the only ones. Ruben Rincon, a native of Popayan, Colombia who has been working in northern California for several years, is pursuing a master of science in software management at Carnegie Mellon University’s Silicon Valley campus. He won a free trip to Pittsburgh as part of a sweepstakes last fall tied to a Silicon Valley-focused business investment and talent attraction mission organized by the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance and ImaginePittsburgh.com. A project manager at Microsoft, Rincon had this to say about his visit.

Ruben Rincon, a graduate student at CMU's Silicon Valley campus, during a visit to Pittsburgh
Ruben Rincon, a graduate student at CMU’s Silicon Valley campus, during a visit to Pittsburgh

55,889: that’s the number of steps my Fitbit counted during three fabulous days that my wife and I spent in Pittsburgh over Memorial Day weekend. It was an enriching experience in which we learned about the city, its people and a little bit of history too – as well as enjoying weather in our favor with sunny blue skies.

The first things you notice when you get to Pittsburgh are the gold and blue bridges along the three rivers: the Allegheny, the Ohio and the Monongahela. It makes for a pretty, scenic view of what once was one of the biggest industrial spots in the country.

We were welcomed in the Westin Hotel with a basketful of goodies and suggestions for things to do in the city – a surprising amount considering its population is just 350,000. Scheduling all of the activities in one weekend was going to be a challenge, so we started with a visit to the nearby Cultural District, enjoying the Broadway show at Heinz Hall. It’s amazing how many cultural activities Pittsburgh hosts, including shows and concerts. I have never seen such a variety of shows in northern California. We spent the rest of the afternoon admiring the bridges, watching grooms and brides take their pictures in iconic city spots and walking around the popular PNC Park where the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team was playing. After a couple of non-alcoholic cocktails at Seviche, a downtown Latin American restaurant, we enjoyed dinner at Butcher & the Rye before taking the short walk back to the hotel.

Coming from California, we quickly noticed the low cost of living in Pittsburgh. Income is also lower, but it doesn’t take an accountant to see that the city offers affordable, decent living. For instance, the cost of living in Los Angeles is 31 percent higher than Pittsburgh, but average salaries in L.A. are just 12 percent higher. [Use ImaginePittsburgh.com’s cost-of-living calculator to figure out how much further your money would go in Pittsburgh.]

Ruben’s wife, Maria Caicedo, appreciating the Pittsburgh skyline.
Ruben’s wife, Maria Caicedo, appreciating the Pittsburgh skyline.

Our second day started with a couples’ massage at the Fairmont Hotel. Afterwards, we visited downtown spots like PPG Place – a courtyard amid a castle-like building made of glass and featuring fountains where kids played and dads ran behind them to avoid getting wet. Afterwards, we headed to the university district [Oakland] and entered the Carnegie Museum of Art and Natural History, where we appreciated the largest dinosaur skeleton we had ever seen. This creature called the Diplodocus Carnegii and measures is 90 feet (27 meters) horizontally! We were also impressed by the architecture of the two universities near the museum – the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. We especially loved the Heinz Memorial Chapel on Pitt’s campus. At first glance, it gets overshadowed by Pitt’s towering, impressive Cathedral of Learning, but the chapel offers a mystic blue interior that must be seen.
As a student at CMU’s Silicon Valley campus, I was looking forward to visiting my alma mater in Pittsburgh and getting to know the acclaimed campus. I was impressed its buildings and big halls. We took pictures in the Hamerschlag Hall to show my colleagues back in Silicon Valley. We were impressed by the campus’s beautiful arts building and extensive lawns. To end the day properly, we went for a stylish dinner at downtown’s Grit & Grace where we enjoyed the American dim sum and other tasty and full-of-flavor dishes. (Tip: if you go, ask for the hidden sweet and sour dessert!)

Our last day was the shortest due to return-home travel plans, so we decided to visit some spots near downtown like Point State Park. There we visited the Fort Pitt Museum and took pictures with the massive fountain beside the river. It’s one of the greatest photography spots in the city. We headed to Station Square where we rode the incline – a funicular used to ferry people up and down the startling mountainsides that surround the urban core — to Mount Washington. From the top, you enjoy an astounding aerial view of the downtown buildings, the three rivers and, of course, its many bridges, many in shades or blue or gold.

Then it was time to catch the 28X bus  to the airport. On our way we ate some remaining chocolate and pretzel popcorn made by the Pittsburgh Popcorn Company and recalled memories of a trip we will never forget.

We expect to come back soon to see the places we missed during our short stay. This city offers so much to do that three days went by like a breeze. We are truly thankful to ImaginePittsburgh.com for granting us this wonderful experience.

Come visit! You will not forget it.

Check out Ruben’s Instagram account for more of his photos.

Take a stroll through the Mexican War Streets district on Pittsburgh’s Northside and you will surely see among the historic row houses many newly renovated properties restored to their original beauty.

If you happen upon the corner of Arch and Jacksonia St., chances are you’ll see one man’s altogether different vision of renovation, Randyland.

Artist, Randy Gilson
Artist, Randy Gilson

Randyland is the vibrant and colorful home of artist, Randy Gilson, who began his renovation of the property in 1995 after purchasing the dilapidated building on a credit card. Once home to a raucous speakeasy and later a church, the building is now covered with brilliantly colored 40 foot high murals and the landscape decorated with flowers ladybugs, butterflies and dinosaurs.

“Most of the art I’ve done has been built from yard sale finds or discarded construction materials from the buildings being renovated around here,” Gilson said.

A shining example of urban revival, Randyland has been a popular Pittsburgh attraction for both tourists and locals for nearly 20 years.

Time and weather have taken their toll on the building’s once brilliant facade. Perhaps one of the building’s greatest discussion pieces, the map of the Northside has been affected the most. Once adorned with miniature models of buildings and attractions, the map now shows its age as it has become faded, cracked and has lost many of it’s adornments. Still, Gilson frequently uses the map to highlight to visitors the neighborhood’s character, history and amenities.

Gilson, a waiter at the Westin Convention Center by day, estimates that he’s invested nearly $100,000 into the property over the past 20 years. For the first time, he is reaching out to his many supporters for their help to raise money to fund the creation of a new map of the Northside which he would like to expand to include its surrounding neighborhoods.

The Northside Map at Randyland
The Northside Map at Randyland

With the launch of his Kickstarter campaign on June 22nd, Gilson hopes to raise $10,000 to fund his latest vision of the Northside map, built with premium paints and stronger materials that will withstand the test of time. Almost a third of the money will be used to pay Kickstarter fees and pay for the many rewards being offered to sponsors including t-shirts and prints featuring Randy’s original artworks, posters of the completed Northside map, and even a “Paint with Randy” day!

Any funds raised beyond his goal will be directed to other Randyland restoration projects. “Oh there’s always something to work on at Randyland!” said Gilson.

To sponsor the project, please visit the Kickstarter campaign page or visit the Randyland website to learn more about this unique Pittsburgh landmark.

Bonnie Pfister
EGC Clementes from stage 062214CROPPED
Luis and Roberto Clemente Jr., sons of the late Pittsburgh Pirates All Star, introduce fellow Puerto Ricans El Gran Combo at the Pittsburgh JazzLive Festival June 22, 2014.

The Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival wrapped up Sunday with sunshine and salsa as thousands of fans danced in the streets of the Cultural District to the rhythm of the legendary El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico. (See videos and photos on Flickr and ImaginePittsburgh.com’s social media channels, links above right.)

In its first-ever performance in Pittsburgh, the 52-year-old orchestra — sometimes described as “the Rolling Stones of salsa” for their high-octane longevity — drew fans from across Pennsylvania, Ohio, western New York, Maryland and Washington D.C. – as well as many Puerto Ricans, Nuyoricans and other Latinos who have chosen to make the Pittsburgh region their home.

In the pulsating crowd a few rows back from the stage, local musician María Eugenia “Geña” Nieves Escoriaza said it was hard not get a little teary. “I use to see them live all the time at festivals in Puerto Rico. It’s been almost 20 years since the last time,” she said. A native of Quebradillas (about an hour west of San Juan), Nieves moved to Pittsburgh from New York in 2004. “I needed this so badly. Props to those who made it possible!”

The concert was sponsored by Fifth Third Bank and ImaginePittsburgh.com as part of the ¡HolaPittsburgh! partnership, which has launched a year-long effort to highlight the Pittsburgh region as a place of opportunity for people from Puerto Rico and other Latinos around the country who may be considering new career opportunities. Cleveland-based Noël Quintana and the Latin Crew, which performs frequently in Pittsburgh, played for a smaller but equally joyous audience at Katz Plaza between performances by El Gran Combo and jazz singer Dianne Reeves, the festival’s closing act.

Even mid-week, Pittsburgh’s social and digital media scene continued to buzz with excitement about the concert. “Pittsburgh will never be the same!! Salsa from the best! Muchas gracias!!” wrote one commenter on JazzLive’s Livestream page. “THANK YOU for bringing them to Pittsburgh. I haven’t danced that much and had that much fun since I moved here 5 years ago,” said another.

“Jazz festivals should be more than simply a collection of concerts. They should be celebrations of music; festive, as the word implies,’ wrote Bob Karlovits on TribLive.com.  “(JazzLive Director) Janis Burley Wilson has kept it on the streets. The result is a festival with a sense of democracy…. It was also a great celebration of types of music. Nothing showed that better than the performance of El Gran Combo.”

What’s next for the ¡HolaPittsburgh! initiative? Look for social media updates under the hashtag #HolaPittsburgh on Facebook.com/HolaPittsburgh, Twitter.com/Hola_Pittsburgh and the ImaginePittsburgh Instagram account or Pinterest page.

In addition to ImaginePittsburgh.com and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust (presenter of the JazzLive festival), other ¡HolaPittsburgh! partners include The Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Latin American Cultural Union, Roberto Clemente Foundation, Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation, Allegheny County, Allegheny County Airport Authority, City of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, Pittsburgh Promise, Point Park University, World Affairs Council-Pittsburgh, Vibrant Pittsburgh and VISITPittsburgh.


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Looking for a job? Pittsburgh’s got ‘em — more than 20,000 open positions across the 10-county region. Check out our powerful job search aggregator at ImaginePittsburgh.com/work.

Find a job, advance your career, build a life you’ll love: ImaginePittsburgh.com.

Fascinated by Roberto Clemente, but never had a chance to get inside Pittsburgh’s private museum dedicated to baseball’s first Latino Hall of Famer? Now’s your chance.

The Roberto Clemente Museum will host its first-ever open house from 3-7 p.m. July 19 and 10-2 p.m. July 20. Admission is $20 per adult, $10 for children and $10 for students with a valid student ID. Exclusive merchandise will also be available.

Located in the former Engine House 25 near Lawrenceville’s Doughboy Square, the museum’s collection of baseball artifacts, photographs and memorabilia highlight the All-Star right fielder’s barrier-breaking career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, his personal life and his humanitarian work.

Musicians and crew of the famous salsa orchestra El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico visited the museum Sunday night after their performance in the Pittsburgh International JazzLive Festival. The previous night, the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s hosted a scholarship fundraiser at the museum attended by Luis and Roberto Clemente Jr., the late ballplayer’s sons. Learn more here.

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Looking for a job? Pittsburgh’s got ‘em — more than 22,000 open positions across the 10-county region. Check out our powerful job search aggregator at ImaginePittsburgh.com/work.

Find a job, advance your career, build a life you’ll love: ImaginePittsburgh.com.

Bonnie Pfister

El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico – one of the oldest and best-known salsa bands in the world – will headline the Fourth Annual Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival which takes over Penn Avenue at Eighth Street in the Cultural District on June 20-22. The free festival consists of three days of jazz and jazz-influenced musical performances on outdoor stages and attracts more than 20,000 attendees from around the country.

Founded in 1962, the 15-member orchestra has never stopped recording, with four of El Gran Combo’s albums reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Tropical Album chart over the past decade. (Check out a recent hit, Sin Salsa No Hay Paraiso [Without Salsa There Is No Heaven] here.)

Sin Salsa No Hay Paraiso
2010′s Sin Salsa No Hay Paraiso (“Without Salsa There Is No Heaven”)

“The JazzLive Festival is committed to presenting a vast array of music from locals to legends, and El Gran Combo’s history takes the festival to new heights as an international music destination,” said Janis Burley Wilson, director of jazz programs and vice president of education and community engagement for the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

ImaginePittsburgh.com is sponsoring El Gran Combo’s performance to kick off a year-long initiative highlighting the Pittsburgh region as a place of opportunity for people from Puerto Rico who may be considering a career move to the states.

ImaginePittsburgh.com is a project of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and its Affiliates, which are part of the ¡Hola Pittsburgh! partnership. Also including The Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Latin American Cultural Union, Roberto Clemente Foundation, Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation, Allegheny County, Allegheny County Airport Authority, City of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, Pittsburgh Promise, Point Park University, World Affairs Council-Pittsburgh, Vibrant Pittsburgh and VISITPittsburgh, the ¡Hola Pittsburgh! partnership seeks to improve the diversity and inclusiveness of the Pittsburgh region to sustain its population, economic prosperity and quality of life.

Learn more at HolaPittsburgh.com, and look for social media updates under #HolaPgh.

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Looking for a job? Pittsburgh’s got ‘em — more than 25,000 open positions across the 10-county region. Check out our powerful job search aggregator at ImaginePittsburgh.com/work.

Find a job, advance your career, build a life you’ll love: ImaginePittsburgh.com.