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Building Community Connections: A Film Screening and Community Engagement Dialogue About Revitalizing Pittsburgh's Core Communities

Contact: Scott Pearson
Torrice Productions
Phone: (513) 751-7050
Email: torriceproductions@yahoo.com
Website: www.thenewmetropolis.com

PRESS Release
For Release: Immediate
May 10, 2010

PBS Station WQED, Community Groups, and Filmmaker Host Discussion on Future of Pittsburgh’s Urban Communities

Building Community Connections:
A Film Screening and Community Engagement Dialogue about Revitalizing Pittsburgh’s Core Communities
A film screening and community/civic
May 27th from 5:30-8:30 pm

Community organizations, citizens and public officials are invited to take part in a unique gathering in the studios of public broadcasting station WQED on Thursday May 27th 5:30-8:30 pm to discuss revitalization strategies and next steps for creating a better future for the Pittsburgh region.

Building Community Connections: A Film Screening and Community Engagement Dialogue about Revitalizing Pittsburgh’s Core Communities is the culmination of a month-long series of programming on WQED focused on renewing urban America. The event is part of an innovative outreach strategy emerging from public television stations, which are discovering that showing social issue documentaries to live audiences sparks frank debate over how the issues raised by the films reflect the reality of local communities.

Hosted by WQED in partnership with various Pittsburgh community organizations and in collaboration with award-winning filmmaker Andrea Torrice, May 27th’s event will begin with a screening of Torrice's new documentary film series, The New Metropolis, about the challenges facing America's older suburbs. After the screening, Chris Moore, host of the popular WQED programs OnQ and Black Horizons, and facilitator Jim Turner from the University of Pittsburgh will kick off a heart-to-heart roundtable discussion amongst the participants. Many of the problems depicted in The New Metropolis are familiar to Pittsburgh and its neighboring communities—dwindling tax bases, population decline, business loss, decaying infrastructure, and racial tensions. The goal of the event is to come up with a concrete action plan focused on solving these local problems together.

The WQED project is a model for how other public television stations around the country can begin to be more directly involved with vital discussions directed towards finding solutions to the ills of urban America. Pittsburgh’s WQED is no newcomer to this strategy, of course.

“The hallmark of public media is collaboration and education, “said Deborah L. Acklin, executive vice president and chief operating officer of WQED Multimedia. “More than 56 years ago, this unique and very profound concept of ‘educational television’ started right here in Pittsburgh and has grown to be one of the most respected entities in the country. WQED is proud to continue the tradition of engaging people through dialogue, working with community partners to provide the public the tools “to think” and to reason for themselves,” Acklin added. “It's just another way we change lives in our community.”

“It's been really exciting to see how the films are sparking these discussions on critical issues here in Pittsburgh,” said filmmaker Andrea Torrice, who will be at the event to participate in the discussions. “WQED is on the cutting edge of helping communities turn talk into action. Giving communities a chance to discuss diverse opinions on these issues is what makes democracy vibrant."

The conversation won’t stop at the end of the evening. Grant Ervin of 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania, one of the community groups who helped put Building Community Connections together, says that more screenings and public discussions will be conducted throughout the Pittsburgh area in the coming months.

“We recognize that the similarities between the surrounding communities are much stronger that what differentiates them,” said Ervin. “Coordinating this dialogue helps to bring communities together to share their challenges and recognize opportunities that they can achieve by working together. With this we can forge new relationships between neighboring communities and the urban core.”

The WQED forum is the first event of a national community engagement campaign using The New Metropolis series to spark debate in aging urban areas. Further screenings and town hall meetings in collaboration with local PBS stations are currently in the works for Baltimore, Detroit, Cleveland, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, and New Jersey. The campaign is made possible by a grant from the Surdna Foundation, with local support from The Pittsburgh Foundation.

The Pittsburgh event of this nation-wide campaign, Building Community Connections, is a result of a partnership between 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania, CONNECT, Congress of Neighboring Communities, Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PCRG), Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development (PPND), Sustainable Pittsburgh, Good Schools PA, and Torrice Productions.

The event is free and open to the public but seating is limited.

To RSVP for the event, contact WQED-TV, 412-622-1514.

About the New Metropolis Series

Episode 1: A Crack in The Pavement, narrated by actor Peter Coyote, exposes policies beginning in the Eisenhower era that encouraged and bankrolled the first suburbs. These policies, many of which are perpetuated today, also encourage sprawl and leave aging communities without sufficient resources to meet today’s challenges.

The documentary follows the stories of Mayor Richard Ellison of Elmwood Place, a suburb outside of Cincinnati, Ohio, and City Manager Tom Moeller of Madeira, Ohio. The two public officials give the viewer a glimpse into the challenges older communities have in repairing their aging infrastructure and keeping residents and business from leaving, often for newer suburban communities further from the urban core. The film also presents innovative and successful approaches to revitalizing older communities through balanced growth strategies, mass transit and regional planning policies. Besides the Ohio officials, national experts Myron Orfield, Bruce Katz, Dr. Carla Chifos and Kim Gibson offer a national context on the issues facing many American communities.

Episode 2: The New Neighbors tells the inspiring story of two ordinary people, one black and one white, who made racial integration the centerpiece of revitalizing Pennsauken, New Jersey, a first suburban town of Philadelphia, PA. The documentary follows how the town council and residents implemented a unique strategy of “stable integration” in their housing market. Pennsauken has become one of the most vibrant, integrated towns in the country. Narrated by Academy Award-nominated actress Ruby Dee, the documentary includes original archival materials along with expert commentary from David Rusk and Angela Glover Blackwell.



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