Art Lending Library

image of artwork that can be checked out of the libraryOn October 6, the Braddock Carnegie Library began circulating more than just books and DVDs: works of ART are now available to all patrons who possess an Allegheny County library card. Just like books, DVDs, and music, you can take works of art home with you and have them in your house for up to three weeks at a time. The works of art available in the collection have been donated by several different artists – some are local, others are participating in the Carnegie International Exhibition (housed at the Carnegie Museum of Art). The art lending library allows patrons to experience different works of art in their own homes, as well as allowing artists to share their creations with a wider audience.
“All You Can Art” was the kickoff event. It attracted hundreds of people, and opened in conjunction with the 2013 Carnegie International exhibition. The idea of an art lending library started with an artist collaborative called Transformazium. The members – Ruthie Stringer, Dana Bishop-Root, and Leslie Stem – all work at the Braddock Library and are heavily invested in the community there. They have worked to get many members of the community involved in working at and helping to sustain the art lending library.
The art lending library is just the newest of many services at the Braddock Carnegie Library. The library is a place that is accessible for everyone in the community. Like most libraries, books and movies are in heavy circulation and the computers are often in use by community members – but Braddock Carnegie Library offers more than just circulating items and internet access. The children’s space (where most of my time is spent) is an almost-constant hub of afterschool activity – kids are always there to get on the computer or tablet, do crafts or homework, play with Legos or puppets, socialize with their peers, and sometimes they even read books. “Creative Wednesdays” are held from 4 to 5 (or 6, or 6:15) with a new craft for the kids to attempt every week. On Saturdays, both music class (in the room next door, containing a piano and a statue of Hermes) and clay class (in the pottery studio downstairs) are offered to the kids, free of charge. There is open studio time in the screen-printing shop upstairs (also brought to Braddock by Transformazium) for the kids on Thursday evenings, run by members of the Braddock Youth Project. For adults, the pottery studio is open on Tuesday and Thursday nights (free for residents of Braddock, and inexpensive for anyone else), and the screen printing shops is open on Saturdays. There are also many other programs and goings-on at the library – yoga class is held on Thursday nights, a community book club meets once a month, and different organizations hold meetings there throughout the week.
Serving at the Braddock Carnegie Library has given me an opportunity to see what community investment looks like. Most of the staff at the library lives in Braddock, and they work to make the library a community center, offering many resources to all that live in the 15104. Although it is not a large, expansive organization, it is an effective and a beautiful picture of what it looks like when people work to make their community a better place.


The Tireless Project: Getting Muddy in Memory of 9/11

Perhaps we were mournful optimists or just “head over heels” for doing a community service project, in this case head over heels in mud, a group of pursuing AmeriCorps members gathered to clean one of Pittsburgh’s rivers of litter and filthy excrements. 1236569_950611345805_381604514_nCombining forces with Allegheny CleanWays, a non-profit in Pittsburgh, we hiked to the Carrie Furnace Riversweep at the Monongahela River to begin our upheaval. At first, it was like entering a park preserve with high grassy meadows, caterpillars on our fingertips, and deep foliage of trees surrounding us. The crisp morning air breathed a fresh scent of Autumn, and with gardening gloves and shovels in hand, we set upon a trail to the river. Being the diligent KEYS Service Corps members that we are, coming to the threshold immediately of having to whack our own trail to the river didn’t wipe the smile from our faces. Bottles of unidentifiable liquids, Styrofoam containers, broken glass, sandals, beer kegs surrounded us and we set to work of disposing the litter. The service workers and representatives of Allegheny CleanWays shared with us their motto, to “engage and empower people to eliminate illegal dumping and littering in Allegheny County.” As littering and illegal waste degrades our community and quality of life, we were superheroes trying to improve the quality of life. I set my sight on a challenge right away when I spotted a barrel, knee deep in muddy waters. With the help of a few girls, we shoveled and scooped, dragged and carried it to be recycled. Among the various challenges of the day were refrigerators, barrels, and my own personal adversary, tires. We weren’t going to let a couple dozen stubborn tires tire us out! After much pulling and prodding, we were able to roll the tires to be taken to a dump with muddy faces and clothes to show for it.1185297_950610238025_1478962154_n When I asked returning AmeriCorps member Kyle if his expectations were met at the end of the project, he replied, “Well, I certainly didn’t expect to be working with ticks or to get such a work out!” I will say, we work hard for America, and my father was right, hard labor does pay off. This program is a collaborative endeavor of several organizations with a common interest in the waterways of Pittsburgh. The Tireless Project was launched in 2003 by the Three Rivers Rowing Association. Since its beginnings, more than 2,600 volunteers have extracted 173 tons of debris, including 2170 tires and 310 bags of recyclables from the rivers’ shores. It certainly is a “tirefull” tireless project.carrie furnace


Life as a VISTA

VISTA stands for Volunteers in Service to America and is a branch of AmeriCorps that is specifically meant to build capacity and eliminate poverty. We VISTA’s are are meant to be tackling the significant economic disparities in that exist in this country by helping people escape cyclical and generation poverty by improving their education levels, job opportunities and health. Still not sure what a VISTA actually does everyday?  This article explains what I have been doing since August, but each situation is unique. My position is sponsored by the Community Action Association of Pennsylvania and their other VISTA’s are working on a wide range of projects, from setting up programs for veterans, to working with land trusts to preserve historic homes that then serve as low cost housing, to recruiting and training volunteers to offer free tax help. My task for the year is to help KEYS Service Corps and their in-house work skills excellence program, the Braddock Youth Project (BYP), become less reliant on government grants as these are proving to be an unpredictable source of funds.

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Application due by June 4, 2012.

The KEYS Service Corps AmeriCorps Program is currently recruiting a VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) whose main focus will include but not be limited to grant writing, assisting with developing an entrepreneurship support center, marketing and fund development, and assisting with developing a base of volunteers.  The VISTA member will serve with the KEYS Service Corps, an organization that brings AmeriCorps members from across the country together to work with kids and engage in community service projects in the Pittsburgh area.

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Application due by June 4, 2012.

The KEYS Service Corps AmeriCorps Program is currently recruiting a VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) whose main focus will include but not be limited to researching, designing and implementing a social entrepreneurship venture that address needs of economically disadvantaged and underemployed individuals. The VISTA member will serve with the Braddock Youth Project which is administered by the KEYS Service Corps.

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Bring a Smile to Service Seeking Donations

Bring a Smile to the Service is a group of students at Independence Middle School (IMS) in Bethel Park who recognize the everyday heroes of our country. They realize that these men and women are dedicated and committed to their task at hand, defending our country and keeping us safe. The students volunteer their time to write letters and send packages to service members deployed overseas.

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The Power of Community Service with Youth

By Anna Barry

                I’ve had the opportunity to do a few service projects with my youth.  One has been my service project for KEYS, but I’m also the designated field-trip-goer at my site.  And a few of those “field trips” has been community service with the Behavioral Specialist Mr. Berk Claggett.  He does a program called Stash the Trash in which students can leave school and help beautify downtown Pittsburgh.  Students must be referred by teachers and have good behavior in order to participate.  I did the program with him once in October and once in April.  In addition, my community service project was helping the Riverfront Trail area in partnership with Friends of the Riverfront nonprofit organization.  Seven of my sixth grade students spent a few hours planting elderberries, removing invasive weeds, and chopping down Japanese knot weed.

It’s been a great time.

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