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Open Thread - Blog

Archive for the ‘Featured Organizations’ Category

February 11th, 2010
Michael Varrati

rmlogoThe first time I encountered Paul Cunningham was at a literary reading held at the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center in Midland, PA. I often have low expectations of literature and poetry readings—not because the readers lack quality, but rather, I’ve attended enough of them that sometimes it feels all too usual.

However, Paul was far from usual, something that became apparent the second he started reading. The piece, an evocation of hardboiled gangster tales, could have suffered archetypal cliché, but it didn’t. Instead, it was rife with originality, and damn it, I wanted to hear more.

I didn’t encounter Paul all that often after that, but I kept his name in the back of my mind. I admired his talent, and at the least, would look forward very much to sitting down one day to read one of his books.

As luck would have it, some time later, Paul and I came to be associates through this very publication, Open Thread. Brought on by the editors to bring our own unique flair to the blog and arts reviews (his far more classy than mine, to be sure), Paul and I started conversing periodically and I discovered that this was not just a good writer, but generally a pretty stand-up guy.

paul1He also wasn’t one to sit still.

Writing up a veritable storm, Paul’s work had appeared in numerous online journals beyond OT, including H_NGM_N, decomP, haha clever dot com, WTF PWM, Read Some Words, DOGZPLOT, Pinstripe Fedora, and Writer’s Bloc. He also serves as an assistant managing editor to SLAB and is the author of This Boy, This Broom, a collection of nonfiction essays published by BatCat Press.

However, even this impressive list of contributions wasn’t enough for Paul. Seeking a need to get more art out there and allow artists like himself to be heard, Paul created an online literary journal of his own. Thus, Radioactive Moat was born. The first issue, featuring a slew of authors and artists from all walks of life was a success and met with praise. Author and contributor Gary Barwin even went so far as to refer to the first issue as “beautiful.”

Such praise was definitely not the minority either.

With Radioactive Moat’s first issue a success, a second issue was sure to follow. I managed to snag Paul away from his busy schedule of reading submissions for a few questions in the days before the second issue’s deadline to talk about this wonderful publication, its genesis, and what readers can expect from RM in the future.

OT Blog: What inspired you to start RM?

rm-issue-1-coverPaul: Inspiration for RM came from a lot of grief I accumulated, actually. I came across a relatively new online journal about a year ago and I couldn’t even begin to fathom why anyone would want to submit work for publication. The layout was disastrous and it was not all memorable; the font, the colors and even the masthead–all if it was incredibly bland. There are thousands of options for the modern writer seeking online publication–so many writers figure, eh, why bother starting a new online magazine–what’s the use? While I admit I have not created an online journal that is wholly unique, I do believe I have created an online journal that is inventive, yet navigable. One has to realize that reading literature online is very different from reading a print journal or chapbook. And the editors of many online publications are not always sensitive to such variation–whether clumsy HTML is to blame or, again, a clear lack of navigability. It was online journals like FOU that got me excited about the idea of creating a memorable online publication. If one thing is certain, the name (Radioactive Moat) has certainly been responsible for gaining the attention of some of the most interesting folks on the world wide web. As someone who grew up obsessing over beloved creatures like Swamp-Thing, The Toxic Avenger, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I guess I don’t find it odd that I’m managing a literary magazine called “Radioactive Moat.” I’ve always had a penchant for strange stuff–that apparently includes mysterious notions of radioactivity.

OT Blog: What kind of material do you look for to include, or rather, what kind of writing and art are you looking to represent?

Paul: RM is a place for experimental literature and I am most interested in work that introduces new aesthetic strategies, as well as literature that celebrates a surreal dichotomy of the quote, unquote “average human being” or rather, the existing complexities contained (and overlooked) by something or someone commonly dismissed as “simple” or “insignificant.” The submission guidelines state that Radioactive Moat seeks themes of reactivity, corrosivity, ignitability and toxicity. The four themes actually reference true aspects of radioactivity, but my intention is for writers to apply those aspects to their writing in a figurative sense. For instance, sex–let’s see how a writer can apply reactivity, corrosivity, ignitability or toxicity to sex. That doesn’t mean I want to read a poem called, My Toxic Sex Ignites You, Baby. Then again, looks can be deceiving…

OT Blog: How was the first issue received? Any reader response?

Paul: Conor Robin Madigan even sent me a rare image of marching Chinese cockroaches–I guess that was his way of saying he likes Radioactive Moat (ha ha). Issue One left readers with big expectations for Issue Two and I’m pretty confident those expectations will be satisfied. I’m also very excited about this issue’s digital cover artist, Jesse Draxler, a highly awesome mixed-media artist.

OT Blog: What would you like to see in the future of RM?

Paul: My hopes for the future of Radioactive Moat are glowing with optimism. Though, I think there’s always room for expansion. Interviews with various writers will be occurring on the site soon, and though I’ve considered how RM might function as a quarterly, I’m pretty content with it as a bi-annual publication.


With many thanks to Paul for taking the time to talk with us, I encourage all readers to take some time to visit the pages of Radioactive Moat. The first issue, still available for perusal on the site, truly is a phenomenal slice of reading and a nice break from the drudgery so often encountered in online publications. The next issue, due at the beginning of March, is something for the discerning fan of art and renegade literature to keep an eye out for.

A strong publication founded by an author and artist whose talent certainly just gets better with each new work, Paul Cunningham and Radioactive Moat are destined for great things among the pantheon of quality literature.

So not only do I give Radioactive Moat and its creator a strong recommendation—I’d like to think I’ve given it a glowing one. Because after all, when it comes to radioactive moats, is there any other kind?

January 14th, 2010
Open Thread

Announcing the Morgantown Poets winter/spring reading series kickoff, featuring Matt Anserello, Isaac Pressnell and T. W. McNemar

chapbook-31Thursday, January 21 at 7pm, Open Thread and Morgantown Poets will hold the kickoff reading for their winter/spring reading series at the Monongalia Arts Center. The reading will feature the poets Matt Anserello, West Virginia winner of our 2009 Tri-State Chapbook contest and Isaac Pressnell, the West Virginia judge of same, as well as humor and fiction writer T. W. (Terry) McNemar.  The reading is free and open to the public. The MAC is at 107 High Street, downtown Morgantown (beside Hotel Morgan).

About the authors: McNemar is a humor, short story and novel writer. His writing reflects the humanity, humor and conscience of everyday life, often in a strong Appalachian style. McNemar’s work has been featured in The Johns-Hopkins University ‘ScribblePress,’ the drama textbook, Young Women’s Monologues from Contemporary Plays, MountainEchoes, and Traditions, the literary journal of Fairmont State University. His novella, “Ragdoll Angel” (Booklocker, 2007), tells the story of a kidnapping in a small mountain village in 1952. McNemar is also the current president of West Virginia Writers, Inc.

Anserello holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from West Virginia University and lives in Morgantown with writer Emily C. Watson and two retired greyhounds. His poems have appeared in Bat City Review, Phoebe, Smartish Pace, and Versal, among others. Anserello is the West Virginia winner of the 2009 Open Thread Tri-State Chapbook Contest for his chapbook, “Cloud Shaped Room.”

Pressnell earned his Master of Fine Arts in poetry from WVU.. His poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Tar River Poetry, Ninth Letter, DIAGRAM, Opium, Bravado, Lake Effect and OTQ: Open Thread Quarterly. He lives in Keyser where he teaches English at Potomac State College.

About the Organization: Morgantown Poets is an informal not-for-profit, all-volunteer community group that meets from 7-9 p.m. the third Thursday of each month at MAC, providing literary enthusiasts in north-central West Virginia the opportunity to express themselves, share their work, network and to connect up-and-coming writers with more established authors. New writers are welcome. Join the group on Facebook by entering “Morgantown Poets” in Facebook’s search. Or join Morgantown Poets mailing list by writing to or the listserve.

Established in 1977, West Virginia Writers, Inc. is the state’s largest nonprofit, all-volunteer, writers’ resource and service organization serving literary interests. West Virginia Writers sponsors both an annual writers’ conference and an annual writing competition.

Questions: call 304-292-3325 or email

IMPORTANT NOTE: During winter months, Morgantown Poets schedules featured authors on a WEATHER-PERMITTING basis. If weather conditions are poor, Morgantown Poets does not guarantee any and/or all scheduled authors will be able to attend. In fact, Morgantown Poets discourages anyone (featured authors included) from attempting to drive in poor weather conditions, snow or ice. We urge everyone to exercise utmost caution during winter driving season. DO NOT attempt to drive to any event if road conditions are (or may become) hazardous. Safety first!

October 13th, 2009
Paul Cunningham

mural41Each year artists are encouraged to submit applications to Sprout Public Art in hopes of being selected to share their artistic vision by completing a mural in a local community. Eligible artists must reside in the Western Pennsylvania region which includes Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Bedford, Cambria, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, Mercer, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland counties. The guidelines of the Sprout Public Art project state, “Artists that are chosen as final muralists by the communities are paid competitive artist fees determined by the size of the mural. All supplies, materials and design and artist fees are provided by Sprout Public Art and murals are provided at no financial cost to participating communities.”

mural1“The first comment out of everyone’s mouth is usually, I’m so happy we’re finally going to cover up this run-down wall with something pretty!” Taylor Shields, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s Fine Arts program, was one of the artists selected to participate in this year’s Sprout Public Art project. She speaks for “Dormont: 100 Years Young,” a spiritually enticing mural which spans across the wall of the Antique Exchange at 2938 West Liberty Avenue. “Dormont is interesting because it’s a historic neighborhood with a lot of pride but it is also experiencing a kind of renewal . . . as the city expands; Dormont is changing and featuring different age groups, business types, community interests, etc. I wanted to stress the history while also keeping the focus on the future—so Dormont is viewed as 100 years young instead of 100 years old.”

Dormont is one of eight neighborhoods Sprout Public Art has selected for “visual landscape enhancement,” a.k.a. building-size murals which not only showcase qualities of the targeted neighborhood, but hope also to inspire passersby. Since 2003, Sprout has been awarding grants to communities in an attempt to strengthen the bond between the communal spirit and the flourishing public artist—something which has resulted in the astonishing development of over 45 enriching works of public art. In an attempt to bridge the disconnect between community members and urban landscapes within Pittsburgh, Sprout has funded artists like Shields who, when asked to express her own experience, replies, “The community has been great! Everyone is so excited about the mural and has given interesting input. When I’m painting, many people stop to ask questions or voice their support. It really makes a difference to know that the community is so invested in this project, and it makes the value of Sprout’s organization extremely clear.”

Jeffrey Schrekengost, a graphic designer who has lived in Pittsburgh since 1987, enjoyed both the experience and challenge in developing a hand-painted mural in the small business district of Morningside.

“It was a really rewarding experience. Most of the time when doing artwork and music, I deal with the same groups of people—they know what to expect from me and I know what most people want when they request a piece of art for a project. The subject matter of my work is usually strange since I’ve been obsessed with horror and sci-fi movies since I was a kid. Working with this community was quite a different experience for me. Doing a large public art piece, I knew it wouldn’t/couldn’t be too strange. It was great to work with them—creating an image that all of us would enjoy.”

mural2The title of Schrekengost’s mural is “Good Morning” and can be found on the corner of Greenwodd and Chislett street on the wall of a small, locally owned convenience store. The mural features large soaring birds (one blue and one red) above a small sun-layered hilly village. According to Schrekengost, his original mural-design involved three large garden gnomes riding zoo animals. “Three large garden gnomes riding zoo animals are a hard match for any community, but they were still very interested in having me paint something.”

Garden gnomes aside, many residents of Morningside have since welcomed Schrekengost’s mural with much praise. “A compliment can go a long way and I hope the mural I’ve left behind compliments the town. After spending so much time there, Morningside is my new favorite Pittsburgh neighborhood!”

On Sept 16, numerous citizens of Greenfield, Pa gathered at the wall of the PNC bank on Murray Avenue to partake in the festivities surrounding the dedication of the neighborhood’s second Sprout Fund Mural. Western Pennsylvanian artist, Ian F. Thomas, was the man behind the 40 x 90 ft. mural which turned out to be a considerably vibrant community spectacle. Food and music-friendly events were organized by local volunteers from Connect Greenfield. Pittsburgh’s City Council President, Doug Shields, was just one of many guest speakers who crashed the party.


“Whether you’re new here or a life-long resident, we provide opportunities to get involved in your community.” Volunteers of Connect Greenfield effectively demonstrated their mission statement by providing performances by local musician, John Young, as well as a performance from “funk” rock band, Argyll’s Revenge. Sprout’s Public Art Program manager, Curt Gettman, also made an appearance at the unveiling of Thomas’ mural. Since joining the Sprout staff in May of 2007, Gettman has also co-founded the Pittsburgh-based Unicorn Mountain collective, which is a literary venue best known for its national distribution of anthologies featuring work from musicians, comic illustrators, painters, writers and screen print artists.

Thomas’ mural received heavy praise from Greenfield residents—some members of the community even stopped by to lend a hand during what was referred to as, “Community Painting Day.” Thomas is also known for his sculptures, paintings and ceramic works which often explore the stylized innocence of childhood imagination.

One thing is certain—it seems imagination is one element this year’s muralists have put to good use.

August 15th, 2009
Michael Varrati


In Waynesburg, Pennsylvania (a little south of that other burgh) exists one of the indie film community’s best kept secrets in the form of Happy Cloud Pictures, a production company that has set out to prove that just because film is low budget does not mean it has to also be low quality. Founded and maintained by the dynamically creative husband-wife duo of Mike Watt and Amy Lynn Best amylynnbestand their mutual friend Bill Homan, Happy Cloud Pictures has produced a handful of movies that have screened across the tri-state area. Since they were picked up for national distribution both at festivals and on DVD, they have developed a small but growing fan base, and considering the quality of work they do, quite justly.

While the majority of the work thus far the Happy Cloud team has produced falls under the horror genre, the ingenuity and creative process that goes into each of their films often prevents them from being lumped with the usual “splat” style scary movie. This owes much to the writing of Mike Watt, who splits most of the creative duties with Amy Lynn Best. Watt’s the writer, she’s the actress—but they both produce and direct, and have shown proficiency for both. Certainly, there is no lack of skill on each movie set. But I digress; we were discussing Watt’s writing, and really, this is truly the foundation of the merits each film Happy Cloud Pictures has produced. The scripts are often acerbic, biting, and extremely clever, tackling the tropes of the genre and turning them on their heads. This is writing by someone who knows that horror has become too usual, and understands that, sometimes, the tongue-in-cheek is all we have left to provide a good scare. Watt often does exactly that: scare us while we are chuckling.

direction-copyIt’s no small wonder that Watt is skilled with words. In addition to his film career, he has served as the editor and driving force of the nationally published film magazine Sirens of Cinema and has written two books of his own, the first being the novelization of Happy Cloud’s first movie, The Resurrection Game, and the other being his recent collection of short stories, Phobophobia. Both highlight his ability to craft a story in the most traditional sense—and both are available for purchase at

The aforementioned zombie survival piece, The Resurrection Game, was written and directed by Watt and starred Best. Combining elements of sci-fi, horror, and black comedy, Resurrection set the pace for the films to come, each building upon the last’s unconventional approach to horror genre staples, now Watt’s calling card. What followed were forays into such horror topics as werewolves (2002’s short Weregrrl), vampires (2007’s A Feast of Flesh), and even a slasher movie satire (2003’s Severe Injuries, which also marked Amy Lynn Best’s directorial debut, and remains one of this writer’s personal favorites of the Happy Cloud back catalog). Each film carries its own unique stamp and merits its own viewing.

Given enough time, I would be inclined to go film by film and provide commentary for you, dear reader and Happy Cloud novice, but in the essence of brevity, I’d like to take the last few bits of my Open Thread space to highlight Happy Cloud’s most recent filmic endeavor, Splatter Movie: The Director’s Cut.

I have no qualms admitting I watched Splatter Movie three times. Once when it was being screened at the Cinema Wasteland Horror & Exploitation movie weekend in Cleveland, and twice when I had the screener in hand for this very article. It’s a compulsive little watch, and what it lacks in big Hollywood budget, it certainly makes up for in sheer creative willpower. Splatter Movie: The Director’s Cut can be described as one of the few meta-filmic films on the market.

What’s that mean, exactly?

Well, I’ll explain as best I can—though I feel it’s one of those movies that is best experienced personally, in the 90 minutes the audience is given. Splatter Movie takes place on the set of a movie, wherein a documentary crew is filming a “making of” documentary about a slasher flick being directed by a character played by Amy Lynn Best. Meanwhile, we as the audience know that there is an actual slasher stalking the film’s set and killing members of the cast and crew, thus ensuring actual scares and menace to those of us viewing at home. It seems very straightforward, but this is actually where it gets tricky. As the film wears on, we are viewing the film through the oscillating camera of the documentary, the film within a film’s cameras, and the audience’s eye (for lack of a better term.)

It becomes a delicate affair. How do we know when we are seeing the documentary? How do we know when we are seeing the truth? How do we know if the kill we just witnessed was in the movie that is being made or the movie we are watching? It seems like it would be confusing (and it can be), but Splatter Movie is never frustrating, and that is key to its success. I loved this movie because it was a challenge. It took on the notion of how reliant we as the audience can be on the idea of what a movie is supposed to be, and how we expect the camera to feed us what we expect to know. To me, Splatter Movie was exciting because it was fresh and original, and I don’t really get that all too often at the multiplex these days.


Of course, fans of traditional genre horror will like it too (At least I think so.) as it has just enough scares to keep you on your toes—not to mention appearances by some genre favorites, such as Debbie Rochon (a B-movie queen, and notable for her performances in several Troma movies) and Tom Sullivan (famed art director of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead, and one of the most pleasing performers in the film).

Essentially, I highly recommend this film, but even more so I recommend keeping your eyes on Happy Cloud Pictures, as their back catalog is fun, and if this most recent outing is any indication, they just keep getting better. In fact, their next feature, The Demon Divas of Damnation Lanes (a horror comedy set in a bowling lane wherein strikes are not the only shenanigans), is due out later this year and allegedly they are already working on their first non-horror film to follow that, pretty much indicating that when all is said and done, this Happy Cloud also has something of a silver lining.

June 17th, 2009
Michael Varrati

messy-logo-largeI have no problem admitting that when it comes to Messy Magazine , I am certainly biased on their behalf. That said, this bias honestly has nothing to do with the fact they published an article of mine in their Cleveland Film Guide, or that I went to college with one of their founders—although, it doesn’t hurt. Truth is, I totally dig Messy Magazine because, above all else, it is such a damn cool idea.

In essence, the Cleveland-based online magazine is doing for the Northeast Ohio art community what we here at Open Thread are doing for artists in the Pittsburgh and tri-state area: spreading the word.

Since its first issue in November 2008, Messy Magazine has challenged budding and established writers to craft articles on each issue’s predetermined theme, while at the same time finding fresh and unique ways to highlight all sorts of artsy goings-on in the Cleveland area. This devotion to giving exposure to artistic events led to the magazine becoming involved in this year’s Cleveland International Film Festival, for which they produced the aforementioned Cleveland Film Guide to help promote the event, and participated even more directly by sponsoring one of the films screened.

Messy Magazine is headed for big things, and since their mission grooves so well with ours here at OT, it makes sense for us to pay it forward and get the word out about this wonderful publication. I recently had the opportunity to talk to Vanessa Aron, business planner and founding member of Messy Magazine, about the publication’s history, their involvement with the film festival, and what’s in the future for all things Messy.


OT Blog: How did Messy Magazine get its start?

Vanessa Aron: Messy Magazine is a project that has been in planning for quite sometime. It really started with Lauren Kirk and Michael Stidham, who both attended Cleveland State University. They had several writing classes together and really became focused on creating something that would benefit the art community in Cleveland. They were really looking for an outlet for their creative expression. Lauren is a writer, and Michael is an amazing visual artist who also writes amazingly well. I am jealous of their skills!

Lauren and I both interned for the Cleveland Free Times, but during separate summers. We had a mutual acquaintance, and my involvement with the magazine came about simply through run-ins and conversations with her about our current professional states and about how changes could be made in the arts community of Cleveland. There is so much going on here; there are art galleries left and right and a ton of people creating a lot of interesting stuff. It’s a bit uncollected, though, and unless you’re knee-deep into the arts community, it’s easy to miss a lot of the goings-on in the city.

Professionally, both Lauren and I were in interesting situation. I had been laid off and I was looking for something I could focus on and would give me a sense of self-worth. Losing my job was strange because I am someone who really needs to have a packed schedule to get things done, and suddenly I had all this free time, and I was unsure how to fill my days.

The serious planning stages started in February after Lauren and I went out for drinks one evening. I arrived home that night, and I couldn’t sleep because the wheels in my head started turning after this lengthy conversation about Cleveland and art that night. So instead of sleeping, I created a business plan that really became the foundation of the magazine. I emailed it to Lauren the following morning and said, “This is what we’re doing,” and it’s been going ever since. We planned through spring and summer 2008, fine tuning this and that, creating a draft of the design of the magazine, etc.

I brought Genna Petrolla (MM’s marketer) on board with the magazine last July/August. Genna and I both worked at the company I was laid off from, and I knew she’d be perfect for our mission. She is amazingly talented, and our work strengths balance each other very well.

So our first issue came out in November 2008. And people started to take notice and we’ve been going ever since. We just distributed our fourth issue over Memorial Day weekend!

OT: Messy Magazine had some serious involvement in the Cleveland Film Festival this year, putting out not only the Film Guide, but you sponsored one of the films that was screened there. How did this partnership come about?

film-guideVA: The film festival was a f*cking blast, and it was so great being a part of all the excitement. This was the biggest year ever for the Cleveland International Film Festival. They broke attendance records on each day of the festival.

We were contacted by the Cleveland Film Society, the folks who put on the CIFF, sometime in late December, early January after they had checked out the first issue of our magazine. They thought we had a great positive outlook on the city and the arts community in Cleveland. From what I hear, there was a buzz around our magazine after our first issue, which was very cool.

We were excited when they contacted us. It was a huge deal for us only after putting out one issue. Our second issue came out the second week of January, a few days after our initial meeting with the CFS people. We decided to further our involvement with the CIFF by creating our own film guide. We shadowed the CFS crew, interviewed them, hung out in their office for a day, it was a lot of fun and they’re a great, tight group of people. Genna told me when I walked into their office I’d never want to leave, and she was so right.

The film guide was primarily, but not completely, devoted to the CIFF. We incorporated articles about the film community in and around Cleveland. The film community is HUGE here, but it’s not super known. We have the Cleveland Film Society, the Cleveland Film Commission, Cinematheque at Case Western Reserve University, the Cedar Lee Cult Film Series, Cinema Wasteland, the film school at Cleveland State University…it’s huge!

We were also fortunate to sponsor a film at the CIFF, An Alternative to Slitting Your Wrists. This was probably the perfect film for us to sponsor, as the documentary, as well as our magazine, were creations out of crises. Even more, our sponsored film was created by Cleveland natives, something we were very excited about. The film had several sold-out showings, which was great.

OT: Each of your issues seemingly has a theme, dictating the feel of that particular issue’s writings and direction. What are some of the prior themes you’ve had, what are some you hope to have in the future, and how do you and the MM team come up with what you want the focus of each issue to be?

VA: When we created the magazine, we were looking for something that would encompass an entire issue so we wouldn’t be a magazine filled with just random work. As the overseer of the artistic direction, I wanted more of a coffee table book than magazine style look. That’s why we don’t directly promote who is in the issue on the front cover.

I’m a visual person, and I love photos and the use of visual work. I try to incorporate just as many images and photos as written work into each issue. A lot of the photos are my own as well, so I feel like I am also expanding my creative horizons, because I’m always out and about snapping images of random things to incorporate into each issue and the design.

I think overall the theme is our way of holding creative control over the entire operation. We also believe the use of a theme can fuel more creativity and more great work.

The downfall with using a theme is that if it makes no sense, or if people don’t understand it, they either won’t submit something, or they just submit whatever. We will and do accept work from anyone, anywhere, theme-related or not, but we do try to push the use of the theme. We are learning and becoming more aware of how simplistic or complex a theme can be, and really it’s an issue by issue thing.

Our first theme was Mad at Monday. It was a fun first theme to start out with because everyone has something to say about Mondays and the beginning of the work week—or if you don’t have a job, what Mondays mean when you are out of work. We had some pretty humorous submissions, so it was a lot of fun to put together.

Our latest issue, Emerge and See, was to the Messy Magazine group the most important and I suppose the most emotionally invested theme yet. There is a lot going on worldwide, regionally through the rustbelt, and specifically in Cleveland. We are trying to change attitudes that cities like Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Detroit are not dead; they just need to look around and realize what potential they have and change their attitudes. I think we are off to a great start. We see big things coming our way!

OT: On that same token, what would you like to see in the future for MM?

VA: This is the perfect time for that question. We are sort of in what I would call a resetting phase. We are currently in the process of collectively reviewing what the magazine is and what we want it to become. We are on the brink of some really cool changes, which will be for the better. We are in the process of becoming a quarterly magazine. We want to focus our energies toward each theme and issue much more than we can at this point. We really want to fuel the creative world around us and really show everyone that there are amazing full-time, part-time, and seasonal artists in this world that are not showing at the MoMA, the MOCA, or wherever. These people have real jobs and also have a creative side, so we want to better ourselves to better show off what we see. Stay tuned! Summer ‘09 is going to be Messy Magazine’s own Emerge and See.


Many thanks to Messy Magazine and Vanessa for helping us out, and for getting the word out about nearby artists—a cause we can certainly support!

Check out their current issue, as well as back issues, at


Printwork-friendly Pittsburgh facility, AIR (Artists Image Resource), a non-profit artist-run organization, provides the necessary tools for personal, professional, traditional, and contemporary printmaking projects. AIR resources primarily include a Digital Imaging Lab, Lithography Shop, Intaglio Shop (etching), and additional workshops for papermaking and letterpress. Silk screening is a very popular component of AIR.

It has been home to more than 50 professional artists since its launch in 1996, and many of the past artists’ prints can be seen in room after room of the building—some can still be purchased. Local artist Ayanah Moor, is currently an Associate Professor of Art at Carnegie Mellon University who completed Alphabet A-Z in 2001, printwork which was completed at AIR. Each of the 26 screenprints (22”x30”) contained a definition exploring African-American slang. In 2000, John Thomas Pusateri, an Associate Printmaker at CMU, worked with AIR to complete a project that required relief, intaglio, litho, and screen.

Other records include prints from Patricia Villalobos-Echeverría, a transcultural artist who grew up in Nicaragua and addresses many of conflicts and natural disasters that Nicaraguans have faced. Villalobos uses personal texts and imagery to illustrate her themes of humanity and oppression.

But one need not be an established print artist to benefit from AIR. The facility provides public access to an Open Studio on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 7-11 PM, which, for a nominal fee, grants guests the use of work space and printing materials for whatever the task at hand. Many regulars spend time at AIR completing flyer/poster projects, book-binding ventures and the occasional line of clothing. If you have the time—and the ink—anything’s possible. Silk screen sizes are available from 8”x10” to 40”x60”. Don’t fret if you forget any supplies: inks (acrylic & textile) and paper materials are available for a small price. Also, the managing artists at AIR are always willing to lend a hand to those new to the silk screening process. It’s also a pretty appealing sanctuary for local artists interested in shop rentals or a place to plan their next exhibition. Once you’re inside, there’s a good chance you’ll feel right at home.

In addition to its studio availability, AIR offers services ranging from Contract Printing to Project Consultation, which includes assistance with print-related academic projects within local schools and universities. AIR has worked with the Andy Warhol Museum on programs for Schenley High School on several occasions.

Artists Image Resource is located at 518 Foreland Street, on the North Side of Pittsburgh.


March 2nd, 2009
Scott Andrew

Open Thread Receives Sprout Funding

Open Thread is proud to announce that we are now supported in part by a Seed Award from the Sprout Fund. This support will enable us to foster new relationships with emerging regional artists through upcoming projects like our Tri-State Chapbook Contest, SPF (Pittsburgh’s small press festival), The Regional Review Vol.2, and events like Poetsburgh and Variety Variety Variety.

The Sprout Fund is a nonprofit organization supporting innovative ideas and grassroots community projects that are catalyzing change in Pittsburgh.

Founded in 2001, Sprout is designed to facilitate community-led solutions to regional challenges and supports efforts to create a thriving, progressive, and culturally diverse region. With strong working relationships to many community organizations and regional stakeholders, The Sprout Fund is one of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s leading agencies on issues related to civic engagement, talent attraction and retention, public art, and catalytic small-scale funding.

With ongoing local support and continued appreciation by the communities it serves, The Sprout Fund will continue to provide an entry point for young people to become involved and active in their communities and support projects that have the collective power to shape a new culture and vision for the region.

About The Lit

Known as The Poets’ and Writers’ League of Greater Cleveland (PWLGC) since 1974, The Lit has shed its unwieldy title and is chartering a new course under the leadership of Executive Director Judith Mansour-Thomas.

“We’ve undergone some pretty major changes since the strategic re-planning [in the 2000s],” says Judith. The changes are evident: in 2001, the PWLGC committed itself to the creation of the Literary Center, a space that could host seminars, workshops and readings. The Ohio Writer is now The Muse. In 2007, the board of The Lit - newly christened - created a new Executive Director role; enter Judith Mansour-Thomas.

“It’s the best job I’ve ever had; everyone here loves what they do,” says Judith, who got her dream job after years as the Assistant Director of MoCA. Under Judith, The Lit most significant change has been its literacy efforts in Cleveland communities. “We look at it as a matter of expanding our audience,” she explains.

That growing audience is lucky; The Lit offers seminars, workshops and a spectacular lineup of readings. “The Cleveland area is just packed with great writers - Pulitzer winners and nominees - and nobody knows they’re here!” Judith says with equal parts exuberance and exasperation. Take it from us in Pittsburgh, Judith: We understand how you feel! Check out their packed calendar of events.

What The Lit Can Do for You

If you like to volunteer, The Lit can do a lot. Literacy volunteers, event volunteers, office volunteers - you name it, this small, efficient organization will use it.

If you don’t like to volunteer, there’s good news: The Lit can do even more. Its annual competition closes in just a few days: Oct. 15. So submit now. Its quarterly journal, The Muse, has a distinct blend of art and writing with a great twist: writers of all forms use their work to respond to local artwork. Perhaps most impressive are their non-stop course offerings, including offerings for area youth and a discount for members.

Heck, if you want to hold a release party for your new book of poems, The Lit is here to help you again. “We absolutely want to hear from people [who want to do that],” assures Judith, who just hosted local poet and professor Mary Weems for the release of Weems’ latest poetry collection.

Whatever your literary needs, if you live in Northeast Ohio and haven’t used their services, it’s time for that to change. To visit The Lit: Cleveland’s Literary Center, go to the ArtCraft Building at 2570 Superior Avenue, Suite 203. To contact them, 216.694.0000

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