By Chris Driscoll – Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh
2016 is looking to be an exciting year for YPA of Pittsburgh with a number of projects and initiatives both in the pipeline and coming to fruition. First, it’s the City of Pittsburgh’s 200th anniversary, and YPA has been invited by the City to take part in it! We are planning to make YPA’s annual Top 10 Preservation Opportunities of Southwest PA list and release party bigger than ever as one of a number of celebratory events throughout the city this year. The Top Ten is an annual list of threatened sites in Pittsburgh and the greater region that are nominated by the general public and selected by YPA as a good opportunity for preservation and reuse. The list helps form our advocacy and events in the upcoming year (and beyond).
Perhaps more importantly, we’re confident we’ll see one or more of the previous years’ Top 10 sites saved and/or repurposed. With our recent opportunity to hire an Executive Director, Matthew Craig, we’ve had the opportunity to have someone working full-time researching, organizing, and bringing together people from the City to Community Development Groups to investors to figure out sustainable ways to save historic structures. Simultaneously, our board and members have been taking a ground-up approach, using events from bike rides to (everyone’s favorite) heart bombs to get people interested in historic preservation in their neighborhoods and city. We are so excited to be able to fight on both these fronts, and we are being recognized as a legitimate player in the Pittsburgh preservation scene.
We have so many great events and programming planned for 2016. In addition to mainstays like the Top Ten Event and Painting for Preservation, we have two very exciting projects in the works. First, we will be hosting a roundtable event on saving sacred places to discuss ways to address the growing crisis of historic churches finding their way towards a wrecking ball. We are looking for stories of successes, failures, and lessons learned from both Southwest PA and other regions, and we plan to webcast the event, as we know this is not an issue limited to Pittsburgh. If you’re interested in getting in on the conversation, we’d love to talk about it at the summit in April, so grab a YPA member and start the discussion! Second, we are working on a grant to work with local elementary school students to record and edit (with the help of a local historian) a guided tour of one of the neighborhoods in the city. Our goal is to help the kids learn about both neighborhood history and recording and editing, and end up with a podcast that can serve as a template for future tours in other neighborhoods. We’re very excited to have the opportunity to work with elementary- to middle-school students, as we believe anyone of any age can be a young preservationist!
Lastly, we look forward to hosting everyone in April. We hope that you will enjoy experiencing our city, making some new friends and sharing ideas on how we can all work to preserve our past for the future, and I’m excited to meet you all, especially at the opening kickoff at the Inn on the Mexican War Streets. I’m eager to talk to all the regional preservation groups about the other side of these organizations: administration. I know we’re all excited to talk about buildings and people and neighborhoods and preservation, but we all need to worry about things like financials, grant-writing, and membership engagement, and it’ll be interesting to discuss the similarities and differences in the ways our organizations have approached them.
One reason I’m particularly excited to meet everybody in April is that the majority of our board are not Pittsburgh natives, which I believe speaks highly of the way the city and region resonates with us and the renewed passion for preservation in Pittsburgh. We are excited to inspire even more people in Southwest PA to share our passion and we look forward to learning about the ways you’ve inspired preservationists in your cities. See you soon!