In May, TEDx Pittsburgh welcomed thirteen golden speakers to the stage of Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Museum, along with a crowd of onlookers yearning to be inspired. Each speaker presented promising ideas that showcased this year’s theme, Activate: Ideas in Motion, with concepts grown right in our backyard. Although determination and innovation are nothing new to our region, Pittsburgh is proving that there’s more to this city than steel and spots.
Missed the event? Here are 5 inspiring takeaways from TEDx Pittsburgh.
“Embrace a difference. Make a difference.”
David Petrovic, an individual with autism and Tourette’s, stepped onto the stage while blowing bubbles into the audience. When he was three years old, Petrovic had almost no verbal abilities. While in speech therapy, it was discovered that he had a curiosity for bubbles, and therapists began using them as positive reinforcement for vocal expressions. Now, Petrovic has eloquent speaking skills and works every day to ensure that he isn’t defined by his diagnosis – and that others can find their bubbles too. He encourages individuals to not settle for a life that society expects you to live, just because you have a difference, rather let your adversity become your advantage.
“If you’re not controversial, you’re not much.”
We all can appreciate a good remix, right? Steve Hackman, a conductor, composer, arranger, producer, and singer/songwriter (phew!) has tuned into Pittsburgh’s music scene by creating a genre of his own. While combining classic and contemporary artists like Bach and Bon Iver, Beethoven and Coldplay, Brahms and Radiohead, Hackman proves that even the most unlikely pair can be well composed. As the creative director of FUSE at the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, he has brought a sound contribution to the city’s hybrid harmony. What better place than the burgh’ to bridge the gap between new and established audiences?
“Push past your tribe. Look outside of the networks you’re in to find great ideas.”
We invent, he invests. One thousand dollars at a time, Mike Capsambelis, founder of Awesome Pittsburgh, has been helping local entrepreneurs turn their ideas into action. He and nine other trustees meet monthly to review 30-40 submitted proposals, contribute $100 each, and pick one idea to receive the grant. These ideas are all things that help make Pittsburgh, well… more awesome: a vacant lot in Homewood turned into a racetrack for remote control cars, a Pittsburgh bus shelter turned into the tiniest jazz club, and the three rivers transformed into a venue for performing artists, to name a few. Not to mention, the flight risk – a man who wants to build the tallest, fastest zip line in the world, going from Mt. Washington to the North Shore. With this team of unique trustees, of all different backgrounds and professions, Pittsburgh can make the Awesome possible.
“With a shift in perspective, we can find value in the devalued.”
Gisele Fetterman, First Lady of Braddock, PA, began Free Store 15104 and 412 Food Rescue, in efforts to solve the problems of the community with what already exists. After immigrating to America from an impoverished country, Gisele and her family furnished their home with the help of bulk garbage day – the day when your neighbor throws out a perfectly good dresser, which would otherwise be turned to trash, if families like Gisele’s didn’t give it a new home. Inspired by her family, Free Store 15104 collects surplus and donated goods to redistribute to community families in need. She didn’t stop there – 412 Food Rescue tackles food insecurity in the city of Pittsburgh by working with food retailers, wholesalers, and restaurants to salvage un-sellable, yet faultless food for families in need.
“When you are intersecting with a new person for the first time, there is immense power in that moment.”
Casey Droege, North Side native, grew up watching her parents use their cultural currency to earn a living, always creating something new to pursue. On a regular basis, she and her family interacted with a wide variety of people: artists, entrepreneurs, professionals, etc. Now, Casey has created a way for others to start a new conversation through an artist/dinner lecture series, SIX x ATE. These meal meetings are made to dish out something new and exciting – a way for locals to begin a conversation for city collaboration. As an artist, and avid sewer, Casey knows the value of taking small, repetitive steps to build toward a beautiful result. She encourages Pittsburghers to look at change, not as a nuisance, but an opportunity. If you create a break in your routine, it can become something beyond the sketch, and suddenly you have thread of excitement.