NEXT Up: Jen Saffron

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Jen Saffron produces and curates photography and writes and teaches on the subject. Also a singer, Jen performs regularly at local clubs and churches, but mostly spends her time on the North Side with her sons and niece in their Victorian home. Jen works as Director of Communications for the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.

Monday, September 29
The morning starts with fresh juice and calm in the garden behind our house in North Side’s Deutschtown. My sons Leo and Eli are with their dad, this week, and Charis, our niece, will still be asleep before her CCAC classes—I will enjoy a rare moment, alone in the walled in garden shared with Dale, my next door neighbor, followed by a walk across the 9th Street Bridge to downtown to the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council where I work. There, I’ll get on message (coffee helps) for an interview with Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Joyce Gannon. We’ll talk about the Arts Day of Giving, coming up on Thursday, October 2nd. After that, I’ll join fellow GPAC staff to hash out the script and speakers for our popular annual meeting.

Later in the day I’ll walk through the Cultural District to see Russell Howard at the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership and talk strategy for our approach to city leaders, asking their support for a hot new festival in 2016.

At 4:30 p.m. it’s a short hike back to the North Side to prepare for a send-off dinner in the shared garden for artist Elena Hiatt Houlihan, who will winter in Mexico after staying next door for a few months. Her exhibition of jazz paintings just opened at MCG-Jazz, so she’ll smartly get back to the sun before Pittsburgh winter sets in. After roasted chicken and a bit of wine we’ll catch Brad Yoder at Acousticafe – he’s this week’s musical host. If the spirit moves me, I’ll put my name on the list and sing, myself.

Tuesday, September 20
At 8 a.m., I will call Mitch Swain, my boss (Mitch, are you reading this?) to review his talking points for KDKA’s Pittsburgh TODAY Live, where he’ll join Theo, the ArtDOG from Animal Friends, to talk about Arts Day of Giving and animal adoption.

Then, I’ll ride my bike through the gorgeous Allegheny Commons park for a Greek omelet at Lindo’s with Shaunda Miles from the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. We’ll swap PR horror stories (um, I mean, speak collegially about promoting arts and culture). Mitch and I will regroup at 11 a.m. to plan a regional visibility campaign for the arts, followed by the awesome Indian Spices buffet with my wonderful friend, musician Paul Labrise.

The rest of the day will be spent promoting programs for artists and nonprofits, like the upcoming grants info session for artists at the New Hazlett Theater, and the pro-bono HR clinic with attorneys.

At night it’s off to Grove City College in time to teach the Digital Citizen class. Tonight is a blogging clinic for 2.5 hours. After returning around 10:15 p.m., I will crash in bed, for real.

Wednesday, October 1
After a staff meeting, I’ll cross the street to 707 Gallery. Being a musician and music lover with a vinyl collection, myself, I cannot wait to see Well Played, Paul Rosenblatt’s installation of 15,000 albums, turntables, and the like at 707 Gallery as part of the Pittsburgh Biennial. Then, it’s a walk down the alley past public art installations Cell Phone Disco and Memento Mori to SPACE Gallery for Public Record, also part of the Biennial. Two Girls Working’s piece is one I’ve purposefully kept at bay so I can be surprised.

Back at the office, I’ll finish out the workday with writing, social media, and posting photography of Garry Merola and Dennis Yablonsky of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development—they bought Garry’s paintings through the Art on the Walls Program.

My son, Eli, has Curriculum Night at the Environmental Charter School at 6 p.m., and Bob and I will meet his 6th grade teachers. I am constantly impressed with this school and how Eli has turned into a real lover of learning.

Then I will jet off to yet another inspired moment: VIA Music and New Media Festival’s opening at The Shop in Bloomfield. Neil Hagerty is performing with Dan’l Boone—I’ve been a fan of his since seeing him play at an anti-apartheid show in DC when we were teenagers. Let’s see what their music/video hybrid will dish up, 30 years later.

Thursday, October 2
This is the day. Arts Day of Giving. After spearheading the marketing and PR campaign for months, this day thousands will log on and give to the arts, into the millions of dollars, so the pressure is ON. It will be over at midnight, but, it ain’t over ‘till it’s over. That said, GPAC colleagues and I will man a table at the packed Farmer’s Market in Market Square, accepting donations, accompanied by Theo, the ArtDOG mascot from Animal Friends.

It will be go, go, go all day, so after work, it will be time for comfort food. That means my sons and I skateboarding/riding across Allegheny Commons park to Giorgio’s on Western Avenue.  The Italian food at Giorgio’s is made from the same region as my mom’s people–it’s one of the only places I eat eggplant parmesan. And, it’s where we go when we celebrate our “wins”—honor roll, a new job, a championship game. In our family, when one person succeeds, it lifts the whole family, so when someone makes good, we pause and have ceremony–with gnocchi, eggplant parmesan, and a pepperoni roll.

Around 8:30 p.m., Jen McNulty, graphic designer for Arts Day of Giving and also Jennie Luvv of the Boilermaker Jazz Band, will meet me for grown-up ceremony at James Street Tavern, our local haunt and jazz favorite—the Boilermakers swing the second floor, regularly.

Friday, October 3
This will be a day of catching up, maybe even working from home. Lunch will feature the German food at Max’s Allegheny Tavern with Robin from the National Aviary, talking about promoting their art show. Conversation with colleague David Pankratz, Research and Policy Director at the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, is never boring, and at 2:30 p.m., we’ll have fun figuring out how to best communicate the advocacy and cross-sector collaborations he’s churning out for our arts community.

The evening I’ll get up to Spring Hill to Rachel’s for ladies night potluck supper, and I’ll bring collards from my vegetable garden.

Saturday, October 4
At 9 a.m., I am meeting up with my mom, childhood friend Vicki and her mom, Diane. Vicki and I shared a childhood friendship in Virginia, and somehow, all paths led to Pittsburgh. Over the years, all of us have settled in the ‘Burgh. Diane has been ill and Vicki and I both went through divorces–now we’re emerging for a breakfast of laughter at Pamela’s in the Strip, where my mom and Diane can relate to the vintage 1950s images of beehives and the prom.

After eating a La Feria salad for breakfast, I’ll know that it’s time to get moving and my bike and the riverfront trails present the perfect opportunity. Riding to Homestead and back will preview Eli’s baseball game against Brookline—go, Brighton Heights!

Later that night, back at our house, we’ll host a potluck family-style birthday dinner for Kitty Julian, marketing director for the Ellis School and longtime friend.

Sunday, October 5
Morning time is church time, at Community House Presbyterian Church, but after I join the choir for the anthem, I will split and volunteer at the Deutschtown House Tour, welcoming guests to a house on James Street, sharing the history of our neighborhood.

Later, it’s artist Bob Ziller’s birthday party at Dorothy 6 in Homestead followed by Leo’s soccer game at the Schenley Oval.

Sunday night is a special time when our boys come back to our house for the week, and Charis returns from a weekend with her parents. It’s a week of work and school ahead, but also laughter, good food and fun.