Awesome Pittsburgh

Awesome Pittsburgh

by Karen Fetter

Awsome PittsburghDo you ever ask yourself the question, “What if?”  Have you had an idea that you would like to pursue, but you just don’t have the start-up money?  Today in Pittsburgh there is an awesome possibility.

$1,000 Monthly Grants for Awesome Ideas

Awesome Pittsburgh is a new non-profit that is giving a $1,000 grant each month to a Pittsburgher that has a new idea filled with “awesomeness.”  Ideas can range from all things educational and art to community development and technology.  Projects should have both local impact and global resonance.

Co-founders Matt Gaston and Mike Capsambelis started the organization in 2011 and awarded the first grant in November.  Proposals for the grants are accepted through the 15th of each month.  The Awesome Pittsburgh board of trustees meets and announces the monthly winner by the end of the month.  Each winner receives a two-inch micro-check to symbolize the micro-grant.  Ceremonies will take place for the winners to receive their check and to be recognized by the community.

“Pittsburgh is the perfect place for this.  There is so much community pride and it’s unique,” said co-founder Matt Gaston.  “The response has been enormous and the ideas have been great.  Our trustees are an amazing group that is committed to this project.”

Calling all Artists, Inventors, Dreamers, and Creators

If you are an artist, inventor, dreamer, or creator you now have the opportunity to receive the endorsement that could get your idea off the ground.  The application is simple and the turn-around time of the winners is fast.  Applicants complete a simple online proposal at  explaining his or her “awesome” idea and how the money would be used to implement it.  If your idea is not accepted in the month that you submitted it, there is still a chance for you to win.  Proposals are held for up to three months for consideration.

There are ten members on the board that donate $100 each month to make the grant possible.  Members of Awesome Pittsburgh include Paul Andre, Mike Capsambelis, Andy Coleman, J Feldman, Matt Gaston, Tony Macklin, Leah Lizarondo Shannon, Mary Ellen Solomon, David Thor, and Heather White.  The board also has a Dean of Awesomeness, Emily Keebler, who coordinates all of the group’s events and oversees the voting process.

“We made an effort to make this board as diverse as possible in terms of our interests, knowledge, and connections in order to best evaluate these proposals,” said Gaston.

 Awesome Grant Qualities

Awesome Pittsburgh has some helpful criteria to make sure that your submitted proposal is filled with awesomeness.

  • First, it should have a wow factor or “wowness,” that quality that will make the Board say, “This is awesome!”
  • Secondly, it should have utility so that the grant would make a real difference in getting the idea off the ground.
  • Thirdly, it should have niceness so that the project has a quality of helping others and making people happy.
  • Fourth, it should have local impact so it is able to reach a lot of people in the Pittsburgh area.
  • And lastly, it should have an environmental impact so there would be no waste or harm to the environment.

So far there have been three winners selected each for the months of November, December and January.

Awesome Pittsburgh’s First Winners

The first winner is the Pop-up Co-op created by Talia Piazza, Christina Robertson, and Grant Ervin.  The Pop-up Co-op plans to repurpose empty storefronts to help revitalize a neighborhood and those that live and work in it.  The space would accommodate four to five local vendors as well as have space to seat guests.  It is meant to mimic an indoor farmers’ market where each vendor can sell their homemade and organic foods.  The first property will be located in Morningside and already has interested vendors.  The goal of Talia, Christina, and Grant is to eventually aim at creating a permanent community co-op that sells local goods to local people at a local price.  This idea is filled with awesomeness!

The second winner is The Puppet Photo Booth created by Murphi Cook.  This idea is so original and different that it might take a photo to capture the moment.  A puppet photo booth will be installed at Market Square in downtown Pittsburgh for a week.  The outside of the booth will appear to be an old-fashioned photo booth.  However, once a person steps inside, a real puppeteer (Murphi Cook herself) will appear for a seven-minute show!  The theme will be “Under the Sea” and guests will feel like they are transported to a different place and time.  In addition, Murphi will also secretly take a photo to fulfill the booth’s promise.

The third winner came from a joint application of eight artists and students in the MFA program at Carnegie Mellon University.  It is call Art Barge and it will host a variety of creative installations and performances along Pittsburgh’s rivers and riverfronts.  Several floating modules will be linked together to form a barge and will act as a venue for things like concerts, cafes, museums, theaters and more.  The group hopes to have at least four projects throughout the year.  The group is accepting applications for guest projects beginning in March 2012.  For additional information, go to  “Our hope is to connect with new audiences, those who normally don’t make it to the art gallery, while embracing the rivers as a space for socialization and interaction. This grant provides the necessary funding we need to get the project off the ground and finish the construction of the platforms,” said Felipe Castelblanco, an Art Barge artist.

Anyone Can Submit to Awesome Pittsburgh

Anyone is capable of creating something awesome for the Pittsburgh area.  The city has been reborn and is growing in all aspects including education, medicine, and the arts.  Could one of your ideas contribute to making the city even more awesome!  Visit Awesome Pittsburgh’s website at  to submit your awesome idea now!  You can also follow Awesome Pittsburgh through Twitter and Facebook.  Remember, the application deadline is the 15th of each month!

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